“I call on my parliamentary colleagues in Poland not to enact – precipitously – legislation relating to the Constitutional Tribunal which may seriously undermine the Rule of Law,” said Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
She added: “To propose far-reaching restrictions of the powers of a judicial institution, whose independence is constitutionally guaranteed, is a matter which merits in-depth reflection.”
Rapporteurs deeply concerned about law that allows Russia to ignore decisions of the ECHR.
Theodora Bakoyannis (Greece, EPP/CD) and Liliane Maury Pasquier (Switzerland, SOC), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for Russia, expressed their deep concern about the signing into force by President Putin of the law that would allow the Constitutional Court of Russia to decide not to implement judgments and decisions by, inter alia, the European Court of Human Rights.
“The full implementation of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights is a stringent obligation on all members of the Council of Europe. It is now up to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to ensure that this obligation is honoured unconditionally. Any deviation of that principle would be unacceptable,” the co-rapporteurs stated.
"At last the UN Security Council has the Syrian patient on the operating table" Ms Brasseur said, "and now it has to work out the cure to save the country."
"Syria has become a global problem because of terrorism, because of international involvement in the conflict, because of the waves of refugees and because of the scope of humanitarian suffering," Ms Brasseur said, "for which only a global solution can be found. The UN Security Council Resolution is now a good start to finding a solution."
“We need fresh solutions in order to deal with the current migration and refugee crisis and develop a roadmap for future action by our parliaments and institutions, whilst bearing in mind the need to avoid equating migrants with terrorists”. With these words, the Chair of the PACE Committee on Migration, Thierry Mariani, opened the conference “A comprehensive humanitarian and political response to the migration and refugee crisis in Europe” in Paris this morning.
“The challenge is not only to address the immediate problems. Long-term solutions need to be found as well. The main question is how to ensure and establish security and respect for human rights in the countries of origin so as to avoid further massive influxes in the future,” said Mr Mariani.
The conference is focusing firstly on short- and medium-term concerns and potential solutions for dealing with the largest movement of refugees and migrants Europe has seen in decades, and secondly on long-term solutions and co-operation with countries of origin and first asylum.
Jacques Attali (France) and Guy Goodwin-Gill (United Kingdom) are acting as moderators for the debates, which are being attended by the chairs and members of the relevant committees of national parliaments, both members and non-members of the Parliamentary Assembly, including those of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Poland, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey.
The conclusions of the conference will be published and used by the Assembly in its future work in this area.
International co-operation and intelligence sharing are essential if the activities of organised criminal groups related to migration are to be combated effectively, according to the PACE Migration Committee. Innovative, holistic responses should “target all potentially vulnerable aspects of these group’s business models, including money laundering, corruption of public officials and abuse of the internet”.
Adopting unanimously a report prepared by Irakli Chikovani (Georgia, ALDE), the Committee said that the aim must be to use all possible means to transform migrant smuggling, and the various offences often associated with it, “from low-risk, high-return to high-risk, low-return activities”.
The committee calls on member states to ratify and implement the various UN and Council of Europe conventions against migrant smuggling and money laundering. For its part, the European Union and its member states should fully implement the Action Plan against migrant smuggling.
Governments should also develop and effectively apply a full range of investigative and prosecutorial techniques against migrant smugglers. The competent authorities, the adopted text underlines, should be “entitled to seize, confiscate and forensically examine instrumentalities used in smuggling offences” and make more extensive use of interception of communications, in accordance with the safeguards set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Jurisdiction for offences occurring in the course of smuggling of migrants onto national territory should be extended, “even when ostensibly committed outside it”.
In the committee’s opinion, efforts to combat migrant smuggling should also address the root causes of forced migration that drive migrants into the hands of migrant smugglers. “Adequate and effective resettlement programmes for refugees and safe and legal channels for migration should also be introduced in order to reduce recourse to migrant smugglers”, the parliamentarians stressed.
“The year may be reaching an end but the human rights challenges and our responsibility to speak out about them continue”, President Anne Brasseur said, highlighting four issues discussed in the PACE Bureau meeting that took place in London today.
“The refugee crisis in Europe is not going away and we continue to do too little too late. With the arrival of winter we must not lose sight of the individuals behind the numbers of people arriving and moving around Europe as they seek asylum. We have a duty to help these people, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is an international obligation. As Europeans we have to stop defending our corners and come out and act in solidarity to deal with this humanitarian challenge. The longer we wait to find solutions, the more suffering there will be, and the more challenging and expensive it will become for our societies”, Ms Brasseur said.
PACE President reiterated her call on the Azerbaijani authorities to release Ilgar Mammadov. “Last week, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe examined the execution of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights by the member states, concluding once again that the Azerbaijani authorities have persistently failed to comply with the Court ruling on the Ilgar Mammadov case. Mr Mammadov should be immediately released from prison. All main Council of Europe bodies are waiting for the Azeri authorities to comply with their international obligations in this case and to bring to an end the undemocratic crackdown against critical civil society,” she added.
As a third point, Ms Brasseur expressed concern about the conflict developing over the Constitutional Court in Poland. “In the mechanics of democracy, these Courts are one of the essential moving parts. Developments in Poland where the new Parliament has removed judges and voted in new ones, not only at alarming speed, but also with little regard to written procedures, is more than worrying,” Ms Brasseur stated.
As a fourth and final point, PACE President expressed deep concerns over the recent decision of the entity of Republika Srpska to suspend cooperation with the state-level law authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Challenging the jurisdiction of the state-level police and judiciary goes against the constitutional obligations of the entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and violates the principle of the rule of law. Furthermore it does not help in establishing and safeguarding the climate of reconciliation and cooperation indispensable for the country’s democratic progress. I call on the authorities of the entity of the Republika Srpska to engage in a responsible and constructive dialogue with all relevant parties.”
Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), will have high-level meetings in London on 14-15 December 2015, with the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Minister of State for Europe, and the Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.
Meetings are also scheduled with Chairpersons of various parliamentary committees.
Discussions will focus, in particular, on the fight against intolerance and extremism, migration, human rights reforms in the United Kingdom, parliamentary follow-up to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and other current political challenges.
“Human rights should not be sacrificed on the altar of the fight against terrorism” - PACE President saysThursday, 10 December 2015 16:56
On the occasion of Human Rights Day, Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), declared:
“On Human Rights Day, political leaders and parliamentarians should take a step back from the political turmoil and look at the world through the prism of human rights. The Council of Europe works tirelessly to uphold and protect human rights. Since the founding fathers imagined and then created the Council of Europe, much has been accomplished building on the centerpiece of European human rights protection, the European Convention on Human Rights and its Court. However, upholding, protecting and promoting Human Rights is not just a full-time job, it is 24 hour duty and responsibility. Human Rights are violated or threatened every day and sometimes we may feel helpless in the face of the challenges, be they Syria, the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, conflicts amongst our own member states, the rise of hate and xenophobia or terrorism.
Combatting terrorism as one of the numerous challenges. It brutally attacks all our freedoms. It attacks freedom of speech by targeting and trying to muzzle free media. It attacks freedom of religion by abusing and hijacking religious beliefs. Terrorism also attacks freedom of movement, it attacks the economy and people’s livelihood, and it takes life indiscriminately. Facing such great threats, we have to be even more watchful not to sacrifice human rights and fundamental freedoms. The temptation is strong to try and reassure our citizens by resorting to greater security measures, sometimes at the cost of the rights and freedoms of each and every one of us. We have to be honest and clear: there is no free society without threats to security. Human rights should not be sacrificed on the altar of the fight against terrorism – this is precisely what the terrorists want! We must not give this to them.”
Adopting a report on the protection and role of human rights defenders, the Legal Affairs Committee has expressed deep concern about increased reprisals against them in certain Council of Europe member states, including Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Turkey. It also voiced particular concern about the situation in annexed Crimea and other territories outside states’ control.
“Too many human rights defenders are paying a high price for their work and their fate should receive much greater attention from the Council of Europe’s institutions and member states”, said the rapporteur, Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE).
Condemning acts of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders, the committee called on member states to refrain from any physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and judicial or administrative harassment. Instead, they should ensure an enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders, afford them effective protection and conduct effective investigations into any attacks on them, including murders, abductions and torture.
The committee also urges member states to refrain from adopting laws that impose disproportionate restrictions on human rights defenders’ activities and on their access to funding, including foreign funding.
Lastly, in a draft recommendation, the committee calls on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to establish a platform, such as that created for journalists, for the protection of human rights defenders. The committee also recommends that the Committee of Ministers should report regularly, and at least once a year, to the PACE on cases of intimidation of human rights defenders co-operating with Council of Europe bodies, and in particular, lawyers representing applicants before the European Court of Human Rights and representatives of civil society co-operating with the Commissioner for Human Rights and monitoring bodies.
A cross-party delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was present in Armenia from 4 to 7 December 2015 to observe the referendum on constitutional reforms which took place on 6 December and led to a new constitution. After a somewhat low-key campaign with little public debate and a calm referendum day, according to preliminary results, around 64% of those who participated voted did so in favour of the changes thus meeting the quorum of 25% of the registered voters needed to approve the changes.
The relatively low turn-out, around 50% of the population, reflects the fact that the referendum was driven by political interests instead of the needs of the Armenian public and was perceived by many citizens as a vote of confidence in the government rather than on the many proposals for change. The two-and-a-half-year reform process was not inclusive enough, the parliament having only a few weeks to discuss the text and public debate being limited to two months, making it difficult for an agreement to be reached.
Thus, the core of the constitutional change - the shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system - was understood by too many citizens as being a means for the current president to remain in power after the end of his second (and what would have been final) term.
Concerning the voting process, the delegation regrets that the authorities were not more concerned by the integrity of the process leading to a new constitution and that it must mention several problems, many of them already mentioned in previous PACE and Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR recommendations:
· the inaccuracy of the voting lists containing the names of many people residing permanently abroad or even deceased, leading to claims that these identities were usurped by people who then voted several times;
· allegations of large-scale organized vote buying and carousel voting as well as pressure on voters;
· the media playing field was once again not a level one and the political parties were not able to fulfil their duties of informing and motivating the public;
· the misuse of administrative resources by executive bodies;
· allegations of pressure on, and attempts to corrupt, election officials;
· shortcomings in the training of precinct election officials, particularly during counting;
· the lack of mobile voting effectively excluded disabled citizens from the process.
The delegation urges the authorities to address these issues in order to build trust in the voting process and in politics in general to ensure a genuinely democratic future for Armenia.
While in Armenia, the delegation met leaders and representatives of parliamentary groups and parties, the Chairperson of the CEC, representatives of civil society and the media as well as OSCE/ODIHR experts.