Doctors protest

Greece: Authorities must be held to account after austerity measures violate right to health

In a significant move, Amnesty International has taken steps to hold the Greek authorities to account at the Council of Europe for violating people’s rights to health and non-discrimination.

A collective complaint filed today with the European Committee of Social Rights details the devastating health impacts of austerity measures introduced by the Greek authorities following the economic crisis of 2009/2010, and how the government failed to protect the population against them.

“More than a decade of recession and austerity measures have left Greece’s health system on its knees, impacting its response to the COVID19 pandemic. In these circumstances, it is vital that we hold the authorities to account for the negative consequences of their decisions on people’s human rights,” said Sanhita Ambast, Researcher and Advisor on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“Today’s action sends a clear message to all governments: they are not immune from scrutiny, and they must be held accountable for the harmful impact of their decisions on people and their economic and social rights.”

Background

The Greek government began to introduce austerity measures in 2010, in response to the global financial crisis that started in 2008.

Public spending was slashed by 32% across sectors, with public health expenditure falling by nearly 43% between 2009 and 2017.

Structural reforms also shifted a greater proportion of healthcare costs onto patients. Furthermore, the three financial assistance programmes concluded with Greece’s creditors included conditionalities, some of which encouraged, or influenced, the austerity measures that resulted in a debilitated health system.

Amnesty International has previously documented the effects of economic policy on Greece’s healthcare system, including in the 2020 report Resuscitation required – The Greek health system after a decade of austerity.