Ireland’s President Higgins: we need a longer-term vision of the Council of Europe’s role in a post-conflict Europe
STRASBOURG. Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins has called for a longer-term vision of the Council of Europe’s role in a post-conflict Europe, and how that might fit within the wider multilateral architecture, in order to effectively uphold human rights, the rule of law and democracy whilst ensuring there is no immunity for human rights violations.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly in the context of Ireland’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, President Higgins stressed that we should revert to the Council of Europe’s fundamental strengths in rebuilding peace, notably the European Convention on Human Rights.
“It must be re-invoked, extended, bolstered, re-asserted, resourced and become part of the discourse of the European street,” said President Higgins, calling for Council of Europe and UN associations to be created in member states.
President Higgins underlined that we must focus on the indivisibility of human rights and commit to a wider definition of comprehensive security on the continent, as a European step towards a universal human rights-based approach to security – including food security.
Any review of the Convention framework must incorporate additional basic rights, said the President, such as the right to a clean environment and the right to be free from hunger.
2023 Winter session: the legal and human rights aspects of Russia's aggression against Ukraine
An urgent debate* on the legal and human rights aspects of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, with the participation of Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of the Center for Civil Liberties, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will be among the highlights of the Winter plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), to be held in Strasbourg from 23 to 27 January 2023.
#OnTheRoadToReykjavik, a report on the fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, to be held in the Icelandic capital on 16 and 17 May, will present PACE's proposals.
There will also be addresses by the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdóttir and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić will present her communication to PACE members. The Assembly will also elect its President and Vice-Presidents.
Combating violence against women will also be a focus of the session, with a first debate on conflict-related sexual violence, and a second joint debate on the Istanbul Convention, on the role and responsibility of men and boys in stopping gender-based violence against women and girls, and on finding solutions for marital captivity.
Other topics on the agenda include the environmental impact of armed conflict, Daesh foreign fighters and their families returning from Syria and elsewhere, and the ethical, cultural and educational challenges of contact tracing applications.
* The Assembly will decide its final agenda at the opening of the session.
GLOBALink | Projects see deepened collaboration between China and Europe
Many cooperation projects, big and small, have witnessed the deepened economic and trade exchanges between China and Europe.
In the Lynk&Co Yuyao plant of Geely Auto Group in east China, brand-new vehicles are moving orderly on the production line.
During Dec. 1-18, over 4,400 vehicles were delivered from Ningbo Port, Shanghai Nangang Port and other Chinese ports, arriving at Belgium's Port of Zeebrugge in a month.
On Dec. 15, the X8026 "Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe" freight train (Geely special express) loaded with 100 TEUs of auto parts departed from Yiwu, heading to Belarusian capital Minsk.
Till Tuesday, a total of 1,559 "Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe" trains have left the Yiwu platform this year, with a year-on-year growth of 24.5 percent.
Since autumn, small heating facilities such as electric blankets and fan heaters have gained noticeable popularity in Europe, most of which are produced in China.
Data from e-commerce giant Alibaba showed that at the peak of export, the demand for heating appliances increased by nearly 50 percent year-on-year, and most products would go to the Netherlands, France, Germany and Poland.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in the first 10 months of 2022, China-EU trade value hit 711.4 billion U.S. dollars, up 6.3 percent year-on-year.
China remains the largest trading partner of the European Union (EU), and the EU remains China's second-largest trading partner.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service
Two Georgia v. Russia interstate cases: Committee of Ministers says Russia must execute the European Court’s judgments, despite its exclusion from the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 09.12.2022 – The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has deeply deplored again the absence of response of the Russian authorities to its earlier appeals to implement the Georgia v. Russia (I) judgment from the European Court of Human Rights concerning the arrest, detention and collective expulsion of Georgian nationals in 2006-2007, and strongly exhorted the Russian authorities to pay the long-overdue just satisfaction. The Committee has also urged the Russian authorities to start executing the judgment in the case Georgia v. Russia (II) related to the armed conflict in Georgia in 2008.
In the Interim Resolution (*) published today on the Georgia v. Russia (I) case the Committee of Ministers recalled that, despite ceasing to be a member of the Council of Europe on 16 March 2022, the Russian Federation is still required to implement judgments of the European Court, and the Committee of Ministers continues to supervise their execution.
According to the European Court’s judgment of January 2019, Russia inter alia had to pay to the Georgian government 10 million euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage suffered by a group of at least 1,500 Georgian nationals. The Committee deeply deplored the continued absence of the information from the Russian authorities and reiterated again its most profound concern that the payment of the just satisfaction and default interest accrued has not been made despite the passage of over three years since the deadline for payment expired on 30 April 2019.
The Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers will create and publish a register of just satisfaction owing in all inter-state cases against the Russian Federation and will keep it regularly updated as regards the default interest accrued so that both the issue and the sums due can remain under close public scrutiny.
The Committee of Ministers has also adopted the Interim Resolution on the second interstate case, Georgia v. Russia (II). The European Court’s judgment on this case has become final in October 2021 and concerned various violations in the context of the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008.
The Committee has urged again the Russian authorities to submit to the Committee of Ministers a plan on the execution of this judgment and to investigate the serious crimes committed during the active phase of hostilities as well as during the period of occupation. It has firmly reiterated again its profound concern about the inability of Georgian nationals to return to their homes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and its insistence that the Russian Federation, which has effective control over these regions, ensure without delay safe return of persons wishing to return to their homes. The question of just satisfaction in this case remains pending at the Court.
The Committee of Ministers will restart the examination of the execution of both cases in March 2023.
(*) An Interim Resolution is a form of decision adopted by the Committee of Ministers aimed at overcoming more complex situations requiring special attention.
MONEYVAL report on Georgia: improvements in the Financial Monitoring Service powers to disseminate information to law enforcement authorities, but other deficiencies remain
Georgia has improved its measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing; it has demonstrated good progress and has been upgraded from “partially compliant” to “largely compliant” with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) Recommendation 29, related to Financial Intelligence Units, concludes the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL in a follow-up report released today.
By enhancing the powers of the Financial Monitoring Service (Financial Intelligence Unit of Georgia) to disseminate information and results of analyses upon request and without a court order to all law enforcement authorities, Georgia has addressed a significant shortcoming earlier identified. Only minor shortcomings remain regarding a lack of explicit reference to require the Financial Monitoring Service to conduct operational and strategic analysis and the scope of the money laundering definition.
The report also examines a range of legislative, regulatory, and institutional measures, such as introducing a central electronic reporting for online casinos, requiring a clean criminal record for beneficial owners of casinos, making sanctions for AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism) breaches applicable to casinos, as well introducing a broad regulatory framework for the investment fund sector. However, these measures were not sufficient to upgrade the ratings of Recommendations 22, 28 or 35, as moderate deficiencies in relation to the scope of covered designated non-financial businesses and professions and the sanctioning regimes remain.
Overall, Georgia has achieved full compliance with six of the 40 FATF recommendations constituting the international AML/CFT standard and retains minor deficiencies in the implementation of 22 recommendations where it has been found “largely compliant”. Eleven recommendations remain “partially compliant” and one of them has a “non-compliant” rating (the recommendation requiring that countries review their laws and regulations to ensure that non-profit organisations cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism).
Consequently, Georgia is expected to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures in one year’s time.
First report on implementation of Istanbul Convention by Georgia welcomes steps on legislation, calls for more services for victims and dissuasive sanctions for perpetrators
Strasbourg, 22.11.2022 – The Council of Europe’s monitoring body GREVIO in its first report on Georgia released today welcomed the many steps taken by the Georgian authorities to align its laws, policies and institutional framework with the standards of the Istanbul Convention. However, further legal amendments are needed, more domestic violence shelters and sexual violence crisis referral centres should be established across the country, bureaucratic obstacles related to obtaining victim status should be addressed, and steps must be urgently taken to increase women’s equal status in the Georgian society where patriarchal attitudes still prevail. The comments of the Georgian government were equally published.
The adoption of the National Action Plan on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims 2018-2020, accompanied by policies, constituted a very important step in aligning Georgia’s obligations with its commitments under the convention. Besides, the Law on Domestic Violence has been amended to address all forms of violence and contains such welcome elements as the provision of special leave for victims of violence for the duration of their stay at a shelter/crisis centre, as well as the formal assignment of victim status to those witnessing domestic violence, notably children. The offence of domestic violence as well as new crimes such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking and forced sterilisation have been introduced into the Criminal Code. Significant changes were made to legislation in 2019 in terms of prohibiting sexual harassment, and much effort has been made to raise awareness of the different forms of violence against women. However, the definition of rape and the other offences of sexual violence in the Georgian Criminal Code still needs to be amended, in order to fully incorporate the notion of the lack of freely given consent, as required by the Istanbul Convention.
Victims have no access to fully established rape crisis and/or sexual violence referral centres that would be adequately geographically distributed all over Georgia. Besides, there are still very few services for women and girls at risk of or subjected to forced marriage, and administrative requirements such as obtaining formal victim status place barriers on women’s access to domestic violence shelters. GREVIO also urges the authorities to improve the access to support services and protection mechanisms to women exposed to the risk of intersectional discrimination, such as those from national and/or ethnic minorities, living in rural areas, women with disabilities and refugees, lesbian, bisexual or transgender women and older women. Children who witness violence often remain invisible to the system. Besides, financial resources allocated to state and NGO actors should be augmented, and the involvement of the latter in anti-violence law and policy development increased.
The criminal justice mechanisms for combating sexual violence face serious shortcomings: investigations and prosecutions lack in promptness, effectiveness, and sensitivity. The report calls for immediate measures to guarantee a quick and adequate response, in particular in cases of rape and sexual violence. The factors that contribute to the very high threshold for proving rape in court should be identified and addressed, and re-traumatisation of victims avoided all along the way. Urgent action should also be taken to ensure that criminal penalties imposed are dissuasive and commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and that courts take into account all incidents of domestic violence when deciding on custody or visitation rights.
Besides, GREVIO urges the authorities to review the process of issuance of emergency barring orders by the police, to identify and address reasons for the high proportion of orders annulled by the courts (around 60% in 2018-2021), as well as to monitor compliance with such orders. Similarly, the causes of the high number of violations of restraining and protection orders should be identified, and adequate sanctions applied in cases of breaches of such orders. GREVIO notes with great concern that while in 2018 the number of investigations initiated for violations of restraining orders was 60 and in 2019 the number went up to 516, no information has been provided concerning the sanctions imposed.
In its report, GREVIO also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure that women victims of violence who are in need of protection, regardless of their status or residence, shall not be returned under any circumstances to any country where their life would be at risk or where they might be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Finally, GREVIO points out that patriarchal attitudes, and stereotypes about gender roles and acceptable behaviour are still prevalent in Georgian society. Persistent gender stereotypes and their peddling by the media should be addressed, and efforts to increase women’s equal status in society, public discourse and the media must be urgently undertaken.