Olga Yeritsidou: Fighting for justice against austerity deaths in Greece.
Sick and disabled people in Britain who are losing hope that they will receive justice from the Department for Work and Pensions’ ‘work capability assessment’ regime can take heart from the Greek example.
This blog has reported on Samuel Miller’s bid to take the DWP and its political leaders, including Iain Duncan Smith, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for crimes against humanity.
The allegation is that the assessment system for people claiming sickness and disability benefits is hugely biased, depriving claimants of the wherewithal – not just to stay above the poverty line, but to continue surviving.
The loss of benefits inflicted by the draconian regime increases emotional and physical stress until it becomes too much to bear, and claimants have suffered downturns in their physical and mental health, leading to their deaths – either due to the condition that a refusal from the DWP means they don’t have, or suicide.
This is all-too-familiar to educational psychologist Olga Yeritsidou. She tried to take the Greek government to the International Criminal Court back in April. The attempt was turned down by the court, but she is now working on a wealth of information, in order to win an appeal.
In April, she told the BBC: “The austerity measures deprive us of our freedom. By taking away our income and our property, we don’t have access to shelter, food, health and education.
“The suicide rate has skyrocketed. And a lot of our young people are obliged to migrate to other countries, with only the elderly staying here. But they too are dying because they don’t have medication.”
The interviewer challenged her by saying genocide involves intent, so she would have to prove that the Greek government knew the consequences of austerity and intended them, but her daughter Tanya responded: “You must show that not only did they know of the consequences but they were willing to have the consequences… We can prove they knew the extent, they knew the severity and not only were they completely fine with it, but they actively opposed all other solutions.”
This should seem familiar to you.
We live in a nation where more sick and disabled people die every six weeks, due to complications arising from the loss of benefits, than have died on active service in Afghanistan since the Army moved into that country in 2002. Government figures show an average of 73 deaths per week – many due to suicide.
Greek authority figures said it was simplistic to blame deaths there on austerity, rather than seeing them as the result of decades of economic mismanagement. In the UK, we don’t have that problem. Our economy has not been mismanaged (the debt was created because the government bailed out the banks, to stop them from collapsing; it is the banks that were badly managed) and I hope I have started to show (in my series of articles about the economy) that austerity – cutting public spending including welfare benefits – is not the only, or even a desirable, way to climb out of this nation’s debt hole.
But we know from the government’s own figures that it is aware of more than 10,000 deaths of people who used to be on Incapacity Benefit, during or following their participation in the work capability assessment programme, run by Atos on behalf of the Coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.
And we know that Iain Duncan Smith has resisted – vigorously – all attempts to persuade him that his programme of cuts – essentially a pogrom against the disabled – should be modified, making these deaths less likely. Indeed, he explicitly refused to be moved from his post in last October’s cabinet reshuffle, in order to continue overseeing his plan.
He knows the extent and severity and is not only completely fine with it, he actively opposes all other solutions.
In Greece, Olga Yeritsidou is continuing her fight. In an email to our own Samuel Miller, she wrote: “I do have data in my possession pertaining not only to deaths that could have been averted were the medical services and facilities working properly but also studies and estimates from credible sources (or at least allegedly credible) regarding the current situation of the ill, disabled and those with a propensity for illness in Greece.
“Right now I am sorting through a literal mountain of data, evidence and reports on this exact matter and other similar mountains for all the other issues related, correlated or caused by the situation of the so called ‘memorandum-austerity’ in Greece.
“The reason we are doing all this is because the prosecutor’s office at the ICC has asked for further data before they move on our appeal. In short, they are asking me and my daughter to do their work for them, perhaps in hopes of us giving up and certainly for them to gain time.”
Mr Miller, as previously reported, is working on a submission to the ICC with regard to the situation in the UK. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights is now recognizing that austerity measures may violate human rights, and to bolster his own case with the ICC, he is seeking coroner’s reports from the British government and UK citizens, and also first-hand accounts of damage to health caused by the DWP’s austerity-based withdrawal of sickness and disability benefits.
He has also written to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointing out the fears that have been raised among sick and disabled people by the latest diktat from Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP – that they should be put on the government’s work programme and made to work, in order to receive their benefits.
If you have a story to tell Mr Miller, you can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The more people help him, the better his chances of success.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps you’d care to look at some of the stories of people who have already lost their fight, people fighting for those who are left, or browse some background information about Iain Duncan Smith. It isn’t pleasant reading, and this list isn’t even exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of the extent of the situation. Here it is:
http://iphidaimos-thenewsinshorts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/tories-directly-responsible-for-150.html – This blogger states that the DWP regime is a crime against humanity.