UN rights expert warns Greece austerity measures could harm basic human rights

UN rights expert warns Greece austerity measures could harm basic human rights

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[JURIST] UN Office of the Commissioner on Human Rights [official website] Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, warned Greece that implementation of the latest batch of austerity measures to solve its economic crisis [BBC backgrounder] could result in serious violations of basic human rights, Lumina said in a statement [press release] released Friday. The Greek Parliament [official website, in Greek] passed the new austerity measures [LAT report] Thursday with $40 billion in budget cuts, in addition to selling $72 billion in state assets, under pressure from them International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank [official websites], which want to stave off Europe’s first sovereign default. But Lumina urged a balancing of this interest with Greece’s human rights obligations. Lumina said:

The implementation of the second package of austerity measures and structural reforms, which includes a wholesale privatization of state-owned enterprises and assets, is likely to have a serious impact on basic social services and therefore the enjoyment of human rights by the Greek people, particularly the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as the poor, elderly, unemployed and persons with disabilities. The rights to food, water, adequate housing, and work under fair and equitable conditions should not be compromised by the implementation of austerity measures strike a careful balance between austerity and the realization of human rights, taking into account the primacy of States’ human rights obligations. … A shrinking economy cannot generate any revenue and contributes to a reduced capacity to repay the debt. More time should have been allowed for the restructuring measures already in place to work. The problem of insolvency needs to be addressed as part of the rescue plan.

Thousands of people across Greece have been rioting and demonstrating in protest to the austerity measures.

Dimitrios Ioannidis of Roach, Ioannidis & Megaloudis, LLC, has argued [JURIST op-ed] that the debt crisis in Greece is in part the result of deregulation of US financial markets coupled with the strategic use of complex financial instruments. He argues that hedging by financiers on the Greece’s default similar and related to the credit default swaps that drove the US housing market meltdown. Last month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou [official website] proposed undertaking a constitutional referendum arguing its necessity in order to eliminate the systemic governmental inefficiency and waste that led to the country’s recent economic crisis [BBC backgrounder] and to prosecute corrupt officials. But opponents described the proposal as a politically-motivated tactic to shift the dialogue away from questions of Papandreou’s competency. In May 2010, the EU and IMF announced the initial €110 billion bailout package for Greece, which was subsequently approved by euro-zone leaders [BBC report]. The following day, Germany’s Constitutional Court [official website, in German] refused to issue a temporary injunction [JURIST report] against the country’s €22.4 billion contribution to the bailout fund. The suit, brought by the same group that had previously sought to block Germany’s adoption of the euro, claimed that the contribution was unconstitutional.