Greece takes over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
Strasbourg, 15.05.2020 – Greece today took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from Georgia during a video-conference meeting with representatives of the 47 member states of the Organisation.
The Georgian Foreign Minister, David Zalkaliani, presented the stocktaking of his country's presidency. The Greek Minister with responsibility for Foreign/European Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, outlined the priorities of the Greek Chairmanship for the next six months.
Given the current context, Greece has chosen to focus its chairmanship on the protection of public health and responses to the health crisis, while at the same time ensuring respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Other priorities include the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, along with the protection of vulnerable children and the rights of the younger generations in the fields of digital education, the environment and social issues.
On 4 November, Athens will host the session of the Committee of Ministers bringing together the 47 Foreign Ministers, and the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Germany will then succeed Greece as Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Organisation.
PACE to observe the parliamentary elections in Georgia
A 9-member delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), will travel to Georgia from 29 October to 1 November to observe the conduct of the parliamentary elections, alongside observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The delegation will meet, in particular, representatives of political parties, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, as well as representatives of civil society and the media, before observing the ballot on 31 October.
A representative of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe's group of independent legal experts – will provide legal support during the visit.
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A joint press conference is scheduled in Tbilisi on Sunday 1 November (place and time to be confirmed).
Secretary General warns of humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh
Strasbourg, 01.10.2020 - The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, made the following statement today:
“As the armed conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh escalates with a growing number of civilian casualties, I mourn the deaths of the many people, including civilians, who are falling victim to the hostilities. No political considerations can justify the horror and suffering of these women, men and children. I implore all sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement without delay the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights. A peaceful solution must be found at the negotiating table to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis.”
The Secretary General reiterated her support to the work of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to this end.
President of Azerbaijan: Without any hesitation, we support Turkey and will support it in any circumstances
As reported earlier, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today accepted credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece to Azerbaijan, Nikolaos Piperigos.
AZERTAC presents some excerpts from President Ilham Aliyev's remarks at the meeting.
“It is not Azerbaijan that has occupied the territory of Armenia – Armenia has occupied Azerbaijani territory. This is reflected in the documents of all international organizations.”
“The last issue I want to touch upon is the recent tension between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean region. I can tell you, and it is no secret, that Turkey is not only our friend and partner, but also a brotherly country for us. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we support Turkey and will support it in any circumstances. We see the same support from our Turkish brothers. They support Azerbaijan on all issues, and we support them on all issues, including the issue of exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“I want you to know our position. This position has already been officially announced by the Azerbaijani government on my instructions. I can tell you again that Turkey is not only a friend but a brotherly country for us. The Turks are our brothers. So we will be with them in all matters.”
“I want to find something positive to touch upon, but unfortunately I can't find it. Perhaps we hope that the new government of Greece, which came to power relatively recently, will reconsider the policy of the previous government against Azerbaijan.”
“We can restore contacts and discuss issues that create positive dynamics. But, of course, that will depend on the policy and position of the Greek government.”
Preventing COVID-19: Council of Europe supports prison systems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia
In response to the emergency of COVID-19 pandemic and to the need of providing urgent support to inmates and prison staff, in the context of its cooperation programmes, the Council of Europe has donated protective materials to five member States: Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
In Georgia, donations included 6,500 masks, 2,500 face shields and 500 litres of sanitizer and antiseptic liquid, 20 pulse oximeters; 5,000 disposable plastic shoe covers; and 3,000 medical disposable headcovers.
A total of 13,760 masks; 2,500 facial shields; 1,240 litters of disinfectant/sanitizer for hands and surfaces; 84,000 gloves; 99 infrared thermometers; 2 oxygen generators; 5 portable saturometers; 10 bactericide lamps; 50 medical uniforms; 100 protective glasses, 20 pulse oximeters; 3,000 head covers; 5,000 shoe covers were delivered to prison administrations in the mentioned countries. 850 pieces of disinfectants and 5,000 gloves are also under way of delivery in North Macedonia, and additional items are expected to be purchased in Montenegro and Azerbaijan until end of June 2020.
These donations aim at supporting the commitment of the Council of Europe member States and their national prison administrations to adhere to the CPT statement of principles for the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty (see the statement also in Georgian here), in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donations were delivered following requests from the Ministries of Justice and prison administrations within the framework of the cooperation activities implemented by the Criminal Law Cooperation Unit, Action against Crime Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law.
The donation to Georgia was possible in the framework of the project Enhancement of Human Rights and Health-Care Support to Penitentiary System (financed through CoE Action Plan for Georgia 2016-2019).
Stop jailing journalists: Turkey and Azerbaijan must uphold Council of Europe standards
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the detention of journalists, an appalling phenomenon which has been observed for many years especially in Turkey and in Azerbaijan.
The PACE recent report on “Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe” observes that Turkey is the country which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists, at present 95 according to the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. “Journalists are placed in arbitrary pre-trial arrest and detention, and are held for months, sometimes for years, before their cases come to court. Such detentions are the result of politicised targeting of journalists for their critical reporting; they are an obvious violation of freedom of expression and of journalists’ right to liberty and security”, said Mr Schennach.
Moreover, in the context of the current pandemic crisis, detention in penitentiaries constitutes an unjustified risk to health, and even to life. A recent bill proposes that approximately one third of 300,000 Turkish detainees be released, but it excludes those detained for terrorism-related offences, and therefore the majority of the 95 journalists in detention, as they are charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offences, although with no solid justification.
As for Azerbaijan – where there are currently 10 journalists in detention – several journalists are arrested on the ground of fabricated accusations. Elchin Mammad, editor in chief of the Yukselish Namine newspaper, was arrested on 30 March 2020 “for having stolen jewellery”. Since 2015, he has repeatedly been under judicial or police investigations, interrogations, house and office searches. Today, if convicted he faces up to seven years in prison.
Another Azerbaijani journalist and blogger with Kanal24 Internet TV, Ibrahim Vazirov, was arrested on 13 April 2020, days after police had demanded he delete online reports about the social and economic impact of Covid-19. In previous weeks, the journalist had been producing video reports critical of the government’s quarantine measures. A similar case happened to Mirsahib Rahiloglu, a journalist with the Reportyor.info, who had published interviews with citizens expressing frustration at the lack of financial support during the lockdown. He was arrested for “violating lockdown rules” and detained for 30 days. Natig Izbatov, a journalist with online news outlet 7gun.az, was arrested as he was filming interviews with people about the economic effects of the lockdown. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating lockdown rules, despite having official documents which gave him permission to work as a journalist. Moreover, he was allegedly assaulted at the police station, his telephone had been searched and footage and recordings deleted.
“The current situation in Turkey and Azerbaijan is unacceptable. In both these member States, freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, has been violated for several years. Therefore, I call on both Turkey and Azerbaijan to urgently stop these attacks on journalists, in order to uphold the standards established by the Council of Europe and stick to the values promoted by our Organisation,” the General Rapporteur concluded.