Oaths, the Greek judicial system and Article 9 – again

In January 2013 we posted on what was then the latest case in the saga of the Article 9 implications of the obligation to swear an oath in court proceedings in Greece. The case under consideration on that occasion was Dimitras & Ors v Greece (No. 3) [2013] ECHR 18 [French only]. The issue has come up yet again in Dimitras and Gilbert v Greece [2014] ECHR 1023, when the indefatigable Mr Dimitras returned to the fray.

The facts

Mr Dimitras is the Director of Greek Helsinki Monitor, an NGO working in the field of human rights, and his colleague Ms Gilbert is in charge of Antisemitism issues at the Monitor.

In August 2007 Mr Dimitras alerted the prosecutor at the Athens Criminal Court to an allegedly anti-Semitic article published in the daily extreme right-wing Alpha Ena and the editor and the writer of the offending article were duly prosecuted. At the prosecution in the Athens Criminal Court in January 2009, after confirming she was Jewish Ms Gilbert was joined as a civil party on payment of 30 euros. Mr Dimitras was not joined as a civil party but appeared as a witness. He was asked his religion, pursuant to Article 217 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and informed the court that he was an atheist rather than an Orthodox Christian so as not to be obliged take a religious oath under Article 218 of the Code. Under Article 220, the judge allowed his application. In the event, the accused were acquitted. Mr Dimitras wrote to the prosecutor asking him to appeal the judgment but he was later told that his application had been rejected.

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