by Angeliki I. Imellou,
On Thursday, June 28th, 2007 a seminar entitled "Domestic Violence: Prospects after the Law 3500/2006” was held in the Ceremonial Hall of the Athenian Court of Appeals. The seminar was jointly organized by the Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation, the General Secretariat for Gender Equality, the Appeals District Prosecutor of Athens and the Center for Penal and Criminological Research.
The audience was first greeted by Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization, the Prosecutor of Appeals Mr. George Koliokostas and Mr. Panagiotis Panouris, General Secretary of the Ministry of Justice. The Professor of Criminology - Correction Law School of Athens, Mr.Nestor Courakis concluded the salutations, closing with the observation that the main issue in dealing with the phenomenon of domestic violence is not the strict punishment of the offenders, but the pursuit of normalized family relations. For this reason he hoped that punishment be used sparingly and with care.
The event began with Mrs. Eugenia Tsoumani
, representative of the General Secretariat for Gender Equality, who presented the full dimensions of domestic violence, using evidence to highlight the fact that physical abuse is equal to cancer as the cause of death in women.
The first session entitled"Aspects of inter - family violence" was moderated by Mrs. Calliope Spinellis, Emeritus Professor of Criminology - Penology. The first speaker, Ms.Xeni Demetriou, Attorney of Appeals Athens, admitted with disarming honesty that during her tenure as prosecutor for minor offenders from 1983, during gathering evidence of domestic violence she felt she was abusing the victims for the second time without being able to afford them effective protection. She was followed by Professor of Criminology at the Panteion University, Mr.James Farsedakis, who recorded in detail the phenomenology of domestic violence between various countries. Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical School of Athens, Mr. Vlassis Tomaras took the initiative of proposing the creation of a charter of accredited criminal mediation experts, and using this institution as a "family" mediator. Likewise, Deputy Ombudsman for the Child Rights, Mr George Moschos, noted the rigor with which Law 3500/2006 treats offenders, highlighting the risk that such penalties may actually deter victims from coming forward. MP for the prefecture of Serres, Maria Kollia - Tsarouchi, illustrated the problems domestic violence presents to our legal system, emphasizing however the important role played by the Council of Europe in addressing the problem in European Union member states. Last came a recommendation by Psychiatrist Giorgos Nikolaidis, who pointed out the need for a barrier preventing the re-victimization of children by the media.
The second session entitled "The new Law 3500/2006 for tackling domestic violence” was moderated by Mr. Stylianos Grozo, Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court. The first speaker was Special Assistant Minister for Education, Mr Emmanuel Papazoglou, who focused on the need for proper application of the law through sound cooperation between agencies and media dissemination. Deputy Public Prosecutor of Appeals and President of Standing Committee of Law 3500/2006, Mr. Isidore Ntogiakos, provided valuable information on the ratio of Law 3500/2006, citing the deliberations of the legislative drafting committee which ultimately led to the legislation, and presenting an historical overview of the Law. Associate Professor of Civil Law, Athens Law School, Ms. Miranda Papadopoulou - Klamaris, noted that the concept of "family" as it appears in Law 3500/2006 is more thoroughly defined than in any other European country. Associate Professor of Law University of Athens, Mr. Nikolaos Livos argued that crimes under Law 3500/2006 represents an idionymon crime*, ruling-out the possibility that such cases be considered variations on simple bodily harm under art. 308 of the Penal Code, nor exclusions that apply to the crime of domestic physical harm under Law 3500 / 2006. Finally, the registration of criminal mediation in criminal records from lack of court order was raised by Deputy Public Prosecutor Appeals of Piraeus, Mr. Panagiotis Brakoumatsos.
Attorneys Ms. Grozou, Ms Athanasia Vlachou, Calliope Vardakis and Mr Anthony Eleftherianis followed with crimes of domestic violence. Mrs. Vardakis proposed installing family officers in addition to child monitors, under the Prosecutor, as well as issues of education and seminars for both prosecutors and police for the correct application of the law.
The third thematic session entitled "Phenomenology of domestic violence”, was moderated by Supreme Court judge Mr. Vasilis Foukas, and speakers Mrs Stephania Suli, representative of the General Secretariat for Equality, Mrs. Irene Fereti, Criminologist - sociologist, Ms. Foteini Milioni, Special Scientist of the Law School of Athens, Mrs.Iota Katsiki, social worker, and MrVasilis Diakalis, Officer of the Department for the Protection of Minors. Ms. Foteini Milioni presented results from a statistical study that found woman to be the most common victims of violence, except in 10% of cases where the woman is the offender. The extreme cases of violence committed by woman have been driven from victims to offenders in response to fear of a previous event or to defend the abuses committed by the husband against her children.
The conference ended with the fourth session, looking at "restoration of victims", moderated by MrsStamatina Giannakourou, Special Assistant to the General Secretary for Equality. MrsConstantina Bakalakou, Sociologist, Marie Tsiliakou, Attorney, Mrs Margaret Barmakeli, Social Officer and finally Mrs Irene Maris, Psychologist, gave presentations. At the end of these a questions session followed on the problem of application of the law because of difficulties for victims in reporting domestic violence to the authorities, coupled with the inability of the state, despite the introduction of the new Law, to curb crime and protect its victims. The effectiveness of the public prosecutor’s discretion in allowing criminal mediation was discussed, since its implementation depends on the joint acceptance of victim and perpetrator. The answers highlighted a need for immediate improvement of the law but also recognized that such flaws are expected when a Law is still at an early stage both in the adoption and implementation.
Professor of Criminology Ms. Christina Zarafonitou summarized the conclusions. The generally positive reception of the new legal framework on domestic violence is based both on tangible social issues and the need to adapt to the international legal framework, as determined by the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the European Union. The innovative aspects of Law 3500/2006 include: 1. Prohibiting corporal punishment of children as a means of correction; 2. extending the concept of rape to include spouses, 3. establishing criminal mediation for domestic violence offences and 4. the ex-officio prosecution of most forms of domestic violence in order to facilitate this type of prosecution.
According to a survey by the Center for Penal and Criminological Research, attendance to the seminar was encouraging. The workshop was attended by 300 people including 72 policemen, 54 legal professionals, 44 judiciary, 52 from the prosecutors office, 34 from the civil service and NGOs, 14 Sociologists and teachers, 14 journalists and eight medical doctors and 8 psychologists. Although Law 3500/2006 is subject to improvement, it remains the starting point for effective today for protecting human rights within the family...
*According to the Greek Penal Code an idionymon crime is characterized by an illegal act that does not exhibit the characteristics of a crime, but the typical characteristics of another felony. It usually applies to actions that constitute an attempt or preparation to commit a basic felony (crime), and is sanctioned by a specific sentence.