AMHRC condemns the presence of "neo-Nazis" at a local community event

Melbourne (Australia)

The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee is deeply concerned about the presence of members of a racist "neo-Nazi" organisation at a recent Greek community event in Melbourne.

On Sunday 25 March 2012, the Australian Greek community organised a "Greek Independence Day Parade" at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. According to the Greek Australian newspaper, Neos Kosmos, the event was attended by a number of Greek community groups, as well as the Premier of the State of Victoria, the Hon. Ted Baillieu, members of the Victorian and Federal Parliaments and representatives from Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Forces.

However what Neos Kosmos failed to report was the fact that the event was attended by members of a Melbourne branch of the so-called "Chrysi Avgi" (Golden Dawn) organisation. Nevertheless, their presence at the parade was 'proudly' displayed on the organisation's official website.

According to a report submitted by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (an Athens based human rights organisation) to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (UN CERD), Golden Dawn is "openly neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, racist and white supremacist and have been involved in many violent incidents against migrants, Macedonians ... as well as in desecration of Jewish monuments."

To view the full Greek Helsinki Monitor submission please click here.

In 2009, on the basis of the report of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, UN CERD officially recommended that Greece ban such groups, calling upon the authorities to "take effective measures to penalise organisations and media outlets that are guilty of such acts. It further recommends that the State party concretely ban neo-Nazi groups from its territory and take more effective measures to promote tolerance towards persons of different ethnic origins."

To view the full UN CERD report please click here.

While the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee recognises the right of all ethnic communities to organise peaceful national day celebrations and cultural events, the open and unimpeded presence of members of racist groups at such events is totally unacceptable.

Given the fact that members of the "Golden Dawn" group were wearing distinct black coloured clothing with the words "Golden Dawn" in Greek on the back of their attire, they were clearly visible and easily identifiable to all those present including the event organisers. As such, the neo-Nazi group should have been asked to leave the grounds of the Shrine immediately. Regrettably, they were permitted to stay.

In future, Australian political leaders need to take heed of who exactly they are addressing so as to avoid such embarrassing situations. The fact that the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Ted Baillieu, flanked to the right by his Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Nicholas Kotsiras, addressed a gathering in the presence of a neo-Nazi group, at the Shrine of Remembrance of all places, is very disturbing.

The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee calls upon community leaders to condemn this incident and ensure the exclusion of racist groups from future community events.

Manifestations of racism and intolerance have no place in Australian society.