Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Jul15/01)
1 July 2015
Third World Network
experts welcome Greek referendum on debt crisis
Published in SUNS #8053 dated 1 July 2015
Geneva, 30 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- Two human rights experts of the United
Nations Human Rights Council have welcomed the referendum scheduled
to be held in Greece on 5 July on its current debt crisis.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Independent Experts on the promotion
of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas,
and on human rights and international solidarity, Virginia Dandan,
underlined that there is much more at stake than debt repayment obligations.
In this regard, they echoed a warning, issued on 2 June by the UN
Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky,
who had called on the European institutions, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and Greece to show courage and reach a deal on the Greek
debt crisis that respects human rights.
"If there is no compromise, Greece may sooner or later default,
making the crisis in Greece even worse. Economic and social rights
could be further undermined in Greece by lack of flexibility and courage
to find a mutually benefiting deal that respects human rights,"
he had said.
At stake are not only debt repayment obligations, but as well the
very foundations on which the European Union is built: a union of
nations that has respect for human rights, human dignity, equality
and solidarity at its core, he added.
Mr Bohoslavsky had noted that the harsh conditionalities of the Greek
adjustment programme have resulted in severe cut-backs in social spending,
health care and education, raising concerns about the ability of the
Greek government to ensure basic economic and social rights.
The austerity and reform policies implemented since 2010 have so far
not been able to bring Greece back on track. They have rather deepened
the social crisis in Greece, and clearly not stimulated the national
economy to the benefit of the Greek population, he had said.
He had noted that unemployment has remained at 25 percent, affecting
disproportionately women and young jobseekers.
According to latest available data, one out of two young adults is
jobless. The number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion
has increased to 35.7 per cent, the highest percentage in the Eurozone.
In their present statement, Mr De Zayas and Ms Dandan said: "All
human rights institutions and mechanisms should welcome the Greek
referendum as an eloquent expression of the self-determination of
the Greek people in conformity with article 1 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and in pursuance of
article 25 ICCPR on public participation."
Indeed, they said, a democratic and equitable international order
requires participation by all concerned stakeholders in decision-making
and respect for due process, which can best be achieved through international
solidarity and a human rights approach to the solution of all problems,
including financial crises.
The rights experts said that it is disappointing that the IMF and
the EU have failed to reach a solution that does not require additional
retrogressive austerity measures.
"Some leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of
holding a referendum in Greece. Why? Referenda are in the best traditions
of democratic governance," they stressed.
"No one can expect the Prime Minister of Greece to renounce the
commitments he made to the people who elected him with a clear mandate
to negotiate a fair solution that does not dismantle Greek democracy
and lead to further unemployment and social misery."
Capitulating to an ultimatum imposing further austerity measures on
the Greek population would be incompatible with the democratic trust
placed on the Greek Prime Minister by the electorate.
By nature, every State has the responsibility to protect the welfare
of all persons living under its jurisdiction.
This encompasses fiscal and budgetary sovereignty and regulatory space
which cannot be trumped by outside actors, whether States, inter-governmental
organizations or creditors, the rights experts said.
Article 103 of the UN Charter stipulates that the Charter provisions
prevail over all other treaties, therefore no treaty or loan agreement
can force a country to violate the civil, cultural, economic, political
and social rights of its population, nor can a loan agreement negate
the sovereignty of a State.
The rights experts said that any agreement that would require such
a violation of human rights and customary international law is contra
bonos mores (against good morals) and hence null and void pursuant
to Art. 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
"A democratic and equitable international order requires a commercial
and financial regime that facilitates the realization of all human
rights. Inter-governmental organizations must foster and under no
conditions hinder the achievement of the plenitude of human rights."
Foreign debt is no excuse to derogate from or violate human rights
or to cause retrogression in contravention of articles 2 and 5 of
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The rights experts noted that in 2013, the Independent Expert on foreign
debt and human rights had stated that the policy austerity measures
adopted to secure additional financing from the International Monetary
Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank had pushed
the Greek economy into recession and generally undermined the enjoyment
of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
"This is the moment for the international community to demonstrate
solidarity with the people of Greece, to respect their democratic
will as expressed in a referendum, to proactively help them out of
this financial crisis, which finds a major cause in the financial
meltdown of 2007-08, for which Greece bears no responsibility,"
"Indeed, democracy means self-determination, and self-determination
often calls for referenda - also in Greece," they added. +