The ‘Greek Case’ in the Council of Europe:
A Game Changer for International Law and Human Rights?
Athens, 12–14 December 2019
December 12 marks the 50th anniversary of Greece’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe, following pressure by European countries and institutions for the violation of human rights by the military junta in Greece (1967–74). The Athens-based Netherlands Institute and the Danish Institute, in collaboration with the Swedish Institute and the Norwegian Institute are organizing an international conference on the history and legacy of this emblematic case.
In 1967 Denmark, Norway, and Sweden – later joined by the Netherlands – used the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR) system against the Greek Colonels. On 12 December 1969 Greece withdrew from the CoE to avoid expulsion. The reports of the ECHR constituted a paradigmatic condemnation of the regime by an international body. In light of the growing debates about the usefulness and impact of international pressure on authoritarian states for democratization and the rule of law, the so-called ‘Greek case’ emerges as an important moment in the history of international law, human rights, and transnational justice. The case marked the first time a member of the CoE risked expulsion because of human rights violations. Thus it became one of the pioneer inter-state cases over fundamental rights in European human rights law, generating important discussions about the Junta’s brutal regime in other European parliaments. The ‘Greek case’ was also exceptional in that there were no apparent national interests (at least at first sight) on behalf of the plaintiff countries. A decisive moment in the protection of human rights, it was, moreover, instrumental in shaping human rights standards and policy, particularly with regard to torture. Finally, it established non-governmental transnational movements, such as Amnesty International, and solidarity campaigns as important players in international law and politics.
This multidisciplinary conference brings together participants from 14 countries: Scholars and researchers from disciplines including history, international law, trauma and sound studies, as well as legal experts, torture survivors, witnesses at Strassbourg and activists of the time.
Teaching Associate in Modern European History
University of Sheffield