Not in our Name

The following text was taken from the recent blog action call initiated here which attempts to raise awareness about the country-wide hunger strikes going on in Greek prisons. The translation is my own in order to help a non-greek speaking audience to understand what is going on. If you wish to take part in this protest, you can publish this text on your own blog on the 20th of November and link to the original article or sign the petition.

“The situation in the greek prisons is inconsolable. The radical change of the greek penal system is a main subject”
Karolos Papoulias 6/11/08

“We’re human – prisoners. Humans, I say”
Vaggelis Pallis, Prisoner, 9/11/08

Since the third of November, a shattering shout is shaking the bases of our Democracy. From the third of November, the whole prisoner population or the Country is starting a hunger strike claiming the intuitive: Their lost dignity. Against them is poised the absolute silence of the national media and the absolute indifference of the political hegemony. To these practices, those of us signing this letter, DO NOT AGREE.

The situation in the Greek prisons is undescribable and can be only be understood through the rigid language of mathematics. In the country’s so-called “reformation” institutions, 417 deaths have been recorded in the last decade, while their frequency has taken off to such a degree, that today 4 people are expiring in the hands of the state per month. The occupancy touches 168% (10.113 prisoners for 6.019 positions) with each prisoner’s area ratio reaching 1 square meter. With the daily govermental expenditure per prisoner being 3,60 Euro, the rations provided are despicable, the infrastructure reminds of medieval ages and the medical coverage is very lacking. Simultaneously, the Greek government is sending to jail one citizen for every thousand, with the withheld people (those temporary imprisoned) reaching 30% of the total number of prisoners.

If the quality of a Democracy is judged by its prisons, then our Democracy is asthmatic. If the punishment of illegal behaviour with imprisonment by the state is happening in the name of the society, then for this situation in the prisons, we are all responsible, and the lion’s share of the blame on those of the state machine. In this reality, all of those signing this text respond NOT IN OUR NAME.

The information revealed by official representatives about the Greek prisons sketch an image of a hellhole. The essay of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (2007) discovers torture, inhumane treatment and life-threats against prisoners, series of violations regarding the conditions of detention, a lack of investigation and punishment of the guilty parties, silencing of incidents of violence with the collusion of doctors and guards, unacceptable medical conditions etc.

The European Court of Human Rights has published a series of damning decisions for Greece in regards to the maltreatment and/or violations of other prisoner rights from the prison authorities. The National Commission on Human Rights has taken a strong-willed decision about the abuse in prisons, proposing immediate actions for their resolution. The Ombudsman (Sinigoros tou Politi) is complaining about the total lack of cooperation from the responsible state officials, as a result of which he has been virtually banned from entering the country’s prisons for the last two years. The bar associations of the whole country, the non-government organisations including Amnesty International and many political/social institutions denounce the unacceptable situation and request a wider cooperation to resolve this problem.

If human are the rights which every human being should enjoy, every deprivation of those becomes an open wound for our society. In this situation, everyone signing this text reply BREAK FINALLY THE PRISON ABATON.

With this hunger strike the prisoners are fleeing to their last fort of resistance they have left, their own body. This was preceeded by a final request from them towards the leaders to monitor this problem as the situation could go no more. In order to resolve this hunger strike, they request to meet demands which restore their lost dignity and recover their basic human rights, demands specific, decent and immediately feasible.

Against the prisoner movement the political leadership is spending its actions with indifference, promises and repression of their demonstrations.  Any indifference and heatlessness of the political leadership at this stage as well would mean dead hunger strikers. In this frontal collision that the country prisoners have selected for claiming their self-evident humanity we can not wait pathetically while crossing our arms and waiting for the news of hunger strike deaths but we will stand in solidarity.

If the defense of democracy and human rights require the watchfulness of all of us, now is the time to take a stand against this problem without indifference and evasions.

Faced with the tense situation in prisons throughout the country, those who sign this text are making the political leadership fully responsible for what will happen and demand the immediate, both institutional and practical GUARANTEE OF BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PRISONERS OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY

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