Secretary General warns of humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh

Published in World
Thursday, 01 October 2020 16:05

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.

Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/secretary-general-warns-of-humanitarian-crisis-in-nagorno-karabakh

Preventing COVID-19: Council of Europe supports prison systems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia

Published in World
Tuesday, 09 June 2020 15:42

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

Published in Society
Thursday, 04 June 2020 13:32

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.

Source: https://pace.coe.int/en/news/7899/stop-jailing-journalists-turkey-and-azerbaijan-must-uphold-council-of-europe-standards-

 

Greece takes over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers

Published in Politics
Friday, 15 May 2020 15:27

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.

Web page of the Greek chairmanship

Greece to take over from Georgia Chairmanship of CoE Committee of Ministers

Published in Politics
Friday, 15 May 2020 13:08

The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will officially be transferred from Georgia to Greece today. The chairmanship will be passed at the meeting of the CoE committee of ministers in Strasbourg.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting will be opened by Irakli Giviashvili, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the Council of Europe.

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani will deliver a speech and sum up the achievements and results of Georgia’s Presidency, will review the measures taken in terms of the implementation of the priorities of Georgia’s chairmanship and the cultural program.

The meeting will also be addressed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

After Davit Zalkaliani’s speech, the Ambassador of Georgia will hand over the symbolic key of the chairmanship to the Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe.

The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was transferred from France to Georgia during a meeting held in Strasbourg, the Organisation’s headquarters, on November 27 of 2019. The priorities of the Georgian Chairmanship included human rights and environmental protection, the participation of civil society in decision-making, child-friendly justice, and education, culture and youth engagement in strengthening democracy.

Justice systems must help children overcome fear and trauma, not make them worse

Published in Justice
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:05

Every year, thousands of children across Council of Europe member states are involved in judicial proceedings. Whether a victim of crime or in conflict with the law, they are often vulnerable and in need of protection: in other words, they need justice systems to be “child-friendly”.

Promoting child-friendly restorative justice and exchanging best practices in this area has been one of the priorities of the Georgian Presidency of the Council of Europe.

Today, the Council of Europe has published a set of statements and resources on restorative justice and participation of children in judicial proceedings that were meant to be presented at a high-level conference in Strasbourg cancelled due to the COVID 19 health crisis in Europe.

The crisis and particularly the introduction of broad confinement measures in an effort to save lives were mentioned by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić in her welcome message. “However, confinement can leave children locked in with their abusers, with little opportunity to raise the alarm”, she warned. “These children must have a place to go with access to professionals who can help them to piece their lives back together”.

The difficulties in accessing justice is not something new, Secretary General Burić underlined. “Victims may experience fear, shame and feel that they are among the least likely groups to be heard or have their views taken into account during judicial processes,” she stated. “Our justice systems must help them to overcome the trauma, not compound it.”

In her statement Thea Tsulukiani, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Georgia presented the Georgian national experience with restorative justice for children in conflict with law since the launch of reforms several years ago. “Breaking away with the zero-tolerance in the juvenile justice system highlighting criminal sanctions and massive use of detention rather than non-custodial alternatives, prevalent in Georgia before 2012, was the single biggest challenge that we encountered.”

The Juvenile Justice Code adopted in 2015 introduced an entirely new philosophy for children in conflict with the law, where non-custodial measures were made a default and criminal sanction the exception, the Minister said.

“We are making maximum use of diversion and mediation for children and young people under the Code whereby juveniles are dealt with without resorting to judicial proceedings or trial with human rights and legal safeguards respected”, she stated. “It is an encouragement offered to young people in conflict with the law to return to law-abiding life without punishment nor conviction, in exchange for voluntary participation in the programmes tailored to their needs, with the involvement of an independent and neutral person – a mediator,” the Minister explained, stressing that as of 2019, only 9% of juveniles previously involved in diversion/mediation programs committed crime again.

The creation of a Child Referral Mechanism and Referral Centre for juveniles in January 2020, and the introduction of “micro prisons” (family-type establishments), with the first two to be operational by the end of 2021, are examples of the holistic approach to child-friendly justice, Minister Tsulukiani said.

All the documents and statements, including those by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the European Court of Human Rights, by Irakli SHOTADZE, General Prosecutor of Georgia,  Stefan SCHENNACH, member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Maria-Andriani KOSTOPOULOU, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child of the Council of Europe and Drahoslav ŠTEFÁNEK, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on Migration and Refugees, can be found on the dedicated page.

Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/justice-systems-must-help-children-overcome-fear-and-trauma-not-make-them-worse 

Statement of the President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, regarding the 71st anniversary of the Council of Europe

Published in World
Thursday, 07 May 2020 10:43

Today, the 5th of May, marks the anniversary of the signing of the Statute of the Council of Europe in London by ten countries.
 
This historic development represents the first attempt towards a united European action to promote peaceful coexistence, prevent conflicts and promote and protect the fundamental rights of all individuals in Europe, without exception.
 
The Council of Europe, with its 47 member States, has been instrumental in agreeing common standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law for over 7 decades. Let me underline the fundamental role of the European Convention on Human Rights, drafted seventy years ago in 1950, by the then newly founded Council of Europe, that enabled the setting-up of a unique human rights protection system, constituting the anchor of European co-operation. I hope that this new decade will bring us the same determination to defend human rights as that of the authors of the Convention 70 years ago. It should be recalled that more than 830 million people living in our common European space have an ultimate right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
 
This important anniversary coincides with an unprecedented global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our heartfelt sympathies go to those who have lost their loved ones, family members and friends. At this critical crossroads, we all have to be united and determined to do our utmost to overcome the current crisis.
 
After more than 7 decades of service to peace, democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, the Council of Europe has contributed to number of significant achievements but there is still much more to accomplish. It is more urgent than ever to intensify our efforts to solidify respect for human rights in the years to come.”

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis

Published in Politics
Friday, 24 April 2020 13:44

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.


The Information Document was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.
The toolkit is designed to help ensure that measures taken by member states during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time.
The document covers four key areas:

•             Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency


•             Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures


•             Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education


•             Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.


The Information Document also refers to new advice from the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes.

https://rm.coe.int/sg-inf-2020-11-respecting-democracy-rule-of-law-and-human-rights-in-th/16809e1f40

Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the COVID-19 pandemic

Published in World
Thursday, 23 April 2020 14:56

David ZalkalianiPresident of the Committee of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, has expressed his satisfaction following the Committee of Ministers’ adoption of a Declaration on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During this very difficult time we are living through, I am pleased that the 47 member States of the Council of Europe have agreed on the need to continue to co-operate to fight the pandemic together, without ever losing sight of the Organisation's values and standards," he said.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in which all of its 47 member States are represented, expresses its deep sadness at the suffering and bereavement caused in Europe and elsewhere in the world by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It expresses its profound gratitude to all those who, at the risk of their own health, are fighting to overcome this terrible disease and bring relief and care for those who are seriously ill. It also expresses its deep gratitude to all those who continue to work in order to ensure that people’s basic material needs can be met.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst health crisis since the Organisation was founded in 1949, and authorities at all levels must do their utmost to protect people's health in all circumstances, including the most vulnerable members of our societies.

The challenge we face today is unprecedented. The Committee of Ministers recalls its deep and constant attachment to its core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as expressed in the Statute of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights. It also recalls that measures to combat the disease and its wider consequences must be taken in accordance with the Organisation's principles and the commitments entered into by member States. The Secretary General’s information document on “Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis: a toolkit for member States” provides useful guidance in this respect.

The Committee of Ministers considers that solidarity and co-operation between States is essential to deal effectively with the pandemic, and underlines that the Council of Europe, including its Development Bank, will continue to make every effort to assist its member States during this crisis and its aftermath.

Georgia monitors welcome agreement on 2020 elections

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 17:37

/Strasbourg/ The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlăţean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the agreement between the Georgian ruling majority and opposition on the election system to be used for the 2020 parliamentary elections, as well as their pledge to refrain from politicising the electoral process and the judiciary.

“This is an important agreement that can help to de-escalate political tensions and contribute to the democratic consolidation of the country. it is now important that the agreement is fully implemented, both in its letter and in its spirit. We look forward to discussing the agreement and its implementation with all stakeholders during our visit this week,” said the co-rapporteurs.

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