United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

7 November 1996



General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Agenda item 110 (b)

                             FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS

            Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of
            All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on
                              Religion or Belief

                         Note by the Secretary-General


     The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the members of
the General Assembly Addendum 1 to the interim report on the
elimination of all forms of religious intolerance concerning a visit
to Greece, prepared by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur of the
Commission on Human Rights, pursuant to General Assembly resolution
50/183 of 22 December 1995.


                                                              Paragraphs Page

INTRODUCTION ...............................................     1 - 5     3


      A. Constitutional provisions and concerns of the
         Special Rapporteur ...............................      6 - 19    3

         1.   General provisions concerning religious
              freedom ......................................     6 - 12    3

         2.   Specific provisions concerning the Greek
              Orthodox Church ..............................    13 - 19    5

      B. Other legal provisions and concerns of the
         Special Rapporteur ...............................     20 - 51    6

         1.   General provisions concerning religious
              freedom ......................................    20 - 40    6

         2.   Specific provisions concerning Muslims .......    41 - 51   10

      C. Other legal questions ............................     52 - 53   12

      OR BELIEF ............................................    54 - 130  13

      A. Situation of religious minorities ................     55 - 121  13

         1.   Christian minorities .........................    56 - 98   14

              (a) Catholic minority .......................     57 - 70   14

              (b) Protestant minority .....................     71 - 83   17

              (c) The Jehovah's Witnesses .................     84 - 98   18

         2.   Jewish minority ..............................    99 - 104  21

         3.   Muslim minority ..............................   105 - 121  22

      B. Situation of the Orthodox Church .................    122 - 130  25

III.  CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ......................   131 - 159  26


1.  The Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance, acting within the terms
of his mandate, visited Greece from 18 to 25 June 1996 at the invitation of
the Greek Government.

2.  During his stay, the Special Rapporteur visited Athens (18-22 June and
25 June) and Alexandroupolis (22-24 June) in order to meet with official
representatives (of, inter alia, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education
and Worship, the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization, Justice
and Defence, as well as the Prefect of Evros).

3.  He also met with religious and political leaders representing religious
minorities, ecclesiastical authorities of the Orthodox Church, prominent
individuals and representatives of non-governmental organizations, including 
Greek Helsinki Monitor, Minority Rights Group, SOS Racisme, the Marangopoulos
Foundation for Human Rights, the Ligue helle'nique pour les droits de l'homme
and Helsinki Citizens Group.  He also visited places of worship.

4.  The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the Greek authorities for their
invitation.  He also extends his appreciation to the various prominent
representatives he met during his visit, in particular, those from
non-governmental organizations.

5.  During his stay, the Special Rapporteur focused in particular on
legislation in the field of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion
or belief, on the implementation of this legislation and on the policy in


                 A.  Constitutional provisions and concerns of the
                     Special Rapporteur

              1.  General provisions concerning religious freedom

6.  Article 13 of the Greek Constitution of 1975 guarantees religious
freedom, which implies freedom of belief or freedom of religious conscience
(para. 1) and freedom of worship or of the practice of rites of worship (para.
2).  Freedom of belief is guaranteed to all, whereas freedom of worship,
although protected by the Constitution, may be subject to certain limitations
arising in particular from the status of "known religion" and from the manner
in which proselytism is viewed.

(a) The concept of "known religion"

7.  Article 13, paragraph 2, of the Constitution provides that freedom of
worship is reserved for "known" religions.  This concept of "known" religion
raises a number of questions because, although the concept is not defined in
the Constitution, this provision relating to it limits religious freedom. 
This limitation appears to be inconsistent with article 1, paragraph 3, of the
1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of
Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which provides that "Freedom to
manifest one's religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as
are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order,
health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others."  Indeed,
article 13, paragraph 2, of the Constitution explicitly imposes such legal
limitations (in respect of public order and morals) and applies them to all
known religions.

8.  According to Greek legal practice and information supplied by the
authorities, a "known" religion must have no secret dogmas and must not
involve worship in secret.  In the opinion of the Ministry of Justice, it must
be a religion to which any person may adhere and it must be sufficiently
transparent, so that it is possible to guard against religions that pose a
threat to public order, morals and the rule of law.

9.  The absence of any constitutional, legislative or other definition of the
concept of known religion would appear to contravene the 1981 Declaration and
the legal limitations envisaged therein and poses serious practical problems
for religious minorities and for conscientious objection (see chap. II).

10. Moreover, it should be noted that article 14 of the Constitution provides
that the seizure of newspapers and other publications before or after
circulation is allowed by order of the public prosecutor in case of an offence
against the Christian religion or any other known religion.  Accordingly,
religions which are not "known" are not covered by this provision.

(b) Proselytism

11. Article 13, paragraph 2, of the Constitution provides that proselytism in
general - theoretically with respect to any religion whatsoever - is
prohibited. The Constitution does not define the concept of proselytism. 
According to the Ministry of Justice, this prohibition applies to proselytism
of a negative sort, and not to the dissemination of religious beliefs, which
supposedly makes it possible to safeguard religious freedom from any dangerous

12. The Special Rapporteur notes that proselytism is itself inherent in
religion, which explains its legal status in international instruments and in
the 1981 Declaration.  However, proselytism is punishable under two "Necessity
Acts", Act No. 1363/1938 and Act No. 1672/1939 promulgated during the
dictatorship of General Metaxas (see chap. I.B, "Legislation on proselytism,")
and their impact on religion in general and on religious minorities is of
considerable concern (see chap. II).

                 2.  Specific provisions concerning the Greek
                     Orthodox Church                         

(a) The concept of a dominant religion

13. Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Constitution states that the dominant
religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ.  The
legal meaning of the term "dominant" is that the Orthodox faith is the
official religion of Greece.  This status is particularly evident in the
preamble to the Constitution, the religious oath taken by the President of the
Republic and members of Parliament and the inviolability of the Holy

(b) Manifestations of the status of dominant religion

    (i)  Preamble to the Constitution

14. The preamble to the Constitution begins with the following incantatory
religious declaration:  "In the name of the Holy and Consubstantial and
Indivisible Trinity".

    (ii)  Religious oath of the President of the Republic and members of

15. Article 33, paragraph 2, of the Constitution provides that, before taking
up his duties, the President of the Republic must take the following oath
before Parliament:  "I do swear in the name of the Holy and Consubstantial and
Indivisible Trinity to uphold the Constitution and the laws ..."

16. Article 59, paragraph 1, of the Constitution requires that members of
Parliament, before taking up their duties, must take an oath, in the
Parliament Chamber in a public meeting, to the Holy and Consubstantial and
Indivisible Trinity.

17. Heterodox members of Parliament who adhere to a different religion take
the same oath, adapted to their own dogma or religion.  No such provision
applies to the oath of the President of the Republic, which means that only an
Orthodox individual may occupy that high office.

    (iii)  Inviolability of the Holy Scriptures

18. Article 3, paragraph 3, of the Constitution provides that the text of the
Holy Scriptures is inalterable.  The official translation of the text into
another form, without prior approval of the Autocephalous Church of Greece and
the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, is prohibited.

19. The Special Rapporteur notes that, although a State religion does not in
itself run counter to any international instruments, it might ultimately do so
to the extent that it justified or introduced discrimination against other

                  B.  Other legal provisions and concerns of the
                      Special Rapporteur

              1.  General provisions concerning religious freedom

(a) Legislation concerning places of worship

20. Pursuant to Necessity Act No. 1672/1939 (which superseded Necessity Act
No. 1363/1938), a government permit issued by the Ministry of National
Education and Worship is required for the construction or establishment of
non-Orthodox places of worship.

21. However, such approval in turn requires - not to mention, inter alia, a
request by at least fifty families - authorization by the local Orthodox
metropolitan.  Any church or place for religious assembly built and operated
without authorization is liable to be closed and put under seal and those
responsible for the "illegal" installation may be prosecuted, imprisoned and
required to pay a substantial fine.

22. According to information from non-governmental sources, these acts have
made the regime governing the practice of any "heterodox" worship more rigid
and at times almost arbitrary.  Furthermore, the involvement of the Greek
Orthodox Church - by virtue of its prerogative in the authorization process to
issue an opinion having legal standing - in practice often appears to create
serious impediments to the exercise of religious freedom by minorities (see
chap. II).

(b) Legislation concerning proselytism

23. Pursuant to Necessity Act No. 1672/1939, proselytism is a criminal
offence.  It is defined as any direct or indirect attempt to influence or
alter the religious beliefs of others, in particular by fraudulent means or
with promises of any type of material or moral gain.  The practice of
proselytism is subject to severe penalties:  these include imprisonment,
fines, police surveillance and the expulsion of foreigners.

24. The Acts, which date from the dictatorship of General Metaxas but are
still in force, were originally intended to safeguard the provisions of the
1911 Constitution prohibiting proselytism against the Orthodox Church. 
However, the 1975 Constitution does not draw such a distinction and protects
all religions from proselytism.  Therefore, according to some representatives,
the Necessity Acts should be deemed outdated.  A number of representatives of
non-governmental organizations consider them to be manifestly contrary to the

25. The Special Rapporteur reiterates his remarks concerning proselytism (see
paras. 11-12 above) and notes that in practice the religious freedom of
minorities is severely undermined, given the manner in which proselytism is
viewed (see chap. II).

(c) Legislation concerning identity cards

26. Act No. 1899/1986 (art. 3, para. 1, subpara. 12) provides that identity
cards must indicate the religion of the bearer.  Unless a declaration to that
effect is made, the identity card is not issued.

27. On 6 April 1993, the Greek Parliament adopted a new law on the matter
obliging citizens to declare their religious affiliation on their identity
cards.  A draft amendment making the reference to religion optional on
personal identity documents was withdrawn.

28. According to the Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and
Decentralization, the indication of religion on identity cards has no legal
force and the notion of citizenship alone is paramount.  The reference to
religion apparently reflects a religious tradition and satisfies the demands
of the Greek Orthodox Church.  According to the Ministry of Justice, what is
involved is the right to declare one's religion in accordance with
international law.  The religious identification of citizens would, for
instance, be necessary in matters of inheritance or of funeral rites.  The
representatives of the Orthodox Church echoed the latter argument and said
that they favoured an optional indication of religion on identity cards.

29. All non-governmental representatives were opposed to any indication of
religion on identity cards because it might become a basic source of
discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief (see chap. II). 
They underscored the unconstitutionality of the existing law and its
incompatibility with international law.

30. Attention was drawn in particular to the resolution of the European
Parliament on the compulsory mention of religion on Greek identity cards:

         "... C.  whereas the compulsory mention of religion on identity
    documents violates the fundamental freedoms of the individual as set out
    in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention
    on Human Rights, 

         "... E.  recalling that freedom of opinion and religious freedom are
    part of the foundations of a constitutional State and are the exclusive
    province of human conscience,

         1.    Calls on the Greek Government to amend the current legal
    provisions once and for all to abolish any mention, even optional, of
    religion on new Greek identity cards and not to bow to pressure from the
    Orthodox hierarchy ...;

         2.    Considers that the role which religion has played or still
    plays in any society, however important it may be and without value
    judgements, in no way justifies the requirement to mention religion on an
    identity card."

(d) Legislation concerning conscientious objection

31. Greek law does not make provision for civilian service for conscientious
objectors in place of military service.  The Greek State instituted, in 1977,
by Act No. 731, an exceptional obligation to military service for a period of
time double that of armed obligatory military service for those refusing to
bear arms due to religious beliefs.  In 1988, article 1, paragraph 2, of Act
No. 1763, provided that those refusing to bear arms due to their religious or
ideological beliefs were obliged to serve full or partial military duty double
in length to that which, in each case, was required from the category in which
they belonged.  In article 5, paragraph 3 of the same Act, it was also
provided that those who would serve, due to a court conviction for refusal to
serve even their unarmed military service, a term of imprisonment equal in
duration to the term of military service owed by them, in each case, were
discharged from the call to enlist after their release from prison.

32. Based on the provisions mentioned above, the conscientious objectors
capable of serving are obliged to perform military service.  Those refusing to
serve are referred to the military court with the charge of disobedience
(art. 70 of the Military Penal Code).  This charge is punishable by penalties
ranging from six months imprisonment to the death penalty, depending on the
situation in the country (war, general mobilization, peace, etc.).  Act
No. 1763 also exempts religious ministers of the so-called "known religions"
from military service.

33. There is an ongoing debate on the constitutionality of introducing
alternative civilian service.  Jurists who consider that alternative civilian
service is contrary to the Constitution believe that, since the Constitution
guarantees that all Greeks are equal before the law (art. 4, para. 1) and
requires its citizens to contribute to the defence of their country (art. 4,
para. 6), permitting certain persons to perform civilian service would be
tantamount to treating two groups of citizens unequally.  Another objection
drawn from the Constitution rests on article 13, paragraph 4:  "No person
shall be exempt from discharging his obligations to the State nor may he
refuse to comply with the law by reason of his religious convictions".

34. Other jurists and non-governmental representatives cite instead
article 13, paragraph 1, which provides that "freedom of religious conscience
is inviolable.  Enjoyment of individual and civil rights does not depend on
the individual's religious beliefs".  Some argue that alternative civilian
service could also make a contribution to the country's defence.  Others
favour alternative civilian service because article 2, paragraph 1, stipulates
that "it is the primary obligation of the State to respect and protect the
value of the human being"; and article 5, paragraph 1, states that "all
persons shall have the right to develop their personality freely ...".

35. According to the Ministry of Defence, the Greek Government is today
dealing with conscientious objectors with extreme sensitivity, despite the
fact that the constitutional framework does not allow any room for change of
the existing legal framework.

36. In 1988, a draft law proposal for unarmed or social service was submitted
to the Parliament.  The provisions of this draft were, however, adjudged by
the Central Law Preparatory Committee to be directly in conflict with article
4, paragraph 6, and article 13, paragraph 4, of the Constitution.  Thus that
draft law proposal did not, finally, reach the voting stage.

37. In 1991, the Ministry of Defence decided to draw up a new draft law
proposal for unarmed or social (civilian) service.  For this reason, the
Ministry requested the opinion of the Legal Council of the State on the
question:  "Is the adoption of the institution of social (civilian) service
for those refusing to bear arms and to serve even unarmed service in the Armed
Forces due to their religious beliefs or reasons of conscience in accordance
with the Constitution?".  The Legal Council met on 10 October 1991 and issued
opinion No. 669/90 in which it was unanimous in stating that the Constitution,
as regards the reasons for institution of unarmed or social duty, was
definitive, and superseded customary law.  This is because, on the one hand,
the provision of article 13, paragraph 4, does not allow for religious
objections and, on the other, article 4, paragraph 6, does not allow for
objections of an ideological or moral character.  It is thus clear that the
quest for a constitutional justification for conscientious objectors in the
provisions of article 4, paragraph 6, of the Constitution is fruitless.  Not
only does it pre-empt any other constitutional justification basis, but it
also brings out very emphatically this important provision as an immovable
constitutional obstacle to the acceptance of religious objections and the
erosion of the character and content of the military obligation.  Therefore,
based on the above-mentioned facts and justification, the Legal Council of the
State was unanimous in its opinion that the adoption by law of the social
(civilian) service would be contrary to the Constitution.

38. Furthermore, according to the Ministry of Defence, special measures are
applied in favour of conscientious objectors as regards both the serving of a
sentence and the place of detention (see chap. II, sect. A, "The Jehovah's
Witnesses").  According to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, the Greek State, despite the provisions of the Constitution relating
to defence, has modified its stand by adopting a law providing for unarmed
alternative service with certain privileges favouring conscientious objectors.

Nevertheless, the conscientious objectors - in this instance, the Jehovah's
Witnesses - have refused to wear uniforms, salute the flag or accept the
period specified for performing alternative service.  The Ministry of Defence
claims that the Jehovah's Witnesses, by asking to be exempted from national
service, were asking to receive treatment which would discriminate against
other Greek citizens.  The authorities maintain that the Jehovah's Witnesses
must, as Greek citizens, respect the law in force and bear in mind the
particular position of Greece, a small State that must protect its territorial
integrity.  According to the Ministry of Justice, the Jehovah's Witnesses are
being prosecuted not for their beliefs but for having violated the law.  The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the authorities were ready to make
concessions provided they had no impact on national issues.  The impact the
Greek authorities seem to have in mind is any impairment of the obligation to
perform national service and of the unity of the country.

39. According to the non-governmental representatives, it is necessary for
the Greek State to adopt legislation recognizing the right to conscientious
objection with respect to military service in order to put an end to
infringements of the religious freedom of conscientious objectors, in
particular Jehovah's Witnesses, and of their human rights in general within
Greek society (see chap. II, sect. A, "The Jehovah's Witnesses").  The well-
known Exemption of Ministers of Religion Act (Act No. 1763/1988) should also
be fully applied (see chap. II, sect. A, "Protestant minority").

40. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to resolution 1989/59 of
8 March 1989 of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations,
reaffirmed inter alia in 1991 (resolution 1991/65 of 6 March 1991) and in 1993
(resolution 1993/84 of 10 March 1993), which recognizes "the right of everyone
to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise
of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in
article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (para. 1) and
which recommends to Member States "with a system of compulsory military
service, where such provision has not already been made, that they introduce
for conscientious objectors various forms of alternative service" (para. 3)
which "should be in principle of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the
public interest and not of a punitive nature" (para. 4).

                  2.  Specific provisions concerning Muslims

41. The relevant texts concerning the Muslim minority of Western Thrace are,
first, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which, inter alia, guaranteed freedom of
religion, equality before the law, the right to establish and control any
charitable, religious and social institutions and any schools and full
protection for religious establishments and, second, the Constitution in
article 5, paragraph 2 (protection of life and freedom without, in particular,
any distinction on grounds of religious belief) and article 4, paragraph 1
(equality before the law).  The Special Rapporteur studied the legislation
relating to muftis, waqfs and education.

(a) Legislation concerning muftis

42. Greek legislation originally provided for a procedure for electing muftis
in accordance with article 11 of the Treaty of Athens of 1913; the relevant
provision of the Treaty subsequently became part of Greek domestic legislation
by virtue of Act No. 3345/1920, adopted by Greece in 1920.  According to the
Greek authorities, these provisions have not, however, been put into effect,
in particular as a result of exchanges of Greek and Turkish populations in
1922 and the conclusion of a new agreement, the Treaty of Peace signed at
Lausanne in 1923.

43. The decree of 25 December 1990 subsequently abolished the legal procedure
for the election of muftis, in favour of a nomination procedure.  Under that
decree, a committee chaired by the prefect, and composed of men of religion
and eminent Greek Muslim citizens, is responsible for proposing to the
Minister of Education and Worship a list of qualified persons (who must, in
particular, be holders of a university degree from a school of advanced
Islamic studies, whether Greek or foreign, or persons who have performed
functions as an imam for at least 10 years and who have distinguished
themselves by their morality and theological competence).  The Minister
chooses a mufti on the basis of the personal qualifications of the candidate. 
The mufti is finally appointed by a presidential decree adopted on the
proposal of the Minister of Education.

44. The mufti may be relieved of his functions by presidential decree, on the
request of the Minister of Education, in the following cases only:

    (i)  In the case of final sentences for a crime or offence as provided
         for in article 22 of the State Civil Service Code;

    (ii) In the case of deprivation of civil rights, for whatever reason;

   (iii) In the case of illness preventing him from performing his functions,
         professional incompetence, dishonourable conduct or conduct
         incompatible with his rank and functions.

45. The Muslim minority of Thrace appears to be divided with regard to the
procedure for the choice of muftis.  Some Muslims consider that the 1990
decree interferes in the choice by the Muslim community of its religious
representatives and interpret it as leading to appointment by the authorities;
they call, instead, for an election by indirect universal suffrage involving
prominent Muslims and Muslim officials (about 200 to 300 people).  They recall
the legislation concerning the election of muftis that preceded the decree,
and also refer to tradition and practice, in particular the election of
Mr. Mehmet Emin Aga and Mr. Ibrahim Serif as muftis in mosques at Xanthi and
Komotini on 17 August and 24 December 1991; these elections took place despite
the opposition of the Greek State, which had appointed two other muftis (see
chap. II, A, paras. 105-121, "Muslim minority").

46. Another group of Muslims, and the authorities, point out that, in
countries where Islam is the dominant religion (for example Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and Turkey), it is common practice for the head of the religious
hierarchy to be appointed by the State.  Moreover, in Greece, since muftis
have judicial functions which extend to family law and the law of succession
to appoint them through an election would jeopardize fulfilment of the
provision in the Constitution (art. 8) stating that judges shall be appointed
in accordance with the law; it would also compromise the principle of the
independence of judges, both individually and in the exercise of their office,
since it would create a situation of political patronage.

47. This dispute over the procedure for selecting muftis has repercussions in
the religious field which are prejudicial to the entire Muslim minority of
Thrace (see chap. II).  It seems to be one of the factors preventing any
serious approach to the problem of the Thracian Muslims.

(b) Legislation concerning the waqfs

48. Alongside the mufti who is appointed in accordance with the decree of
25 December 1990, there is a committee which administers the property (waqfs)
belonging to religious communities and charitable institutions within its
district.  According to information provided, Act No. 3345/1920 provided that
the members of that committee were to be chosen through elections held within
the Muslim community.  This provision was abolished under the dictatorship and
replaced by a procedure, which is still in force, for appointing the members
of the committee.

49. The Muslim minority of Thrace is once again divided over the legislation
concerning the waqfs; the arguments put forward on each side correspond to
those put forward in the context of the legislation concerning the muftis. 
The disagreements also have practical implications for the Muslim minority in
the religious field (see chap. II).

(c) Legislation concerning education

50. In addition to the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne which provide
that Thracian Muslims shall be taught their own language and the Islamic
religion, the Greek Government adopted a new law in October 1995.  The
provisions of the new law aim at upgrading the quality of the education
afforded to Muslim Greek citizens in order to make it equal to that of all
other Greek citizens.  More precisely, economic and career incentives are
offered to Christian teachers who are stationed in minority schools and at the
same time efforts are made to improve the qualifications of Muslim teachers. 
Furthermore, English language courses are being introduced at the primary
school level, and physical education will henceforth be taught by graduates of
the Physical Education Teachers Training College.

51. Article 2 of the new law constitutes the keystone of this effort.  Under
this article, Muslim high school graduates are afforded preferential terms of
admission to universities and technical institutes (affirmative action) as was
the case before for other classes of Greek citizens (children of immigrants
and repatriates).  A quota and special examinations for admission to
universities have been fixed in order to raise the educational level of the
minority and to facilitate its integration in the social fabric of the

                           C.  Other legal questions

52. It will be noted that Greece has not ratified the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights.  The Covenant is particularly important since
article 18 guarantees the promotion and protection of freedom of religion and
belief, which are also protected by the basic case-law of the United Nations
Human Rights Committee.  The Greek Government is said to have initiated a
project for the ratification of the Covenant.  According to the
non-governmental representatives, difficulties have emerged, in particular
with regard to the articles concerning minorities.  The Ministry of Justice
stated that the Commission responsible for administration and decentralization
had expressed a favourable opinion concerning ratification and that the
subsequent stages of the procedure were pending.

53. Another point to be emphasized is the establishment of a commission for
revision of the Constitution.  The constitutional provisions concerning
religious freedom, affecting, in particular, the participation of the Greek
Orthodox Church in the organization of powers and its relationship with
minority beliefs and forms of worship do not seem to be the subject of any
revision.  In 1996, following a meeting with the Greek Orthodox authorities,
the representatives of the Commission apparently stated that they had no
reason to amend the constitutional articles relating to religious matters.

                   ON RELIGION OR BELIEF

54. The Special Rapporteur has analysed both the situation of the religious
minorities and that of the dominant Orthodox Church (the religion of about
95 per cent of the population).

                     A.  Situation of religious minorities

55. During his visit, the Special Rapporteur gathered some figures relating
to the religious minorities.  Only estimates could be compiled (see table
below) since, according to the Greek authorities, the State has no official
statistics on religious minorities.  According to the non-governmental
representatives, the State's figures have not included the religious factor
since 1951.

     Religious minorities                      Estimated figures

     Christian minorities

         Catholics                      About 50,000 Greek Catholics

                                        About 40,000 settled foreign Catholics

                                        About 80,000 Polish refugee Catholics

                                        About 45,000 refugee Filipino

         Protestants                    About 20,000

         Orthodox Christians of
         the Old Calendar               About 700,000 to 1 million

         Jehovah's Witnesses            About 70,000

     Jewish minority                    About 4,000

     Muslim minority                    About 120,000

                           1.  Christian minorities

56.  The Special Rapporteur looked into the question of the Catholic and
Protestant minorities and the Jehovah's Witnesses.1

(a)  Catholic minority

     (i) Religion

Known religion and legal recognition

57.  The Catholic religion is seen as a known religion.  There is no special
law recognizing that it possesses legal personality under public law.  The
third London Protocol (1830) dealt in the first place with the position of the
Roman Catholic Church in Greece.  Under that Protocol, France, which had
provided protection for Catholics during the Ottoman domination, relinquished
that role in the liberated Greek territories to the future sovereign of the
emerging State and, in addition, it was provided that the Roman Catholic
Church would be able to manifest its belief freely and publicly; that its
property would be guaranteed; that its bishops would retain the totality of
their functions and would enjoy the rights and privileges they had enjoyed
under the patronage of the kings of France; and that the property which had
belonged to former French missions or French establishments would be
recognized and respected.  Protocol No. 33 (1830), which followed, provided
that the privileges enjoyed by the Catholics could not impose obligations on
the Hellenic Government which might be prejudicial to the dominant religion. 
After the ratification of the Treaty of Se`vres (1923), on the protection of
minorities in Greece, the prevailing opinion in Greek doctrine and judicial
practice is that the London Protocol ceased to be in force.  That
interpretation is said to give rise to problems for the Catholic Church, in
particular with respect to the official recognition of prelates, the creation
of new dioceses, and so forth.  Last, the See of Athens, dating from 1850, is
not officially recognized and neither is the Archbishop, despite the fact that
the Catholic Church is a known religion in Greece.

Religious activities, places of worship and religious objects

58.  On the subject of places of worship, in addition to the problem of legal
recognition mentioned above, the Catholic Church is said to encounter numerous
difficulties in obtaining building permits by reason of the Necessity Acts. 
In fact, the Orthodox Church is said to block or delay the procedure by
exerting pressure on the Ministry of Education and Worship.  For example, at
Aspra Spitia, for the church of St. Joseph, serving the Catholic workforce of
the Pe'chiney factory, the local Metropolitan is said to have demanded of the
Catholic Archbishopric in 1980 that the church should never be used by Greek  

  Uniate Catholics.  Following the refusal of the Catholic authority, the
entire procedure for the building of the church was halted.  Construction
plans had to be amended and submitted to the Commission on the Construction of
Orthodox Churches.  It was only possible to make a start on building work one
year later.  The Ministry of Justice stated that the opinion of the local
Metropolitan was not binding on the Ministry of Education and Worship and
recalled the established practice of the Council of State in that connection.

59.  Posters are occasionally put up on the facades of Catholic churches by
extremist Orthodox organizations.  These posters include such forms of wording
as:  "Zionism, Papism, Turkey, Free Masonry make war on martyred Serbia. 
Greece alone offers resistance and sympathizes with the struggling Serbs";
"Communism is vanishing in the Orthodox States, in eastern Europe, the Vampire
of Rome (the Pope) is preparing to gorge himself".

60.  Religious objects are sometimes the targets of vandalism.  For example,
the statue of Christ in the courtyard of the Cathedral of St. Denis in Athens
was decapitated in February 1996.

61.  On the subject of religious education within the school system, the
private schools of the Catholic Church (12 Catholic schools with some 10,000
pupils, mainly of the Orthodox faith, and fewer than 1,000 Catholic pupils)
teach the Catholic religion to pupils of that faith.  In the State schools in
the islands of Siros and Tinos, where 85 per cent of Greek Catholics live,
Catholic teaching is also provided by priests or lay people.  Problems are
said to arise sometimes in connection with the creation of posts for Catholic

62.  Foreign religious personnel who do not come from the European Union
reportedly also occasionally encounter obstacles in connection with entry
visas and the renewal of residence permits.

63.  Except for the problems referred to above, the situation of the Catholic
Church in the religious sphere is said to be satisfactory, in particular with
respect to their religious publications and processions.

     (ii)  Education

64.  According to the representatives of the Catholic Church, a Greek
Orthodox education, focusing exclusively on the Orthodox religion and the
Greek nation, has in fact come into existence to the detriment of the
religious minorities.  For that reason, it has come to be generally believed
that only Orthodox Christians are truly Greek.  Thus the Catholic Church and
its spiritual head, the Pope, are allegedly portrayed in a negative light in
school textbooks, particularly history books.  Those textbooks are seen as
being, as it were, permeated by Orthodox thinking.  Nevertheless, according to
non-governmental observers, appreciable progress has recently been made, in
particular through the publication of textbooks on the history of religions
and their philosophy which incorporate fairly satisfactory chapters on
non-Orthodox religions.

     (iii)  Employment

65.  According to information from non-governmental sources, Greeks of the
Catholic faith are not, in practice, accepted for careers in the army, the
police and other sensitive areas of the administration, including diplomacy. 
Some Catholics reportedly conceal their faith in order to have access to such

66.  The Ministry of the Interior, Administration and Decentralization stated
that entry to the administration was subject, inter alia, to the requirement
of Greek citizenship and not to a religious criterion.  The Ministry specified
that the law precluded any discriminatory treatment and that in practice such
behaviour was penalized.  

67.  The Ministry of Defence emphasized, on the one hand, that there was no
legal obstacle to the admission of religious minorities, including Catholics,
to the army, and, on the other hand, that no distinction of a religious nature
was made within the structures of the army or under military law.  

     (iv)  Other spheres

68.  The non-governmental representatives consider that the religious
minorities are subjected to a general climate of intolerance in the form of
insidious and psychological pressures related to the problems outlined above. 
Another point concerns the mention of religion on identity cards, which is
unanimously rejected as being a source of discrimination.  The situation is
said to be due to the preponderant influence of the Orthodox Church,
principally its authorities, which are said to use religion as a tool to
manipulate the people and the politicians to the detriment of religious
minorities and to do so in order to affirm and safeguard their power and their
status as the dominant religion.  

69.  This intolerance on the part of the Orthodox Church is reportedly echoed
by the media, tolerated, or even utilized, by politicians for electoral ends
and relayed by certain administrative officials; it exerts pressure on the
justice system and is exacerbated, in particular, on the occasion of external
events such as the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Balkans and the
war in the former Yugoslavia (as the majority of the population of these
countries is of the Orthodox faith, any action by the Catholic Church is
interpreted by the Greek Orthodox Church as an attempt at conversion; the
Vatican is also accused of cooperating with Muslims against the Orthodox Serbs
in the former Yugoslavia).

70.  According to the governmental delegates, the State and its legislation,
while recognizing the dominant, but not overwhelming, role of the Orthodox
Church, which represents the religion of the majority of the population for
historical, national and traditional reasons, are said to provide a climate of
religious freedom, notwithstanding isolated cases of intolerance or
discrimination, in particular in the administration.  According to the
Ministry of Justice, the problems indicated by the representatives of the
religious minorities are exaggerated and their claims are attributable to a
pattern of behaviour, or even a complex, characteristic of any minority which
feels it has to assert and organize itself to confront the majority.  A
similar line of argument was put forward by the representatives of the
Orthodox Church (see chap. II, B).

(b)  Protestant minority

     (i)  Religion

Known religion and legal recognition

71.  There is no legislative text concerning the Protestant faiths.  They are
legal entities whose institutions are considered as belonging to the domain of
private law.  The question of the legal personality of the Evangelical Church
has been raised in the past.  In 1961, the Justice of the Peace of Katerini
ruled that that Church constituted a legal entity under private law.  The
court of first instance of Katerini and the court of appeal of Thessaloniki
decided, however, that the Evangelical Church had no legal personality. 
Finally, the Court of Cassation recognized the Evangelical Church as
possessing legal personality under private law.

72.  However, difficulties sometimes arise in respect, on the one hand, of
the exemption of ministers of religion from military service and, on the
other, places of worship.

73.  With regard to ministers of religion, there have been reports of
ministers of the Seventh Day Adventist Church being denied exemption by the
Ministry of Defence because the Orthodox Church refuses to classify that
Church as a known religion.  Following legal proceedings, the Council of State
or the Supreme Court, depending on the case, has confirmed the Seventh Day
Adventist Church as a known religion and therefore entitled to have its
clergymen excused from military service.  However, according to the Ministry
of Defence, these proceedings have to be instituted in every case, inasmuch as
the court decisions recognizing the Church as a known religion have no effect
in respect of third parties.

74.  With regard to places of worship, applications by Protestant churches
for building permits are said sometimes to be blocked because the Ministry of
Education and Worship in practice follows the negative opinion of the Orthodox
Church.  It is claimed that the only way to get permission to build a place of
worship is to institute legal proceedings and obtain a decision from the
Council of State, which is costly in terms of both time and money.

Religious activities and places of worship

75.  With respect to applications for building permits for places of worship,
Protestants are reportedly in the same position as Catholics.  Recently,
however, the Ministry of Education and Worship seems to have become more open-
minded and to have authorized the construction of a Pentecostal Church despite
the objection of the local Metropolitan.

76.  With regard to religious education within the school system, Protestants
apparently do not ask to have Protestant religious courses introduced, but
choose instead to be excused from the Orthodox courses and to conduct
religious education at home.

77.  Foreign non-European religious personnel reportedly sometimes have
difficulty renewing their residence permits.

78.  According to the Constitution and the Necessity Acts, proselytism is
forbidden and is punishable, as demonstrated by the case of the Athens three
and that of the three evangelist Air Force officers at Volos.

79.  Three evangelists, an American named Stephens, a Greek named Macris and
an Englishman named Williams were sentenced in 1984 to three and a half years
in prison for proselytism.  The sentence was set aside on appeal in 1986 on
grounds of insufficient evidence rather than on grounds of religious freedom.

80.  Three evangelist Air Force officers were convicted of proselytism
following a complaint filed by the Orthodox chaplain, who accused them of
endangering the unity of the nation (see the Special Rapporteur's
communication of 9 October 1992 and the Greek authorities' reply of
12 February 1993 (E/CN.4/1994/79) and the supplementary reply of 8 August 1994

81.  Aside from the aforementioned problems, the situation of Protestant
religions in the religious sphere does not seem to be difficult, particularly
with respect to religious publications, inasmuch as some of these Churches,
including the Seventh Day Adventists, appear to have chosen to keep a low
profile within Greek society.

     (ii)  Education

82.  The situation of Protestants appears to be identical to that of the
Catholics.  The Protestant representatives add, moreover, that they are
subjected to the proselytism of the Orthodox Church, which permeates the
school system.

     (iii)  Other spheres

83.  The observations made in the part relating to Catholics are equally
pertinent here, particularly with regard to the overwhelming role of the
Orthodox Church and the responsibility of politicians.

(c)  The Jehovah's Witnesses

     (i) Religion

Known religion and legal recognition

84.  According to the decisions of the Council of State, Jehovah's Witnesses
are a known religion.  However, the civil courts often take the opposite view
on this subject.  There are also difficulties in the context of national
service, from which Jehovah's Witness ministers are supposed to be exempt. 
Reportedly, the Ministry of Education and Worship follows the position taken
by the Orthodox Church and states that the Jehovah's Witnesses are not a known
religion; this thinking is echoed by the Ministry of Defence, which
accordingly decides to call up Jehovah's Witness ministers.  The latter
challenge that decision in the courts and the Council of State confirms its
earlier decisions recognizing the  Jehovah's Witnesses as a known religion. 
However, the Administration does not draw any conclusions from these decisions
and requires that the question be resolved each time in the courts.  So legal
proceedings have to be instituted in each case.  Moreover, in the meantime,
Jehovah's Witness ministers are detained for refusing to do their military
service (for example, the case of Anastasios Tasos Georgiadis, Special
Rapporteur's communication of 9 October 1992 (E/CN.4/1993/62); and petitions
Nos. 19233/91 and 19234/91, Dimitris Tsirus and Timotheos Kouloumpas versus
Greece; report of the European Commission of Human Rights of 7 March 1996).

Religious activities, places of worship and conscientious objection

85.  With regard to applications for building permits for places of worship,
the Jehovah's Witnesses encounter difficulties similar to those described in
the case of Catholics and Protestants.  Since they are denied permission or do
not hear from the Ministry of Education and Worship due to the opposition of
the Orthodox Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses resort to renting rooms which are
used for religious ceremonies and finally as places of worship.  However, in
accordance with the Necessity Acts, these unauthorized places of worship are
sealed off by the police and the persons in charge of them are convicted by
the courts.

86.  Several cases reveal disturbing situations which the European Commission
of Human Rights has described as violations of religious freedom (petition
No. 18748/91, Titos Manoussakis and others versus Greece, report of the
European Commission of Human Rights of 25 May 1995; petition No. 23238/94,
Zizis Pentidis, Dimitrios Katharios and Anastassios Stagopoulos versus Greece,
report of the Commission of 27 February 1996) and have been the subject of
communications from the Special Rapporteur (case of the Jehovah's Witness
congregation of Gazi, in Heraklion, Crete; case of the head of the Jehovah's
Witness congregation in Alexandroupolis, Special Rapporteur's communication of
3 November 1994, report E/CN.4/1995/91).

87.  In certain localities there is discrimination against Jehovah's
Witnesses in the cemeteries.  For example, in the local cemetery at Xanthi, a
wall was built in order to separate the graves of the Jehovah's Witnesses from
those of persons of other denominations.  The metropolitan bishop is said to
have demanded that the wall be built and the mayor acceded to the demand.  The
wall was eventually torn down in 1994 but the maintenance staff apparently do
not tend to the graves of Jehovah's Witnesses.

88.  Thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses are said to have been arrested and to
have served long prison sentences for proselytism.  There are numerous
examples of these violations of religious freedom, in particular the case of
Kokkinakis, a Jehovah's Witness who was exiled six times, arrested more than
60 times and served five years in various prisons for proselytism (Special
Rapporteur's communication of 9 October 1992, E/CN.4/1994/79; case of
Kokkinakis versus Greece - 3/1992/348/421 - decision, European Court of Human

89.  With regard to conscientious objection, aside from the observations
already made in chapters I and II, according to reports from non-governmental
sources, the figures regarding the number of Jehovah's Witnesses in prison as
of 1 June 1996 are as follows:

     Kassandra Agricultural Prison                        58

     Kessavetia-Volos Agricultural Prison                 46

     Avlona Military Prison                               85

     Sindos Military Prison                              164

     Total number of objectors                           353

     Total of sentences imposed                        1,147 years

     Total of sentences served                           296 years

90.  According to the Ministries of Justice and Defence, special efforts have
been made with regard to Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors, on two

Serving of sentence

91.  The sentences imposed upon the objectors are carried out in the military
prisons.  At the same time, efforts are made to have them transferred to the
Kassandra agricultural prison, where one real day of imprisonment counts, in
the best case, for two, depending on the type of work carried out by every

New places of detention

92.  In a spirit of sensitivity, due to the extraordinary nature of the
detainees of this category, it was decided on the one hand that they would be
separated from other categories of detainees, and, on the other, that they
would all be gathered and detained together, in a single prison.  For this
reason a special addition to the Military Prison of Salonica was established
at Sindos with all facilities.  The conditions of detention are reportedly
satisfactory and Jehovah's Witnesses are said to be able to attend to their

93.  As far as religious education is concerned, students are excused from
the Orthodox religious course.  However, non-governmental sources report that
in several schools there are almost daily religious sermons hostile to the
faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses and this is said to create psychological
trauma among young Jehovah's Witness children.

     (ii)  Education

94.  The account of the situation of the Catholics and Protestants applies to
the Jehovah's Witnesses as well, but their situation seems to be worse.  Apart
from the information given above concerning religious education,
non-governmental representatives have reported that Jehovah's Witness children
who refuse to take part in events contrary to their religious beliefs,
including national holidays and public parades organized in the schools, have
been punished and even expelled.  For example, in petition No. 21787/93,
Elias, Maria and Victoria Valsamis versus Greece, report of the European
Commission of Human Rights, the Commission found that there had been a
violation of religious freedom in the case of a Jehovah's Witness pupil
suspended from school for a day by the principal because she had not
participated in the school parade to mark the national holiday.

95.  At times, young Jehovah's Witnesses are allegedly victims of incidents
of religious intolerance, such as verbal insults and physical attacks, by
Orthodox pupils influenced by their teachers.

96.  Lastly, it seems that school textbooks continue to disseminate a
negative image of the Jehovah's Witnesses, despite the efforts made in the
case of other religions.

     (iii)  Employment

97.  The forms of discrimination described in the case of Catholics and
Protestants apply to the Jehovah's Witnesses as well (see, in particular, the
cases of Pilaftsoglou, Tzenos and Nomidis, whose applications for teaching
permits were rejected on the ground that they were Jehovah's Witnesses -
Special Rapporteur's communications, E/CN.4/1994/79 and E/CN.4/1995/91).

     (iv)  Other spheres

98.  The observations contained in the sections on Catholics and Protestants
are relevant here.  We should add that the situation seems more acute in the
case of the Jehovah's Witnesses, probably because of their religious
militancy, as opposed to the low profile maintained by the other religious
minorities.  Its manifestations, unique to the Jehovah's Witnesses, are, in
particular, proselytism, conscientious objection and refusal to participate in
events contrary to their religious beliefs.  Such religious militancy competes
directly with the interests of the dominant Church and indirectly calls into
question the legislative and political system of the Greek State.

                              2.  Jewish minority

     (i)  Religion

Known religion and legal recognition

99.  In Greece, the legal status of the Jewish religion is guaranteed by a
number of laws (L.2456/1920, L.F.367/1945, L.1675/1951, O.R. of 25 June 1951,
D-L 01/106 9).  Under a presidential decree, a Jewish community can be founded
in towns where more than five Jewish families reside.  Such communities are
legal entities under public law and are administered by an Assembly and
Council, which are elected by their members.  All Jewish communities in Greece
are represented by the "Central Jewish Coordination and Consultation Council",
elected for three years by a general assembly composed of their special

Religious activities and places of worship

100. Each religious community includes a rabbi proposed by his community and
appointed by presidential decree.  There is also a council of rabbis which
acts as a religious tribunal.  The Civil Code (1946) revoked its civil
jurisdiction but the council continues to exercise competence over Jews who
are not Greek citizens and to pronounce the spiritual dissolution of marriages
for which the civil court has granted a divorce. 

101. The representatives of the Jewish community have declared that they have
freedom of action in religious matters without interference by the State and
that they have sufficient places of worship and Hebrew schools.  They
mentioned some minor problems which, in their view, are linked to the
intolerance of certain poorly educated Orthodox priests.  It seems, however,
that these incidents are resolved through interfaith dialogue.

     (ii)  Education

102. The representatives of the Jewish community have cited both sporadic
cases of intolerance by teachers and the occasional anti-Semitic content of
school textbooks.  However, political leaders have apparently assured the
Jewish community that the school textbooks will be corrected.

     (iii)  Other spheres

103. The main problem facing the Jewish community is the fact that religion
must be mentioned on identity cards, which is perceived as a potential source
of discrimination as borne out by the Jewish experience throughout history. 
The legislation concerning identity cards is considered contrary to the Greek
Constitution and to international instruments.

104. Unlike that of the Catholic and Protestant minorities and the Jehovah's
Witnesses, the situation of the Jewish community seems to be eminently

                              3.  Muslim minority

105. The Muslim minority of Thrace, whose population could not be ascertained
but is probably around 120,000 persons, is composed largely of people of
Turkish origin but also of Pomaks and Tziganes.  The common denominator among
these three groups is the Muslim religion and Greek citizenship.

     (i)  Religion

Religious activities

106. The division within the Muslim minority over the procedure for the
selection of the muftis (see chap. I) seems to have a serious impact on the
smooth conduct of religious affairs.

107. In practice, following an election by a show of hands held in the
mosques in 1991 by some of the Muslims, Mr. Mehmet Emin Aga in Xanthi and
Mr. Ibrahim Serif in Komotini are acting as muftis for the Muslim community
(for a summary of the Aga case, see the Special Rapporteur's communication,
E/CN.4/1992/52).  However, they are not recognized by the Greek authorities,
who appointed two other muftis pursuant to the 1990 decree.  Moreover, Mr. Aga
and Mr. Serif were convicted of the offence of usurping the title and, in
particular, of signing illegal documents.  Mr. Aga was sentenced to 10 months
in prison; he was imprisoned and then released for health reasons before his
term was over upon payment of a fine.  This situation was not without its
consequences within the Muslim community, which has been deeply divided by
these events, as evidenced by attendance at places of worship and
participation in the celebration of religious holidays.  Thus, it seems that
relations between the appointed muftis and a significant portion of the Muslim
minority are very limited and that very few congregants are present to hear
their sermons.  At times, the muftis are even prevented from entering the
mosques.  Hence, the rules concerning the procedure for the appointment of
muftis are of paramount importance.

108. Religious rites, practices and holidays and, in particular, the Ramadan
fast, seem to take place freely and with the participation of theologians from
the Arab countries and Turkey.  However, the entry of religious leaders from
Turkey, invited by the unofficial muftis without consulting the Greek
authorities, was apparently blocked by Greece (see Special Rapporteur's
communication, E/CN.4/1995/91).

109. Concerning religious education, two Koranic schools have been
functioning in Komotini and Echinos since 1949 and 1956, respectively.  They
provide religious training to children wishing to pursue higher-level studies
in religious schools or to become khatibs or imams.  Those Muslims who are in
favour of electing the muftis are also in favour of being able to choose the
teachers who offer the religion courses; for example, choosing them could be a
prerogative of the elected mufti.

Places of worship, waqfs and cemeteries

110. In the matter of places of worship, the Muslim community reportedly has
at least 300 mosques in Thrace, but not one in Athens.  According to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ratio of mosques to the Muslim population is
higher in Thrace than the ratio of Orthodox churches to the Orthodox

111. In addition, the authorities claim that no obstacle is raised to the
construction or renovation of mosques. 

112. The authorities and some non-governmental representatives have
acknowledged that incidents (arson, criminal acts) have been directed against
places of worship, for instance in Alexandroupolis (for a report on that
situation see the Special Rapporteur's communication, E/CN.4/1995/91).  The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that these acts were committed by
fanatics and moreover they have been isolated and sporadic.  The State
reportedly redressed matters by paying for repairs and renovations (see the
reply of Greece of 23 May 1995, E/CN.4/1996/95).  Some non-governmental
organizations also felt that these manifestations of intolerance were the
result of isolated provocations by extremists and should not be over-
dramatized.  The same applies to cases in which cemeteries were desecrated.  

113. With regard to the waqfs, apart from the views set out in the section on
legislation (chap. I), the Special Rapporteur notes that in practice there is
a difference of opinion within the Muslim community and vis-a`-vis the
authorities concerning the procedure for selecting members of the committee
for the administration of the waqfs.  During the Special Rapporteur's visit,
protest demonstrations demanding that the members of the committee should be
elected reportedly took place, during which the miserable condition of the
waqfs was denounced.  

     (ii)  Education

114. Turkish, being the only minority language to possess a written form
(Pomak and Roma do not), is taught in over 240 minority schools (primary and
secondary schools and lyce'es) in Thrace to a total of 11,000 Muslim students.

Their education is the responsibility of a large number of teachers (770), of
whom more than 250 are graduates of the Special Teachers' Training College in
Thessaloniki who perfect their knowledge of the Turkish language at this
college, which has been operating for over a quarter of a century.

115. It must be noted, however, that according to the authorities, owing to
the exclusive teaching in a minority language, the imperfect knowledge of
Greek on the part of many minority students constitutes a very serious
obstacle to their social and professional integration.

116. The Muslim minority's level of education is thus apparently very low,
which prompted the new law of October 1995 intended to facilitate access to
higher education by Muslim students (see chap. I).

     (iii)  Employment

117. The situation described and the comments made in the sections relating
to Christian minorities are equally relevant to the Muslims in Thrace.

     (iv)  Other spheres

118. The status of the Muslim minority in Thrace appears essentially to be
both a political and a religious issue, in which politics often makes a tool
of religion.  This has a real impact on religious affairs, as evidenced by the
serious problems relating to the methods of appointing muftis or members of
the committee for the administration of the waqfs and teachers of religion.

119. The political relations between Greece and Turkey seem to be an
essential factor in these problems.  Most of the non-governmental observers
stressed the fact that the Muslim minority in Thrace was held hostage by
Greek-Turkish relations.  Each State is apparently in part responsible for the
unsatisfactory status of the Muslims in Thrace, with Turkey considering them
more as a political pawn and Greece not paying sufficient heed to the views of
this community that has clearly been living marginally and has been the butt
of long-standing intolerance.  Greece continues to link their treatment to
that of the Greek minority and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople,
both of which have reportedly been subjected to intolerance and discrimination
(see the Special Rapporteur's communications on Turkey, E/CN.4/1995/91 and

120. As a case in point, the Muslims who favour the method of appointing
muftis that was established in 1990 - and there do not seem to be too many of
them - reportedly are being or have been subjected to pressure from Turkey,
which actively favours the unofficial muftis, and are apparently prohibited
from entering Turkey; while Turkish theologians invited by the unofficial
muftis are said to be denied entry to Greece.  Likewise, some of the Muslims
of Turkish descent reject any identification as Greeks and claim to be Muslim
Turks; while the Greek authorities, who in the past reportedly prohibited any
Turkish designation of associations, do not recognize the existence of Turks
in Greece but only of Greeks of Turkish descent.

121. The status of the Muslims in Thrace therefore has both a political and a
religious explanation, and religion is often an instrument of politics and the
arena for intolerance and discrimination.

                     B.  Situation of the Orthodox Church

122. In addition to the information provided in the parts concerning
legislation (chap. I) and the situation of religious minorities (chap. II, A),
which reflects the comments of the representatives of religious minorities,
non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights, and the
authorities, the Special Rapporteur wishes to report on the views expressed by
the representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church.

                                 1.  Religion

123. According to its representatives, the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ
is the dominant religion, in conformity with the Constitution, and enjoys the
corresponding privileges, but this does not prevent the other religious
communities from enjoying religious freedom.  

124. The relations between the Orthodox Church and the State are perceived as
being necessary, in conformity with the Constitution and because of the
numerical importance of Orthodox Greeks and the historical role played by the
Orthodox Church in the independence of Greece.

125. However, the Orthodox authorities claim that the Orthodox Church is in
practice at a disadvantage vis-a`-vis the religious minorities.  The only
privilege of the Orthodox Church is said to be the remuneration of the clergy,
which in fact corresponds to reimbursement by the State for expropriated
ecclesiastical property.  The powers of the Orthodox Church have reportedly
been restricted, in particular by changes in family law and the introduction
of civil marriage.  The muftis of the Muslim minority, on the other hand, are
said to have retained their legal functions, which encompass family law and
the law of succession.  Similarly, the number of signatures required for the
construction of places of worship is allegedly much larger in the case of the
Orthodox Church than in the case of religious minorities.  Moreover, in
practice the Orthodox Church is reportedly no longer asked to express an
opinion on requests for the establishment of places of worship, in particular
because of the decisions of the Council of State.  However, the opinion of the
dominant Church is said to be necessary insofar as it is allegedly in a better
position to express views on the need for places of worship.

126. The principle of religious equality is said to exist for all the
religious minorities but is allegedly more limited in the case of the Orthodox

127. The Orthodox Church considers that the Jehovah's Witnesses are not a
religion, but a sect which contests the divinity of Jesus Christ and the
status of the Virgin and the Saints.  The Orthodox Church says it is opposed,
not to the religious conscience of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but to the
propaganda methods they use vis-a`-vis members of the Orthodox Church.  The
counteraction by the Orthodox Church is said to be based on the right to react
morally against those who are hostile to the moral integrity of the members of
the Orthodox Church and take advantage of the poverty and low cultural level
of some of those members.  

128. With regard to the failure to grant legal recognition to the Catholic
archdiocese of Athens, the Orthodox authorities explain this as being
necessary in order to avoid any confusion with the title of the Orthodox

129.  Coexistence and dialogue between Muslims and the Orthodox Church are
said to be progressing in a satisfactory way, except when interfered with by
Turkish nationalist propaganda originating abroad.  

                               2.  Other spheres

130. With regard to the indication of religion on identity cards, the
Orthodox Church favours an optional mention and considers this a necessary
right for spiritual reasons.


131. The Special Rapporteur has focused on legislation in the field of
tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion or belief (chap. I) and on
the implementation of this legislation and on the policy in force (chap. II). 
He has analysed both the situation of the religious minorities and that of the
dominant Orthodox Church and their relations with the State.

132. With regard to legislation, the Special Rapporteur observes that the
existence of a State religion is not in itself incompatible with human rights.

However, this situation, which in the case of Greece is sanctioned by the
Constitution, must not be exploited at the expense of the rights of minorities
and the rights linked to citizenship, which imply prohibition of
discrimination among citizens on the grounds, inter alia, of considerations
relating to religion or belief.

133. In that regard, from a constitutional point of view, although freedom of
conscience is guaranteed, the Special Rapporteur notes that there are
limitations on freedom of worship which are inconsistent with internationally
established human rights norms.  Article 13 of the Constitution limits freedom
of worship to "known" religions, but the lack of any legal definition of the
concept of "known religion" seems to be prejudicial; in particular, it does
not seem to be in accord with the legal restrictions on religious freedom
provided for in article 1, paragraph 3, of the 1981 Declaration.  The
Christian religious minorities are particularly affected by this situation;
their legal recognition is often called in question, mainly in connection with
matters relating to places of worship and conscientious objection.  The
Special Rapporteur recommends that the concept of a "known religion" should be
defined precisely - either in the Constitution or, failing that, in
legislation -  in a manner consistent with the legal restrictions provided for
in the 1981 Declaration; alternatively, if appropriate, the concept should be
eliminated altogether.

134. The Special Rapporteur considers the constitutional provisions
prohibiting proselytism to be inconsistent with the 1981 Declaration and
stresses the need for greater respect for internationally recognized human
rights norms, including freedom to convert and freedom to manifest one's
religion or belief, either individually or in community with others, and in
public or private, except where necessary restrictions are provided for by
law.  These comments also apply to the Necessity Acts concerning proselytism. 
Removal of the legal prohibition against proselytism is very strongly
recommended.  Failing this, proselytism could be defined in such a way as to
leave appropriate leeway for the exercise of religious freedom.

135. With regard to legislation governing places of worship, the Special
Rapporteur is in favour of abolishing the Necessity Acts and elaborating a new
law which would dispense with the need to seek the opinion of the Orthodox
Church for the construction of places of worship and would confer on the State
the competence to guarantee religious freedom, limited only by such
restrictions as are internationally accepted.

136. With regard to the legislation on identity cards, which provides for
mention to be made of the holder's religion, the Special Rapporteur recalls
the resolution of the European Parliament (see chap. I, B, para. 30) which
considered this provision firstly, as a violation of the fundamental freedoms
of the individual, particularly freedom of opinion and religious freedom,
which are the exclusive province of the human conscience and, secondly, as a
provision that should be abolished.  The Special Rapporteur fully supports
this resolution.

137. As regards the legislation governing conscientious objection, while
acknowledging the efforts made by the Greek authorities, the Special
Rapporteur recalls the relevant resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights
(see chap. I, B, para. 40) and recommends the elaboration and adoption of
legislation offering service of a non-combatant or civilian character, in the
public interest and not of a punitive nature.  In the event that a problem
arises concerning constitutionality, particularly with regard to article 4,
paragraphs 1 and 6, concerning the equality of all before the law and the
contribution of citizens to the defence of their country, the Special
Rapporteur recommends a revision of the Constitution in order to include a
provision guaranteeing the right of conscientious objection.

138. As for the special provisions concerning Muslims and, more particularly,
muftis and waqfs, the Special Rapporteur recalls article 6, paragraph (g), of
the 1981 Declaration, which guarantees freedom to "train, appoint, elect or
designate by succession appropriate leaders called for by the requirements and
standards of any religion or belief".

139. The Special Rapporteur believes it necessary for the Greek authorities
to comply fully and in good faith with the Treaty of Lausanne and with the
country's international undertakings.  He also recalls the need to refrain
from interfering in the affairs of a religion, apart from the restrictions
provided for in international law, and calls for respect for the traditions of
each religious group within the framework of internationally recognized norms.

140. The Special Rapporteur also emphasizes that the status of the Muslims of
Thrace, and in particular that of the muftis and waqfs, should not be
subordinated to considerations concerning Turkey, and strongly urges the
parties involved to comply with their international undertakings, especially
the Treaty of Lausanne.

141. Lastly, regarding other legal issues, while noting the statements made
by the Greek authorities to the effect that the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights will be ratified as soon as possible, the Special
Rapporteur believes it necessary to ensure that internal law is consistent
with international law.  With regard to the revision of the Constitution, the
Special Rapporteur would like to see the necessary changes introduced in that
context or set out in formal texts, with assurances that they will be
interpreted in a manner consistent with religious freedom.

142. As regards implementation of the laws and policies in force, given the
complexity of the situation, the Special Rapporteur in his analysis examined
successively the Christian minorities (Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah's
Witnesses), Jews and Muslims and their relations with the dominant Orthodox
Church and the State.

143. In the religious sphere, the Christian minorities are facing a challenge
to their legal recognition, with regard both to their places of worship and
their right to conscientious objection.

144. With regard to places of worship, the Christian minorities are
encountering severe difficulties in obtaining building permits because of the
negative opinions frequently expressed by the Orthodox Church, which in
practice are often binding on the authorities.  The Necessity Acts are invoked
in order to punish anyone responsible for illegal places of worship. 
Moreover, places of worship and religious objects have been the targets of
sporadic attacks of vandalism.

145. With respect to cemeteries, Jehovah's Witnesses in certain localities
are victims of acts of discrimination which should be combated by the State,
since the more this community is threatened, the greater the State's

146. As for religious education, while Catholics benefit from religious
teaching in accordance with their beliefs, they sometimes experience
difficulties in securing the establishment of posts for Catholic religious
teachers.  The faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses is also reported to be
denigrated in Orthodox religious sermons.  Nevertheless, the Special
Rapporteur notes with satisfaction that minorities can be excused from
Orthodox religious classes.

147. It is alleged that foreign non-European religious personnel experience
problems in renewing their residence permits.

148. Moreover, Jehovah's Witnesses are heavily penalized for proselytism and
conscientious objection, which are inherent expressions of freedom of belief.

149. Outside the religious sphere, it is alleged that the Christian
minorities are generally disadvantaged with regard to education, despite some
progress (except in the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses) and face
discrimination in gaining entry to the army, the police force and other
sensitive administrative or teaching posts.

150. Furthermore, the Christian minorities face a general climate of
intolerance and often insidious attempts to marginalize them either directly
or indirectly in the religious, educational, professional and other spheres. 
To some extent the dominant Orthodox Church and the State both bear a definite
responsibility in this respect, since the State cannot evade its
responsibilities under international law on the ground that a special status
has been established for the Orthodox Church, which the latter frequently
makes use of.  Among the Christian minorities, the plight of the Jehovah's
Witnesses seems to give the greatest cause for concern, insofar as adherents
are convicted by the courts and subsequently fined or imprisoned, and also
endure a degree of social ostracism which can take the form of physical or
verbal aggression.  This singling out of the Jehovah's Witnesses is almost
certainly due to their religious militancy, which is expressed through
proselytism, conscientious objection to military service and a variety of
public demonstrations which call into question the interests of the dominant
Church and the legislative and political system of the State.

151. With regard to the problems related to legal recognition, places of
worship, proselytism and conscientious objection, the Special Rapporteur
reiterates the recommendations he made with regard to the relevant

152. The Special Rapporteur considers the status of the Jewish minority in
the religious and other spheres to be entirely satisfactory.

153. The Jewish community nevertheless joins with the other religious
minorities in condemning the mention of religion on identity cards, which is a
potential source of discrimination.  The Special Rapporteur reiterates his
recommendation regarding the legislation concerning identity cards.

154. As far as the Muslim minority in Thrace is concerned, the Special
Rapporteur notes a static, unsatisfactory and prejudicial situation,
especially in the religious sphere.  The Muslim community in Thrace is beset
with serious tensions and restrictions regarding the appointment of muftis,
administration of waqfs and religious teachers.  Priority should be given to
satisfying the legitimate religious needs of the Muslims of Thrace, calming
the present religious tensions and finding a way to defuse the situation that
is acceptable to both the Greek authorities and the representatives of the
Thracian Muslims.  To this end, the Special Rapporteur reiterates his previous
comments and recommendations on the relevant legislation in this area.

155. Regarding places of worship and cemeteries, the Special Rapporteur notes
sporadic incidents of arson, vandalism and desecration which seem to be mostly
acts of provocation and intolerance on the part of Muslim and Christian
extremists.  The Special Rapporteur condemns these isolated occurrences of
religious extremism and reminds the State of its duty to guarantee the
protection of places of worship and other religious sites.

156. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the removal of obstacles to the
construction of mosques and notes with satisfaction the financial assistance
made available for repairs and renovations.

157. With regard to education, the Special Rapporteur deplores the very low
level of education among the Muslim minority in Thrace and welcomes the new
legislation designed to make it easier for Muslim students to gain access to
higher education.  The Special Rapporteur hopes that this targeted policy will
be extended to all levels of education including vocational training, thus
ensuring that Thracian Muslims are no longer a disadvantaged and neglected
group but will have the opportunity to integrate fully into Greek society and
acquire true citizenship, thereby opening up new intellectual and cultural

158. Overall, the Special Rapporteur urges all parties concerned, official
and otherwise, national and foreign, to calm rather than exacerbate religious
problems, thereby ensuring that religion is not subject to political intrusion
and exploitation and that constants are not affected by political variables. 
Such interference is detrimental to the religious rights of the Muslim
community and, in a wider sense, to tolerance and efforts to stamp out
discrimination based on religion and belief.

159. With regard to the Greek State, the Special Rapporteur wishes to make
the following general recommendations:

     (1) The Special Rapporteur recommends that the State should involve
         representatives of human rights organizations and lay and religious
         representatives from all religious minorities and the Orthodox
         Church in its religious affairs policy on a consultative basis. 
         Such cooperation should result in a coherent religious affairs
         policy focused on tolerance and non-discrimination in line with the
         revised legislation and based on the principle of respect for the
         rights and freedoms of each religious community, regardless of
         whether it is a State religion or a minority religion.

     (2) The State should also adopt and apply administrative, disciplinary,
         training and other measures in order to forestall and penalize any
         act of intolerance or discrimination on the part of the authorities,
         for example in matters having to do with access to administrative
         posts for members of religious minorities, permits for places of
         worship, respect in the school system for religious beliefs and
         convictions, and so forth.

     (3) The Special Rapporteur believes that special efforts should be made
         to promote and develop a culture of tolerance and human rights.  The
         Greek authorities could play an active role in increasing awareness
         of the values of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion
         and belief.  In this respect, the Special Rapporteur is firmly
         convinced that lasting progress could be made chiefly through
         education and especially through the schools by ensuring that school
         curricula, school textbooks and properly trained teachers
         disseminate a culture that promotes tolerance in the fields of
         religion and belief.

     (4) In addition, because he noted problems of intolerance and
         discrimination in the fields of administration of justice and the
         media, the Special Rapporteur believes that it would be appropriate
         to make use of the Centre for Human Rights programme of advisory
         services (see E/CN.4/1995/91).  Appropriate training of the
         personnel of the judicial system, the administration in general and
         the media in the areas of tolerance and non-discrimination based on
         religion and belief would be extremely useful.

     (5) The Special Rapporteur also wishes to stress the importance of
         establishing a permanent interfaith dialogue between religious
         minorities and the Orthodox Church in order to combat all forms of
         intolerance and religious discrimination.

     (6) Lastly, the Special Rapporteur reiterates the need to shield
         religious matters from political tensions and struggles so that
         religious freedom may express itself in characteristic contemplation
         and serenity, thereby benefiting all religious faiths, Greek society
         in general, religious freedom and human rights.


1/  The Special Rapporteur had no opportunity to meeting with Orthodox
believers of the Old Calendar.  As they refused to accept the new Gregorian
calendar in 1924 and broke away from the Orthodox Church in order to create
their own church, they have not been recognized and are in conflict with the
official Orthodox Church.


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Date last posted: 28 December 1999 17:35:10
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