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.


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.


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.

Council of Europe equipped to meet challenges of future, Secretary General tells PACE

Published in Politics
Thursday, 30 January 2020 12:02

The Council of Europe must take a leading role in overcoming new challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić has told the organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Populism, hate speech, discrimination against minorities, attacks on the media, and the potential abuse of new technologies such as artificial intelligence were amongst her priorities, she said.

“As our societies change, and new challenges arise, we must be there to defend the standards in which we believe, and which are enshrined in law”.


Speech by Marija Pejčinović Burić

President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here for my first January address to this distinguished body of the Council of Europe.

I want to begin by paying tribute to your outgoing, now former President, Liliane Maury Pasquier.

It has been a great pleasure for me to work with Liliane, most closely of course in recent months.

Like so many people in this Chamber, and outside it, I have been so greatly appreciative of her professionalism, her dedication, and her authority.

She has chaired proceedings with skill and determination.

She has worked for better, safer and more inclusive politics, not least through her championing of the Not in my Parliament initiative.

And she has played an important and constructive role in the search for a solution to the recent crisis that gripped our Organisation.

We wish her well, just as we have the pleasure of welcoming and congratulating you, Mr Daems, on your election on Monday.

Your commitment and support for the Parliamentary Assembly are well-known and long-standing, and I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

Certainly, you are taking office at an important and interesting time for our Organisation, and for Europe as a whole.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, now is a good moment to reflect on the positive progress that our continent has made over the course of the past seven decades.

The decline of authoritarian governments, and the end of the Cold War, have brought greater political freedom and ensured greater European unity.

Individuals have more opportunity and prosperity has spread, including to those parts of Europe that had least in the post-war era.

And, of course, the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights by the 47 countries that are now members of the Council of Europe has created an unprecedented common legal space in Europe:

A space in which human rights take precedence over states’ interests, with a European Court of Human Rights to which every individual has the ultimate right of appeal.

Europe has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

But each of us here today is aware that there are still significant challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law in our societies –

And that it is incumbent upon this Organisation to take a leading role in helping national authorities to address these.

Over recent years, some of our member states have witnessed the rise of populist and extreme nationalist politics.

This narrative often runs counter to multilateralism and the rule of international law.

And it can result in direct challenges to the authority of this Organisation whether through rhetoric, referendums, domestic legislation or other means.

Unchecked, this puts human rights at risk.

The rule of law and democratic institutions are also vulnerable to erosion in some countries.

Rampant corruption, ineffective public administration and efforts to undermine the checks and balances required in any healthy democracy –

All of these can be found in Europe today, with the loss of judicial independence, the intimidation and restriction of the media, and the shrinkage of civil society space as prominent symptoms of the sickness.

Other issues abound.

Hate speech, discrimination against minorities and the prevalence of violence against women.

The human rights implications of artificial intelligence, the continued and appalling practice of human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation, and the struggle to ensure access to social rights for every European.

All of these require progress.

And it is right also to point out the growing awareness of the human rights implications of climate change.

This issue is a priority for the current Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, for you, personally, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, and for many people here in this House and throughout our member states.

It cannot be ignored.

In each of these areas, we have the responsibility to act.

And we do so.

At our Ministerial Session in Helsinki, foreign ministers restated their commitment to our Convention system and the primary role of human rights in international law.

And discussions on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights restarted in November, will continue in the coming days, and are expected to result in a first formal round of negotiations in the near future.

This is an important demonstration of will on both the Council of Europe and European Union sides:

Paving the way to greater coherence in the protection of European human rights:

And marking closer co-operation between this and other international organisations, which I have been clear is a priority for me.

There still exists in Europe the will to overcome populist politics and to ensure a functioning, multilateral system that upholds peoples’ rights.

I am determined that, together, we will sail with that wind.

Within member states themselves, we are working hard to help governments overcome the problems they face.

On corruption and poor public administration, we have a range of tools that raise standards, including work by our anti-corruption body GRECO, the Sibenik Network of corruption prevention authorities that operates across borders, and tailor-made joint action plans, funded by record levels of voluntary contributions from member states, often accompanied by national field offices.

When it comes to the independence of the judiciary, we have Strasbourg Court judgments, the Venice Commission, the Consultative Councils of European Judges and Prosecutors, GRECO, and the Commissioner for Human Rights:

All of these identify shortcomings in national judiciaries and proposed reforms, and point the way to overcoming them in line with European standards.

This continues, as does the important attention paid to these matters by the Parliamentary Assembly, as clearly demonstrated by your debate yesterday.

Regarding the media, I have been clear that freedom of expression is also a priority for me.

This right is a cornerstone of a democratic and pluralistic society and, as the Strasbourg Court has confirmed, the media has a unique role to play as a watchdog.

I deplore what concurring reports confirm – and what the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists has also found:

Namely, that violent attacks on journalists and media actors continue to rise in number, often with impunity, and spreading a chilling effect throughout the profession.

Last month, I met all of the Platform’s partner organisations and it is my intention to raise relevant issues with the Committee of Ministers – the CM – on a regular basis.

But this is an area in which all bodies of our Organisation have an important role to play.

Again, the Parliamentary Assembly’s vigilance is vital, and I know that you debated your own report on this subject yesterday.

The CM is clear on the urgency of the issue and will hold a ministerial conference in May that should provide impetus for more work.

And, crucially, we must all continue to help member states apply Article 10 of the European Convention and the case law of the Strasbourg Court, so that their media environments are free to prosper.

On hate speech, ours is the first and only intergovernmental organisation to adopt an official definition of the problem.

And charters, guidelines and recommendations have been issued by all three of the CM, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly to prevent and mitigate its impact, as well as support its victims –

In addition, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published a 2015 General Policy Recommendation on combating hate speech, which is designed to help national authorities to tackle this problem, online and offline alike.

And given the ever-growing prominence of social media in our societies – and the vitriol that is applied there – it is more and more important that these tools are put to use.

Discrimination against minorities also remains a problem that we equip member states to address.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, for example, seeks to preserve and develop culture, religion, language and traditions.

And the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages provides important protection for minority language speakers specifically.

On these issues the Venice Commission has remained active and continues to issue opinions.

These should be followed.

Because Europe’s minorities must be able to live in security, and with opportunities equal to others who live alongside them.

And it is by following the law, and upholding rights, that member states can prevent the anguish that can so easily spread where minorities feel under threat.

Et la menace reste encore le lot quotidien de millions de femmes en Europe.

Notre Convention d’Istanbul sur la prévention et la lutte contre la violence à l’égard des femmes et la violence domestique est conçue pour rompre ce cycle.

Elle fait obligation à ses États parties de prendre des mesures pour prévenir la violence à l’égard des femmes, protéger les victimes et poursuivre les auteurs de cette violence.

Des idées fausses ou trompeuses sont répandues pour saper le soutien à la Convention d’Istanbul.

Mais nos récents travaux destinés à mieux éclairer le débat, des analyses juridiques émanant notamment de la Commission de Venise et, surtout, l’expérience des 34 États membres qui ont ratifié le traité contribuent à dissiper les idées reçues et les inquiétudes.

J’ai eu le plaisir de saluer le mois dernier la décision de la République de Moldova de soumettre cette importante Convention à la ratification parlementaire.

C’est là une avancée positive et j’espère que les progrès vont se poursuivre, afin que davantage de femmes puissent vivre leur vie en toute sécurité.

Depuis ma dernière allocution devant vous en octobre 2019, notre Comité ad hoc sur l’intelligence artificielle a commencé ses travaux.

Il examine actuellement la faisabilité et les éléments potentiels d’un cadre juridique pour le développement, la conception et l’application de l’IA.

Les algorithmes peuvent potentiellement perpétuer des biais ou être vecteurs de discrimination à l’encontre de groupes spécifiques – les femmes, les personnes LGBTI, les minorités religieuses et ethniques – et avoir un impact disproportionné aussi sur les travaux des minorités.

A mesure que nous progressons, nous devons veiller à ce que cette technologie n’affaiblisse pas nos normes communes mais au contraire les soutienne.

J’attends donc avec grand intérêt les propositions que le Comité ad hoc va formuler dans les mois qui viennent.

Nous avançons également sur le problème de la traite à des fins d’exploitation par le travail.

En novembre, j’ai publié une feuille de route pour la marche à suivre.

Notre Groupe d’experts sur la lutte contre la traite des êtres humains, le GRETA, prépare actuellement un recueil de bonnes pratiques et rédige une note d’orientation.

La version finale de ces documents sera présentée à la session plénière du GRETA en juillet.

Sur cette base, le Comité des Ministres pourra formuler une recommandation aux États membres.

Dans cette perspective, les travaux de l’Assemblée sur cette question viendront bien entendu enrichir ce processus.

En effet, grâce à notre entreprise commune, nous sommes les mieux placés pour éradiquer cette infâmie qu’est le commerce des êtres humains dans l’Europe du vingt-et-unième siècle.

En matière de droits sociaux aussi, nous progressons.

Notre Comité directeur pour les droits de l’homme a mené une analyse du cadre juridique existant et identifié des bonnes pratiques et des propositions au niveau national.

De leur côté, les gouvernements réfléchissent actuellement à de possibles mesures supplémentaires pour améliorer la protection des droits sociaux et le fonctionnement du système de la Charte sociale européenne.

Pour ce qui est de l’environnement, nous devons à juste titre nous demander si nous pouvons faire mieux et comment.

Le Conseil de l’Europe ne dispose pas actuellement d’un instrument complet et juridiquement contraignant pour la protection de l’environnement.

Certes, la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme protège le droit à la vie ainsi que le droit à la vie privée et à la vie de famille – y inclus le domicile.

La Charte sociale européenne garantit quant à elle le droit à la protection de la santé.

Dans une décision rendue le mois dernier et qui fera jurisprudence, la Cour suprême néerlandaise a confirmé que l’État a une obligation de réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre.

Elle a fondé sa décision sur la Convention.

A ces textes viennent s’ajouter d’autres traités liés à l’environnement, notamment la Convention relative à la conservation de la vie sauvage et du milieu naturel en Europe et la Convention européenne du paysage.

C’est pourquoi j’attends avec intérêt de la conférence à haut niveau sur la protection de l’environnement et les droits de l’homme, qui sera organisée en février par la présidence géorgienne du CM, qu’elle nous apporte de nouvelles réflexions et idées sur ce que pourrait être notre rôle à l’avenir et la manière dont nous pourrions travailler avec d’autres organisations internationales.

Nos comités intergouvernementaux posent à juste titre les mêmes questions.

Chers membres de l’Assemblée parlementaire, cette liste est déjà très longue.

Elle est loin cependant d’être exhaustive.

En effet, si nos droits sont clairs, nos sociétés changent, de nouveaux défis se font jour, et nous devons être là pour défendre les normes auxquelles nous croyons, et qui sont inscrites dans le droit.

Toutefois, pour s’acquitter efficacement de cette mission – pour améliorer notre capacité d’action en cette époque complexe -, notre Organisation se doit d’être à la hauteur de ces objectifs.

Je suis heureuse qu’en novembre dernier, le Comité des Ministres ait accepté ma proposition pour un Programme et Budget basé sur une croissance réelle zéro.

Cette décision met fin à la pratique des coupes en termes réels opérées chaque année dans le budget du Conseil de l’Europe, y compris dans celui de l’Assemblée parlementaire.

Cette décision constitue une avancée importante sur la voie de la stabilisation du financement de l’Organisation, ce qui nous permettra de préserver notre capacité à nous acquitter de notre mandat qui est si important.

Le CM a pris cette décision en indiquant clairement que nous devrions entreprendre des réformes supplémentaires.

Et j’ai fait clairement part aux délégations de mon engagement à effectuer des changements qui amélioreront notre efficacité et notre efficience.

Je me réjouis donc d’avance que les ambassadeurs puissent approfondir leurs idées à l’occasion de la retraite à laquelle je les ai conviés le mois prochain.

Nous y débattrons entre autres des priorités que nous devrions fixer dans un cadre stratégique à plus long terme.

Tout ceci nourrira ma réflexion pour des propositions spécifiques que je présenterai en temps voulu.

J’entends que ces propositions portent leurs fruits, tout comme le processus de réforme de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme, qui a pris dix ans, a porté les siens.

Outre une simplification des processus et la forte réduction du volume d’affaires en souffrance, qu’il convient de saluer, on constate également une augmentation du nombre d’arrêts exécutés sous la surveillance du Comité des Ministres.

Les gouvernements évaluent à présent l’efficacité de ce « processus d’Interlaken » pour voir s’il convient de procéder à d’autres changements.

Nous avons là un processus qui a, jusqu’ici, produit indubitablement des effets.

Il est un exemple de ce que nous pouvons réaliser lorsque les différents pans de l’Organisation tirent tous dans le même sens.

Ceci est très important.

Pour que le Conseil de l’Europe conserve sa cohérence, sa crédibilité et sa réputation, nous devons exploiter les différents rôles et compétences de nos organes statutaires pour les mettre au service de nos objectifs partagés :

un Conseil de l’Europe auquel chaque État membre participe pleinement, et avec les mêmes obligations, afin de garantir l’égalité dans l’application de nos normes communes des droits de l’homme, de la démocratie et de l’État de droit, sur tout notre continent et dans l’intérêt de tous ceux qui y vivent.

Il est encourageant pour moi de voir l’esprit positif avec lequel le Comité des Ministres et l’Assemblée parlementaire se sont unis pour travailler à un mécanisme commun avec le ou la Secrétaire Général(e), qui pourra être déclenché en cas de violation grave du Statut par un État membre.

Cette mesure ne saurait être mise en œuvre à la légère, mais il ne faudra pas non plus hésiter à y recourir si des circonstances extraordinaires l’exigent.

Ce mécanisme devra être activé à bon escient et de manière équitable.

Ces quatre derniers mois, j’ai travaillé avec de nombreuses personnes dans toute l’Organisation.

J’ai été impressionnée autant qu’inspirée par leur engagement.

Dans les mois et les années qui viennent, je sais que je vais travailler avec encore bien d’autres interlocuteurs, y compris un certain nombre d’entre vous dans cet hémicycle.

C’est pour moi un privilège que d’avoir l’occasion de vous réunir pour partager nos idées et nos capacités, et pour aller de l’avant.

Car c’est en travaillant ensemble, et en conjuguant nos talents, que nous pouvons contribuer le plus à garantir aux peuples européens – à tous les peuples de notre continent – l’avenir qu’ils méritent,

un avenir où la paix et la sécurité reposent sur les droits fondamentaux qui sont les nôtres, des droits protégés par nos textes et systèmes juridiques.

J’ai hâte que nous commencions à y travailler ensemble, et toutes les questions que vous voudrez bien me poser sont les bienvenues.



Georgian PM met with Marija Pejčinović Burić

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 10:27

Priorities of Chairmanship to be assumed by Georgia at the Council of Europe were among the key topics of discussion by and between Giorgi Gakharia, Prime Minister of Georgia and Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe today.

It was noted that priorities of Georgia are based on democracy, human rights and rule of law in the capacity of the next Chairman of the Council of Europe.

Meeting held at the Government Administration included discussion of topics related to bilateral cooperation between Georgia and Council of Europe, along with the Action Plan for 2020-2023, which covers projects implemented by Georgia together with the Council of Europe in the referred years.

As Prime Minister’s Press Office stated, the focus was made on the significantly positive role of the Action Plans existed so far in the process of democratic reforms implemented in the country. Parties expressed hope that the future programs will have specific, tangible results as well.

Discussions held at the meeting were related to the current condition observed at the occupied territories and along the occupation line. Process related to the referred issue within the Council of Europe was also reviewed. Prime Minister of Georgia expressed gratitude to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for the solid support of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.

Georgia will take over the chairmanship of Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers for a six-month term starting November 27. The Secretary General of the CoE Marija Pejčinović Burić has arrived in Georgia in connection with Georgia’s upcoming chairmanship.

Presentation of the coin issued in connection with the 70th anniversary of the CoE and the 20th jubilee of Georgia’s CoE membership as well as the action plan of Georgia in the Council of Europe for 2020-2023 will be held within the framework of the visit.

The plan was prepared with active cooperation of the Georgian side and aims at bringing human rights protection, democracy and supremacy of law in line with the European standards.

This is the first time when Georgia heads Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.

The chairmanship will be passed from France to Georgia in Strasbourg.

The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe (CoE) arrives in Georgia

Published in Politics
Monday, 11 November 2019 10:59

The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe(CoE) Marija Pejčinović Burić has already arrived in Georgia.

According to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the visit is linked to Georgia’s forthcoming chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in the CoE.

Marija Pejčinović Burić will hold a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani. Talks will be held about bilateral cooperation related issues and future plans.

Presentation of the coin issued in connection with the 70th anniversary of the CoE and the 20th jubilee of Georgia’s CoE membership as well as the action plan of Georgia in the Council of Europe for 2020-2023 will be held within the framework of the visit.

The plan was prepared with active cooperation of the Georgian side and aims at bringing human rights protection, democracy and supremacy of law in line with the European standards.

Secretary-General of the Council of Europe will also hold meetings with Georgia’s Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, and Head of the Georgian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

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