Strasbourg, 04.02.2021 - The German Federal Government’s Special Representative for the German Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, State Minister Michael Roth, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, have today made the following statement concerning the sentencing of Aleksey Navalnyy:
“We deeply regret the recent decision of a Moscow court to sentence Aleksey Navalnyy to a prison term. This decision is based on a criminal conviction which the European Court of Human Rights, in its Navalnyye v. Russia judgment of 17 October 2017, found to have been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable and, as a consequence, in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party. We call upon the Russian authorities to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
The massive, and partly violent, arrests of protesters and journalists at the recent demonstrations all over Russia are also alarming. We refer to the statement of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner in this regard. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial are fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights must be strictly respected.
We call on the Russian authorities to fully investigate all reported abusive actions against peaceful protesters and journalists, and to bring those responsible to justice, in order to live up to Russia’s obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe.”
The Directorate of Communications of the Council of Europe
The Winter Session is held on January 24-29. It is the first visit of the Parliamentary Delegation in the 10th Term.
The Delegation is composed of Irakli Kobakhidze, Mariam Kvrivishvili, Givi Mikanadze, Irakli Chikovani and Tamar Taliashvili.
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has discussed election report prepared by Tini Kox today and reiterated that the elections were competitive and free in Georgia,” Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, stated on Monday.
According to him, PACE approved the observation mission’s report, including recommendations.
“This recommendation reflects our will. In particular, to check all violations revealed in this election. That’s why we’ve proposed the opposition to set up a parliamentary commission,” GD Chairman said.
Irakli Kobakhidze stresses that the CoE calls on the opposition to engage in parliamentary work. “We hope the opposition will take these statements into account,” he said.
He also echoed the decision on re-electing him as PACE Vice-President. “I am happy to be approved as PACE Vice-President for the second term in a row,” Kobakhidze added.
Strasbourg, 25.01.2021 – Rik Daems, re-elected today for a second one-year term as President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), thanked members for their confidence and welcomed the holding of PACE’s first hybrid plenary session.
In his re-investiture speech, he stressed that while PACE’s savoir faire had brought many positive results throughout 2020 – be it the establishment of red lines not to be crossed during the Covid-19 pandemic, new standards in the field of artificial intelligence or the “trialogue” with the Committee of Ministers – the faire savoir was impossible as members could not meet under normal conditions. “Meeting in person is essential to interconnect, to convince and be convinced and to take on board all perspectives,” he added.
Rik Daems called on members not to ask “what the Council of Europe can do for us”, but “to look at what we can do to uphold the values and therefore contribute to the activities and mission of the Council of Europe.”
“Why are we here? Because we care about fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law,” he stressed, inviting all members “to see PACE as a vehicle for upholding the values we share. Common values are more important than our interests.”
“We, members of this Assembly, care about the fact that people are equal. Being equal is not being the same, this is why we are united in diversity. We care about human rights to be enjoyed by all citizens in all our 47 member States.”
“We care that people are free to enjoy and able to pursue their happiness. We care about the fact that no one should be above the law. This is what the rule of law is all about. Because we think, we care, we need to help people to decide. All members should be on board, this is what democracy is about,” he concluded.
Strasbourg, 24.01.2021 - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will hold its 2021 winter plenary session from January 25 to 28 in a hybrid manner, allowing members to participate remotely or attend in person in Strasbourg.
The Assembly will debate the ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will address parliamentarians in the debate.
There have been requests for three urgent debates on:
- "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021"
- "The worsening situation in Belarus"
- "Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by 'Big Tech' Companies".
Three current affairs debate requests have also been submitted under the titles:
- "Prohibition of Russian and other national minorities languages in Ukraine"
- “Unjustifiable delay in repatriation of the Armenian prisoners of war and other captives by Azerbaijani authorities as violation of the European International Human Rights Standards”
- “The actual human rights situation in temporary occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol during Covid-19 pandemics”.
Other topics on the agenda include ethnic profiling in Europe, restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States, and discrimination against persons dealing with chronic and long-term illnesses.
During the session, the Assembly will elect the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Assembly and the judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Greece and Switzerland. These elections will be held by individual electronic voting.
The European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders will address the members of the Assembly and answer their questions, as will the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas (within the framework of the German presidency of the Committee of Ministers) and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić (who will present her communication).
Debates will also be held on the independence of judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova (with the participation of Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany), and on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Debates on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure and on post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro are foreseen.
A report on parliamentary elections in Georgia will also be discussed. Lastly, the Assembly will determine its position on the modification of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure – follow-up to Resolution 2319 (2020) on the complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations.
/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.
22-25 February, Georgia – The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Anders Knape, will pay an official visit to the country. Accompanied by Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer, the President will meet in Tbilisi with the Mayor Kakha Kaladze, the Deputy Chairman of Parliament Kakhaber Kuchava, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lasha Darsalia, the Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maya Tskitishvili, and the Public Defender Nino Lomjaria. Meetings are also scheduled in Gori with the Mayor of the city and the Governor of Shida Kartli region, as well as with the Georgian Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and with the members of the Georgian delegation to the Congress.
PACE urges Georgian ruling majority to ensure introduction of election system that can have support and trust of all stakeholdersSaturday, 01 February 2020 12:09
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe addresses the Georgian Dream regarding the electoral system.
In a resolution adopted by the Assembly, the organization calls on the ruling party to provide the kind of electoral system before the 2020 elections that that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders.
“The Assembly urges the Georgian ruling majority to ensure the introduction of an election system that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders in time before the 2020 elections; to fully implement all the recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) formulated in the opinion on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges; to promptly implement the fourth wave of reform of the judiciary and for all political forces in the country to work to overcome the continuing polarisation in the political environment”, reads the resolution.
The resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe summarizes the results of monitoring in 10 countries: Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to open a monitoring procedure for Poland over the functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring in a resolution that recent reforms “severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Poland joins ten other Council of Europe member States currently under full monitoring,* which involves regular visits by a pair of PACE rapporteurs, ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and periodic assessments of how far a member State is honouring its Council of Europe obligations and commitments.
In a resolution based on a report by Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC) and Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) - adopted by 140 votes to 37, with 1 abstention – the Assembly said reforms of the judiciary and justice system in Poland “cumulatively undermine and severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” and should be revisited to bring them into line with Council of Europe recommendations.
The parliamentarians said the judicial system was now “vulnerable to political interference and attempts to bring it under the political control of the executive, which challenges the very principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law”.
They urged President Duda not to sign the amendments adopted by the Sejm on 23 January 2020, which they said “further deteriorate the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Poland”, and were at odds with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They called on the authorities to “fully respect the judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 23 January 2020”.
Referring to the crisis over the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Assembly said: “No democratic government that respects the rule of law can selectively ignore court decisions it does not like, especially those of the Constitutional Court. The full and unconditional implementation of all Constitutional Court decisions by the authorities, including with regard to the composition of the Constitutional Court itself, should be the cornerstone of the resolution of the crisis.”
PACE called on the authorities to “revisit the total reform package for the judiciary and amend the relevant legislation and practice in line with Council of Europe recommendations”. In particular it called on the Polish authorities to:
• urgently separate the functions of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General and introduce into the law “sufficient safeguards against abuse and politicisation of the prosecution service”;
• reinstate the direct election, by their peers, of the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary;
• reduce the “excessive and discretionary” new powers of the Justice Minister over the justice system and judiciary;
• address the issue of a possible so-called “extraordinary appeal”, which is of serious concern, and the composition and appointment of the members of the disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers of the Supreme Court;
• set up an independent public inquiry into reports of politically-motivated “smear campaigns” against judges and prosecutors opposed to the reforms.
The Assembly said it “recognises the challenges” faced by the Polish justice system and judiciary, and welcomed the stated priority given by the authorities to address shortcomings – but reiterated that any reforms should be “fully in line with European norms and standards and effectively strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law, and not weaken or undermine them”.
In addition, the Assembly called on all Council of Europe member States to ensure that the courts under their jurisdiction ascertain in all relevant criminal and civil cases - including with regard to European Arrest Warrants - whether fair legal proceedings in Poland, as defined under Article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights, can be guaranteed for the defendants.
* Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine
Georgian Foreign Minister: Situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, process of annexation and occupation continuesTuesday, 28 January 2020 14:52
The situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, unfortunately, the actual process of annexation and occupation continues, – Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani answered questions of the members of the PACE after delivering a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.
“Installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers is in progress. Even when we speak now, the process is going on. I would like to recall the recent case of kidnapping and illegal detention of the doctor, who was visiting a patient on the occupation line, which was outrageous fact. The only instrument we have is consolidation of the international community, and that we are doing constantly, with your support, through different instruments and frameworks”, – Minister said.
According to the Georgian Foreign Minister, the pressure should be increased on the force exercising control over the occupied territories.
“The issue of access to the occupied territories is another important challenge that we also have to deal with on a daily basis. The recent case that took place in the Akhalgori district of the Tskhinvali region was the violation of the fundamental principles of international law – freedom of movement. We face this challenge in both occupied regions of Georgia – in Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali regions. In Gali district of Abkhazia, ethnic Georgians are forced to abandon Georgian citizenship. They have no access to get an education in their native language, they are denied to get immediate medical treatment, they have no access to their agricultural lands, and this is happening in the twenty-first century, which is unacceptable. This should be discussed very carefully in all international formats. I’ve mentioned that only instrument is a constant raise of that issue and drawing the attention of the international community. We should not turn a blind eye on these illegal activities, otherwise, it will encourage the occupation force, the Russian Federation, to continue all these illegal activities”, – Davit Zalkaliani said.
Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.
The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.
Debates on the agenda include a complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations, the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, and reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.
The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.
A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.
Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg