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EU 'violated human rights' in forcing austerity on Greece

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(ATHENS) - Four years of stringent austerity have caused an "unprecedented" assault on human rights in Greece for which the EU and the IMF must share the blame, a rights group said Thursday.

"What started as an economic and financial crisis has turned into an unprecedented assault on human rights and democratic standards" in Greece and other bailed-out countries, the International Federation of Human Rights said in a report.

The FIDH highlighted the stringent cuts to salaries and benefits that "traumatised" the labour market and health system, with the most vulnerable suffering disproportionately.

"The measures taken by Greece to meet its lenders' demands proves a readiness, at the national as much as at the international level, to sacrifice nearly everything to economic recovery," FIDH President Karim Lahidji told reporters in Athens.

"While we accept that exceptional circumstances can require exceptional responses, the way policies were adopted and implemented in this context clearly failed to respect international standards," Lahidji said.

Doctors told the organisation that reduced hospital beds and cuts in an already understaffed health system had caused them to refuse to treat patients or postpone key surgeries.

Civil rights have also been undermined, with police brutality against protesters rarely investigated and hardly ever prosecuted, and the government taking an increasingly authoritarian stance towards media criticism, the group said.

The Greek economy is only expected to recover from a long recession this year and unemployment, which has soared to unprecedented levels, has only recently begun to abate.

On Thursday, the state statistics agency said the jobless rate in the third quarter of the year had fallen to 25.5 percent, or over 1.2 million unemployed, from 27.2 percent in the corresponding period a year ago.

"Although the Greek state bears primary responsibility for the human rights violations that occurred on its territory, the EU and IMF in imposing anti-crisis measures have also breached their obligations under international law," the FIDH report said.

"The EU has in particular breached the obligation to respect, protect and promote human rights deriving from its own founding treaties and the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights," it said.

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