Outcry over last-minute attempt by Tsipras govt to amend penal code; critics point to attempt to downgrade rape offense, in some instances

5 June 2019
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Proposed amendments to Greece’s penal code and the code of criminal procedure, tabled in Parliament this week after Greek PM Alexis Tsipras signaled his intent to resign and declare snap elections, continued to cause intense criticism by the opposition, civic groups and even an association representing the country’s prosecutors, among others.

One of the more high-profile proposed changes involves modifying definitions of rape, with the prospect of certain sexual assaults being downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors.

Other proposed changes involve milder sentences and the downgrading of felonies to misdemeanors, such as such possession of explosive materials.

All of Parliament’s opposition parties, sans a handful of MPs belonging to the essentially defunct Potami party, have abstained from Parliament’s sessions, charging that the Tsipras government does not have the mandate to pass legislation in what is essentially a pre-election period. Snap elections are set for July 7, although Tsipras has still not met with the Greek president to officially tender his resignation and seek an early election.

On Wednesday, two deputies from ruling SYRIZA party, Anneta Kavvadia and Maria Theleriti, both criticized the draft legislation, while calling on the relevant justice minister to define the offense of rape, given that the proposed changes envision differences in the scope of the offense, which in some cases will carry a misdemeanor charge.

In a sharply worded announcement this week, the Union of Greek Prosecutors called for the withdrawal of entire bill, saying it is downgrading several felony offenses to misdemeanors, including the charge of active bribery, grand larceny by crime gangs, fraud and forgery of up to 120,000 euros/.

The association added that the prospect of milder sentencing terms will mean mass acquittals due to the expiration of statute of limitations (in effect for misdemeanor convictions) and mass releases of convicts, “with a danger to public safety, as well as the cultivation of feelings, on the part of victims (of crimes), of impunity (for perpetrators).”

Feminist groups and victims’ rights advocates in the country have also villified the last-minute legislative initiative by the hard left Tsipras government.

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