MFHR ACTIVITIES IN RELATION TO SOCIAL RIGHTS PROTECTED BY THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL CHARTER

  1. Introduction

Founded in 1977, the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) is a non-governmental organization closely working with the United Nations (UN) and Council of Europe human rights bodies and maintaining regular ties and co-operation with other NGOs. In particular, the Foundation has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC), as well as with the bodies under its auspices, such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva; special relation status with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) in New York; official relations status with UNESCO; participatory status as an International NGO with the Council of Europe and consultative status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The MFHR is also a member of the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

The basic aims and objectives of the MFHR are research, study, defense, protection and promotion of the generally recognized fundamental human rights and freedoms. Within this framework, the Foundation takes a special interest in the advancement of human rights education and training, as well as in the raising of public awareness in all matters affecting human rights, the development of democratic institutions and peace. Through its activities, the MFHR has sought to establish a consistent record of human rights protection and promotion in all major areas of concern. In addition, the Foundation closely monitors the current changing social and economic circumstances and the new challenges they pose to human rights, with a view to providing updated responses and adequate standards of protection. More information may be found at our website: www.mfhr.gr

The MFHR’s capacity to “access authoritative sources of information” and to obtain “appropriate legal opinions” in order to lodge a complaint is best evidenced by the successful filing of Collective Complaint No. 30/2005, Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights v. Greece, and the written submissions presented throughout all stages of the procedure. This complaint has been one of the most important activities carried out by the MFHR in the field of the promotion and protection of social rights and has involved the use of considerable resources for over two years, which resulted to the conviction of Greece for failing to comply with the obligations imposed by the European Social Charter. Even now, the MFHR collaborates with the people involved in this affair contributing to the follow-up of the case and thus ensuring the right implementation of the decision by the Greek authorities.

  1. Legal Committee, Committee Against Nuclear Dangers and research fellows

The MHFR is assisted in its tasks by a Legal Committee comprised by distinguished and renowned jurists. It is presided over by George Stavropoulos, former Vice-President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece (Conseil d’Etat) and former Minister of Administrative Reform. The other Members are Christoforos Argyropoulos, President of the Greek Association of Criminal Lawyers, Nikolaos Livos, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Athens Law School and Michalis Margaritis, former member of the Greek Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) and President of the Hellenic Copyright Organization. In addition, the MFHR is assisted in its activities by an International Advisory Committee, which is composed by internationally distinguished personalities working in the field of Human Rights (see attached Document No1).

Within the Foundation operates also the Committee against Nuclear Dangers presided over by Apostolos Panaghiotou, Professor Emeritus, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The other Members are Dr. Maria Sotiropoulou, President of the Panhellenic Medical Society for the Protection of the Environment against Nuclear and Biochemical Threats, Dr. Theodora Papadopoulou, Professor Emerita at the Athens Polytechnical University, Dr. Ioannis Tsipouridis, President of the Greek Wind Energy Scientific Association, and Dr. George Drakatos, Research Director at the Institute of Geodynamics of the National Observatory of Athens

Furthermore, there is a team of lawyers and research fellows working within the Foundation which is responsible for following all legislative and administrative developments, drafting legal commentaries and opinions, conducting legal research, as well as representing individuals from vulnerable groups in court.

  1. The MFHR as a founding member of the

Greek National Commission of Human Rights (GNCHR)

The MFHR is, according to Greek law, member of the Greek National Commission of Human Rights (hereinafter: GNCHR) and has had active participation and critical influence on its work since the establishment of the latter in 1998. The first President of the GNCHR was, until November 2006, Prof. Alice Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos, President of the MFHR. The Foundation’s current representative is Mr Georgios Stavropoulos, former Minister and former Vice-President of the Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat).

By support and active participation of the above representatives of the MFHR, the GNCHR has adopted decisions regarding social rights in general and the European Social Charter in particular, such as:

- Written Information on the Second Periodic Report of the Hellenic Republic for the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2.2.2015)

- International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Problems regarding its implementation (9.10.2014)

- Observations on the 24th Greek Report on the application of the European Social Charter and on the 9th Greek Report on the application of the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter (9.4.2014)

- The Right to Water. GNCHR Recommendations for its effective protection (2014)

- GNCHR Recommendation: On the imperative need to reverse the sharp decline in civil liberties and social rights (2011).

The MFHR representative, Mr Stavropoulos participated as a key speaker in the press conference organized by the GNCHR on June 24, 2014, on the issue of the privatization of water, where also the GNCHR document The Right to Water. GNCHR Recommendations for its effective protection was publicly presented.

Furthermore, the representatives of the MFHR have cooperated for the publication of all annual reports of the National Commission, which to a large extent address socioeconomic rights issues, namely issues of major interest to the European Social Charter system.

  1. National and international activities related to social rights:

Legal opinions – Public interventions – Official declarations

The MFHR has submitted a legal opinion on the petitions for annulment Nos 3036/25-06-2013 and 3877/23-09-2013 before the Greek Council of State, heard jointly on February 11, 2014, in order to support the citizens of Corfu in their claims to annul the transfer from the Greek state to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund SA (known by its initials in Greek as “TAIPED”) and further to private individuals of the natural habitat of the region of the Korissia Lagoon and of the historical buildings of Castello Mibelli. These two cases illustrated a striking violation of environmental and cultural rights of the inhabitants (for further details see attached Document No2).

The MFHR also submitted, on July 22, 2014, on behalf of the Cretan Clerical Authority, the Mayors of Cretan Municipalities, the Presidents of Local Cretan Authorities, Associations, Unions, etc and permanent residents of the island of Crete, a Communication to the Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee for violations committed by Greece of the international environmental acquis and of the Aarhus Convention in particular regarding the operation of destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons in an unspecified location in the Mediterranean Sea (see attached Document No3). This case containing the same violations has also been brought before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The MFHR has further expressed its opinions on many current social problems and has also proposed legislative amendments, especially for the protection of the environment in relevance with the protection of the right to health and with the right to life (e.g. use of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy). Particular attention has been given to the attempted reform of legislation governing the legal status of the coastline in Greece. In particular, the MFHR published an intervention against the draft legislation on the “Delimitation, Management and Protection of Seashore and Coastline” and participated in protest movements along with other scientific and citizens’ associations. In the same way, the MFHR has expressed its firm stance against the privatization of public goods and in particular of electricity by publishing on July 4, 2014 a critical commentary on the legislative bill attempting to privatize the Public Electricity Company (DEI).

Moreover, the MFHR has strongly condemned cases of human trafficking and work exploitation, especially concerning migrants. In a recent case that shook the Greek public opinion (case of Manolada), where migrant workers lived under terrible conditions, worked for almost no remuneration and ended up being shot by their employers, the President of the MFHR published an article in national and local newspapers that firmly denounced this practice.

The MFHR has also been alarmed by the setting up of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (“TAIPED”) which has been entrusted with the sale/privatization of all important public assets of the Greek state, including public utilities, infrastructure and state enterprises, thus endangering the enjoyment of fundamental social rights. In this regard, the Foundation organized jointly with the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences an interactive discussion panel on “Human Rights and Privatizations: The general 'sell out' of Greece by the TAIPED should stop immediately”, (Athens, June 2013). The first edition of the book compiling the outcomes of the discussion was published in June 2014. A second edition, fully updated, was published in December 2014 (for the Table of Contents see Document No4). On the occasion of these two editions, a public debate was organized each time by the MFHR.

As far as its international activity is concerned, the MFHR submitted an oral statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council (24th Session, 9-27 September 2013) under the title “The Greek Privatization Program violates the international human rights system”. It also published, on May 17, 2011 a joint declaration with the Association des femmes de l’Europe méridionale (AFEM) asking for a reinforcement of social rights in order to exit the economic crisis. On June 13, 2012 it reiterated this demand by making again a joint declaration with the Association des femmes de l’Europe méridionale (AFEM) which was furthermore supported by the INGOs Conference of the Council of Europe (see attached Document No5).

An MFHR representative (the only one representing a Greek NGO) participated in the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 27-30 January 2014) presenting, among others, the Foundation’s views on extreme poverty, social cohesion and the protection of vulnerable groups. The MFHR was also represented at the conference “Poverty and Inequalities, Paradoxes in Societies of Human Rights and Democracy? - Proposals for an inclusive society -” which was organized by the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 21-22 February 2013).

Finally, the MFHR is also a member of the Greek section of the Academic Network on the European Social Charter and Social Rights (RACSE) and is using its legal expertise, in close collaboration with other members and the Greek coordinator, towards improving the application and protection of social rights both at the level of the Council of Europe and in its member states.

  1. Conferences related to social rights

The MFHR has since 2011 organized and co-organized many conferences on issues regarding the activities of the Council of Europe. Among these conferences, those listed below are of special relevance for the protection of social rights recognized under the European Social Charter:

  1. School violence and bullying. The phenomenon, prevention, actions and means of combating it, information event organized by the Parental Association of the 1st Primary School of Anavissos and supported by the MFHR, Saronikos Town Hall, Athens, 8 March 2015.
  2. Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund - an instrument for the “sell-off” of public property and for the abolition of the national sovereignty of Greece, presentation of the 2nd edition (fully updated) of the book published by the MFHR, Ianos Bookstore, Athens, 16 December 2014.
  3. The impact of the economic crisis on children, colloquium organized by the MFHR on the occasion of the celebration of the 66th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, MFHR Library, Athens, 10 December 2014.
  4. Neutralizing Syrian chemical weapons in our neighborhood, the closed Mediterranean Sea, protest event co-organized by the MFHR and the Region of Ionian Islands, Cultural Center of Zante, Zante, 9 July 2014.
  5. Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund - an instrument for the “sell-off” of public property and for the abolition of the national sovereignty of Greece, presentation of the book published by the MFHR, Ianos Bookstore, Athens, 8 July 2014.
  6. The effects of chemical weapons on human health, event co-organized by the MFHR, the Heraklion Medical Association and the Heraklion Citizens’ Initiative for the Neutralization of Syrian Chemical Weapons in the Mediterranean, Heraklion Town Hall, Heraklion, Crete, 10 June 2014.
  7. The gravely deleterious for the society phenomenon of bullying. Ways to combat it and means of prevention, event, MFHR Library, Athens, 6 March 2014.
  8. Preventing bullying and school violence for a modern, humane and democratic school, event co-organized by the MFHR as member of the Anti-bullying network, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, 6 March 2014.
  9. Education and Human Rights, colloquium organized by the MFHR on the occasion of the celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Nomiki Bibliothiki Conference Hall, Athens, 11 December 2013.
  10. Stop the general “sell-off” of Greece by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, public debate, Panteion University, Athens, 26 June 2013,
  11. The disaster of nuclear energy – Fukushima: Two years after, public debate, Nomiki Bibliothiki Conference Hall, Athens, 28 March 2013.
  12. Dangers from the use of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, public debate, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, 2 February 2012.
  1. Annual prizes promoting human rights, including social rights

The MFHR has been organizing for years an annual competition for postgraduate students of Greek Universities on the basis of written essays on human rights issues. Each year, three of these are offered a scholarship which consists in their participation in the human rights Course organized each summer by the International Institute for Human Rights (René Cassin Institute) in Strasbourg. Among the issues which candidates are asked to write on (2011-2015), have been the following: human trafficking, environmental protection, school violence, social rights protection in Europe and worldwide and corruption.

In addition, the Foundation grants annually prizes to primary and secondary school students of the Avlona’s Special Juvenile Detention Center.

  1. Free legal aid

The Foundation also provides legal counseling to everyone, without discrimination, especially based on race, religion, sex, language, national or ethnic origin, whose fundamental human rights (social rights included, such as pension rights and right to access to healthcare) are being infringed and who do not have the financial resources to engage a lawyer.

  1. Publications

The MFHR continuously works in favor of the interrelatedness and interdependence of social rights with civil and political rights. We focus on current social problems which are caused by the denial of socioeconomic rights, such as poverty and environmental problems, stressing, in particular, the importance of the European Social Charter and of the innovative system of collective complaints in addressing human rights violations by the State. In the Foundation’s publications, we put emphasis on the complementary judicial mechanisms set up by the Council of Europe as required by the principle of interdependence of all Human Rights: the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights. More specifically, since 2011, the MFHR has published many books on human rights issues (for the full list of publications see attached Document No6). Among these publications, those listed under 1, 4, 7, 8, and 11 are highlighted as being of special relevance for the protection of social rights recognized under the European Social Charter:

1. The impact of the financial crisis on children, Editor: V. Tsevrenis, Andy’s Publishers, Athens, 2015, 158p. [in Greek].

2. Civil partnership of same-sex couples: The need for adaptation of the Greek legal order, Andy’s Publishers, Athens, 2015, 209 p. [in Greek].

3. Education and Human Rights, Editor: S.-H. Aktypis, Athens, 2015 [in Greek] [forthcoming].

4. Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund: An instrument for the “sell-off” of public property and for the abolition of the national sovereignty of Greece, Second Edition fully updated, Editor: I. Sagounidou-Daskalaki, Andy’s Publishers, Athens, 2014, 351 p. [in Greek].

5. A. Petropoulou, Liberté et sécurité: les mesures antiterroristes et la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme, Preface by Linos-Alexandre 5icilianos and Emmanuelle Tourme-Jouannet, MFHR Series Νο 19, Publ. A. Pedone, Paris, 2014, 574 p. [in French].7.

6. MFHR Awards 2014 granted to students for attending the Annual Study Session of the International Institute of Human Rights, Editors: V. Tsevrenis, Th. Maneta, Andy’s Publishers, Athens, 2014, 159 p. [in Greek].

7. Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund: An instrument for the “sell-off” of public property and for the abolition of the national sovereignty of Greece, First Edition, Editor: I. Sagounidou-Daskalaki, Publ. Nomiki Bibliothiki, Athens, 2014, 275 p. [in Greek].

8. V. Tsevrenis, Welfare State and Public Health Policies. Innovative national actions for social solidarity, First Volume of the new MFHR Series under the heading: Human Rights and Institutional Modernization, Publ. Sakkoulas, Athens-Thessaloniki, 2014, 268 p., [in Greek].

9. F.F. Höpfner, L’évolution de la notion du réfugié, MFHR Series Νο 18, Publ. A. Pedone, Paris, 2014, Foreword by Jean-Marc Sorel, 504 p. [in French].

10. Corruption and how to address it, Editor: I. Sagounidou-Daskalaki, Publ. Nomiki Bibliothiki, Athens, 2013, 272 p. [in Greek].

11. V. Tsevrenis, Human dignity: The functional use of its regulatory scope in legal reasoning, Editor: A. Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos, MFHR Series, Publ. Sakkoulas, 2012, 350 p. [in Greek].