A Victory for Human Rights Defenders in Greece

A Victory for Human Rights Defenders in Greece
Source: © Colin Lloyd/Unsplash

Date: 12-01-2023

Emily Wolfe 

Europe and Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

A Greek court has rejected charges against four aid workers who were accused of espionage and other crimes while working with migrants on the island of Lesbos (Aljazeera, 2023). The workers, who were employed by the German non-profit organization Mission Lifeline, were arrested in 2019 and accused of “spying, violating state secrets, and forging public documents.”(Reuters, 2023).

The court's decision was welcomed by human rights groups, who had long argued that the aid workers were being unfairly targeted for their humanitarian work. The case had been seen as a test of Greece's commitment to protecting the rights of migrants and refugees, many of whom have been stranded on the island for years due to European Union policies that have made it increasingly difficult for them to move on to other countries. 

The aid workers had been providing assistance to migrants and refugees on Lesbos, including food, shelter, and medical care. They were arrested in June 2019, along with the captain of the Mission Lifeline ship, while attempting to bring a group of migrants to the island (Reuters, 2023).

The aid workers have always maintained their innocence, and their lawyers argued that they were being targeted for their work with migrants and refugees. The court ultimately agreed, finding that there was no evidence to support the charges against the aid workers (Aljazeera, 2023).

The decision of the court is a victory for the aid workers and for the rights of migrants and refugees. The case has drawn international attention and highlighted the difficult conditions faced by migrants and refugees on Lesbos, as well as the challenges faced by aid workers who are trying to assist them (OHCHR, 2023). 

Human rights organizations have long criticized the EU's policies towards migrants and refugees, arguing that they have led to a situation in which many people are trapped in legal limbo, unable to move on to other countries and denied access to basic services and rights. The court's decision in the case of the aid workers is a step in the right direction, and a sign that the rights of migrants and refugees are being taken seriously (Al-Jazeera, 2023).

It is also important to note that the court's decision is a reminder of the importance of the work done by aid organizations and the individuals who operate with them . These people often work in difficult and dangerous conditions, and they deserve the support and appreciation for what  they do to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world (OHCHR, 2023).

As the court's decision makes clear, the aid workers did nothing wrong. This decision sends a message that the rights of migrants and refugees must be protected, and that aid workers should be able to do their jobs without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Sources and further reading:

Al-Jazeera. (2023, January 13). Greek court rejects charges against aid workers. Al-Jazeera. Retrieved January 14, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/13/greek-court-rejects-charges-against-aid-workers

Reuters. (2023, January 13). Greek court rejects charges against aid workers. Retrieved January 14, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/un-calls-charges-against-aid-workers-greece-be-dropped-2023-01-13/

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2923, December 1). Trial of human rights defenders in Greece for helping migrants. OHCHR. Retrieved 14 January 2023 from https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/01/trial-human-rights-defenders-greece-helping-migrants