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Greece: New Law Criminalizes Denial of Genocide, Hate Speech, and Other Acts of Racism

(Sept. 24, 2014) On September 4, 2014, the Greek Parliament adopted an amendment to Law No. 927/1979 on Combating Race Discrimination, in order to align domestic legislation with European Union rules pertaining to hate speech and denial of genocide. (Law No. 4285/2014 [in Greek], EPHEMERIS TES KYVERNESEOS TES HELLENIKES DEMOKRATIAS [GAZETTE OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC], Part A, No. 191 (Sept. 10, 2014).) Hate crimes and denial of genocide are governed by the EU Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on Combating Certain Forms and Expressions of Racism and Xenophobia by Means of Criminal Law(2008 O.J. (L 328) 55.)

Greece’s Law 4285/2014 criminalizes the following intentional conduct:

• Public incitement of violence or hate speech

Anyone, who publicly incites, provokes, or stirs, either orally or through the press, the Internet, or any other means, acts of violence or hatred against a person or group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, in a manner that endangers the public order and exposes the life, physical integrity, and freedom of persons defined above to danger, will be punished by imprisonment of from three months to three years and a fine of €5,000 to €20,000 (about US$6,455- $25,820). (Law No. 4285/2014, art. 1 ¶ 1.)

If the conduct described above results in the commission of a crime, then it will be punishable by imprisonment of at least six months and a fine of €15,000 to €30,000. When the court imposes one year of imprisonment, it may also impose deprivation of political rights for a period of one to five years. (Id. art. 1 ¶¶ 1 & 3.)

Public officials or employees who engage in the conduct described above are subject to harsher punishments. They face imprisonment of six months to three years and fines of €10,000 to €25,000. If additional acts are committed by such officials, the term of imprisonment will be at least one year, and the fine will range from €25,000 to €50,000. (Id. art. 1 ¶ 5.)

• Public Endorsement or Denial of Certain Crimes

Anyone who intentionally, either orally, through the press, online, or by any other means or methods, condones, trivializes, or denies the existence or seriousness of the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the Holocaust, or Nazi crimes, when those crimes have been established by international court decisions or the Greek Parliament, if this conduct is directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by race, color, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity and in a manner that is likely to incite hatred or violence or is of a threatening or insulting nature against such a group or one of its members, will be punished by the punishments indicated above. (Id. art. 2.)

• Liability of Legal Persons

In addition, the Law provides for the liability of legal persons or groups of persons when the crimes described above are committed by a natural person, acting either alone or as a member of the legal person, for the benefit of such a legal person or group of persons. (Id. art. 4.)

• Initiation of Prosecution

Crimes committed are investigated and prosecuted ex officio; therefore, there is no need for a report from or an accusation by a victim(s) before the initiation of an investigation and/or prosecution. (Id. art. 5.)