By Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Greek Medicine And The ICC

The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect. - Alice in Wonderland, chapter VI

An empty hospital hallway

Do cuts to Greek medical care violate human rights laws?

This article is in three parts: excerpts from and brief comments on an amicus brief filed to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; some facts on the ground in Germany at present; the latest information, as of press time, on Doctor Kosmopoulos’s situation in Athens. It’s a long piece, so thanks for your patience.

1.

And so we return to the game of cat and mouse, in which the mouse is Greece, in danger of being swallowed whole. But who is the cat? That’s the part of the picture we don’t see. Like Alice, we see only the smile in the tree – an appropriate place for this Cheshire cat, looking down from high above.

Because discussions are so often seen through a lens of Germany vs. Greece, or Europe vs. the Piigs, with the people of Europe on the sidelines, it might be useful to get other opinions.

This summer, journalists Georgios Tragkas, Panagiotis Tzenos, and Antonios Prekas, along with Dimitrios Konstantaras of the Nea Democratica party, filed suit at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, against Christine Lagarde of the IMF, Herman van Rompuy (President of the European Council), Jose Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission), German Chancellor Angela Merkel and that country’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble. The charge: Crimes Against Humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute.1

That passed with little notice. But a curious thing happened in the last week of November. A supporting, or amicus, brief has been filed that backs up the original charges, with compelling evidence.

Sarah Luzia Hassel-Reusing is a practicing psychologist and human rights activist in Wuppertal, Germany. And one non-Greek on whom the meaning of solidarity is not lost.

Her thirty-page ICC filing substantiates, in copious detail, the charge of Crimes Against Humanity for actions carried out as part of the various Greek debt rescues, which have resulted in destruction of Greek medicine, their hospitals, doctors and their all too frequently malnourished patients.2

Readers should do a bit of research on Crimes Against Humanity. Wikipedia has the full text of the Rome Statute. Briefly, a crime against humanity is defined as taking place when someone knowingly attacks a civilian population, and does this either as part of a larger plan or systematically (art. 7 of the Rome Statute). In addition, Hassel-Reusing cites the UN Social Pact (Articles 11 and 12, the universal human rights to food and health). The ICC is now part of the apparatus of world law and as such has prosecuted well-known cases from Serbia to Ruanda.

Hassel-Reusing argues that the real motive behind the Greek debt arrangements is “to give more stability to the financial sector (especially the big banks, according to the „too big to fail“ hypothesis), than is allowed… to financial means, which must remain to fulfill those obligations secured by human rights, and [more] than the peoples themselves, if they were fully informed and asked, would ever allow.”

She further states that, “What the IMF has done to the health systems in countries such as Albania, Bangla Desh, Brazil, Ghana, India, Peru, Ruanda, Romania, Somalia, Ukraine, and Vietnam, threatens all states within the Eurozone. [...] The Greek people today are being used as a test case within the Eurozone for this. [Emphasis added.]

In addition, given the scarcity of food in Greece, and the growing crisis of malnutrition, Hassel-Reusing argues that, “The [expected] loss of human life in the Eurozone is… [more] comparable to Ruanda (hundred of thousands) than to recent cases in Nigeria (Boko Haram suspected of more than 1,000 deaths) or Guinea (army suspected for more than 150 deaths). So I request giving the official start of investigations on Greece the timely priority adequate to the systematic attack and the large scope.” She then goes on to provide documentation for the loss of life in Nigeria and Guinea.

(English translations of the brief are far from perfect. I have made minor alterations.)

I hope the friend who wrote to me about lazy bastards in Greece is reading the following two excerpts: “The memorandum of understanding of the troika (EU Commission, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank) in the scope of financial support of the EFSF of February 2012 obliged Greece, to direct all revenues of the state onto a blocked account, [predominately] to pay external creditors.”Hassel-Reusing, as she does throughout the brief, provides essential documentation.3

“As of 09.03.2012 credits of circa 1.4 billion € from various public institutions, among them universities and hospitals, have been completely taken away without warning from one day to another, and have been transferred to the blocked account at the Bank of Greece, which has already been implemented according to the memorandum of understanding. Even public hospitals have suddenly been without credit in their bank accounts, with respective effects on their work.”4

This goes a long way toward explaining why men such as Giorgos Kosmopoulos and Dimitris Christoulas have seen their pensions vanish into thin air. In what way is this justifiable as a method of financial correction? It is theft.

Other sections of Part III present a devastating picture of the specific effects that “debt relief” has had on the Greek people’s ability to secure medical care. It goes much further than the Le Monde article cited in the last This Is Your Future, and is amply detailed and sourced. Section III.4 (“The attack on nutrition in Greece,” mislabelled III.5 in the English version) is devastating: with approximately 439,000 children living under the poverty line in Greece, more than 400,000 are reaching severe stages of malnutrition. (Assertions documented in detail.)

Section III.5 looks at conditions in Portugal and Spain, which are, through the various debt arrangements, veering in the same direction. One quote will suffice: “The Red Cross, for the first time in the country’s history, has asked for food donations in view of 300,000 severly malnourished people.” Documented again.5

Is this or is it not a humantarian catastrophe heretofore unimaginable within the European Union’s borders? Perhaps the people of Europe should stop blaming Greece while chanting, It can’t happen here. It can.

And so the case sits with Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in a shiny modern office tower on Maanstraat in the Hague. You may or may not have much faith in such institutions but it will be interesting to see how the game plays out. Will Hassel-Reusing’s brief get any traction at the ICC? In one sense it doesn’t matter. Her direct confrontation of business as usual means that fault lines are appearing, that the case against is too overwhelming from both the financial standpoint, where it cannot show a single success except on banks’ ledger sheets, to the reality of what is being done to Greece, which is a human disaster.

I urge readers to seek out the full document.

2.

We have, I think, identified the cat who is swallowing Greece. Let’s take a step back and look at the people presumibly paying the tab for this bailout: not the Greeks, but the Germans (and other Northern Europeans) who are funding it all – at least according to widely held belief. And because they are seeing their finances make the trip from their pockets to Greece and then to the banks in Greece, France and Germany, they are watching their living standards and infrastructure decline.

This is what a reader of my columns in Berlin wrote. It’s her take on German realities here and now, and as such are only one person’s opinion. But they are valuable not only because they contradict the dominant message abroad these days, which is, in part, Prosperous, hardworking Germans have a system that is the envy of all Europe. This is what she wrote:

“The whole world seems to think that Germany’s economy is doing great. It isn’t true. Fewer and fewer people can live by their salaries, more and more are subsidized by the state (i.e., welfare – which doesn’t show up in unemployment statistics), or they take part-time work at 4 Euros an hour or less, under impossible conditions with no minimum wage.

“German efficiency? Over. Things are crumbling here, too, people just pretend that they’re not. Infrastructure, health care, education, etc. – all spiraling downwards. Although we Germans are still rich in comparison with other countries.”

This tallies, at least in part, with observations made by the sociologist Ulrich Beck that Germans now “fear for their retirement, their little house and their economic miracle.” It also bring us a closer to the uncomfortable truth that great numbers of people see what is happening but prefer to act as if they don’t.6

Of course, this is easy to dismiss as “anecdoctal evidence.” That being the case, you might want to read an article from the current Der Spiegal, “Gap between Rich and Poor Grows in Germany.”7

(I would be interested to hear from people around Europe, with details of the effects austerity has had on their region.)

3.

As of Friday morning, December 14, Doctor Kosmopoulos and his family remain barricaded in their two-story flat in Athens with the Stop Cartel cam keeping an eye out front. He has accepted the reality that if he is to work in Greece, it will likely be in a location far from Athens. Doctors in Athens are presently paid about 1,200 Euros a month, and those in the rural Peloponnese, where Kosmopoulos would have to move, approximately 700. It amounts to a kind of internal exile.

To end on a happier note, truckers have not only offered to move and store his family’s belongings for free, but they have also interceded with the landlord and have secured an extension against the eviction – until Monday. Everyone in the family has now arranged for other places to stay. Authorities, however, are still threatening to come by later today to change the locks on the apartment.

Iddhis Bing

Paris

Many thanks to G.A. and Olivier Nourisson for help with photos, and to Linda Ross for updates.

1 The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the ICC in 1998. As of February 2012, 121 states are party to the statute.

2 Full text: www.scribd.com/doc/protected/100418463. Also: http://syrizapaianiaglykanera.wordpress.com/news-in-english/

3 German and English translation of the German Bundestag memorandum of understanding via Greece, February 2012, file number „Drucksache 17/8731“). http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/087/1708731.pdf

http://hellasfrappe.blogspot.gr/2012/03/how-venizelos-regime-robbed-state.html

www.taz.de/1/archiv/print-archiv/printarchiv/digi-artikel/? ressort=wu&dig=2012%2F10%2F12%

6 Beck’s essay appeared as Angela Merkel, nouveau Machiavel, in Le Monde, November 13, 2012.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/gap-between-rich-and-poor-grows-in-germany-a-856445.html and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-30/german-unemployment-rises-for-a-fifth-month-amid-crisis.html

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RELATED ARTICLES: 

- Part 1: THIS IS YOUR FUTURE – Fast track evictions rampant in Greece: http://99getsmart.com/this-is-your-future/

- Part 2: This Is Your Future 2: Doctor Kosmopoulos And The Destruction of Greek Medicine: http://99getsmart.com/this-is-your-future-2-doctor-kosmopoulos-and-the-destruction-of-greek-medecine/

Photo by Justin Taylor released under a Creative Commons license.