Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Chairman - Helsinki Commission


Today’s hearing provides a timely opportunity to review human rights developments in Greece as well as implementation of other commitments undertaken by the Hellenic Republic as an original participating State of the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including those on combating terrorism.

Greece led Europe in the number of anti-American attacks in 1999: there were 20 terrorist attacks against American targets in 12 months, and 52 anti-American protests in that period. All this before 9/11. And not one–not one– arrest was made.

Over the past 25 years the terrorist organization 17 November has killed 23 people including a CIA Athens station chief and several other Americans. It has also fired mortars on the Athens branches of major multinational corporations (Proctor & Gamble, American Express, BP, Alico, Nationalen Nederlanden, IBM, Citibank, McDonald’s, General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank, Midland Bank, and Banque National de Paris). To date not a single member of the organization has been arrested.

By the grim standards of modern terrorism, some might be tempted to dismiss 17 November as a modest threat. It should have been put out of business long ago. But it has reportedly recruited new, younger assassins and greatly expanded its range of weapons and explosives. Its success has encouraged copycat activities, with more than 100 bombings in Athens in 2000 by a plethora of groups.

Despite scores of attacks - many with eyewitnesses - there have been no arrests. No suspects have even been identified. Many Western countries have faced radical leftists, but Greece stands out for its inability to make meaningful progress in combating domestic terrorists.

Few Greeks believe police failure is an accident. Repeatedly, key information about investigations is leaked to the tabloid newspapers. In the fall of 2001, six months of hard work by some of Scotland Yard's best investigators - sent to Greece after the murder of the British defense attaché in June - was exposed in two Athens dailies. Time and again, witnesses who have given police "secret" testimony have received threatening phone calls or seen their cars firebombed by way of warning.

Now, as a former Olympian, I am concerned about the possibility of terrorism recurring in Athens during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and raised these concerns last year in meetings with Greek officials. I urge the Government of Greece to make demonstrable progress in rooting out domestic terrorist groups, including 17 November, that have operated for decades with impunity.