Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2014)5 23 June 2014



Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(April-June 2014)



Table of Content

Introduction
1. Situation in Ukraine
2. Human rights
    a. European Convention on Human Rights
    b. Execution of judgments
    c. Other questions concerning human rights
3. Rule of law and judicial co-operation
4. Education, culture, youth and sport
5. Specific co-operation
6. Co-operation with other organisations and external relations

 

Introduction

1. Thirteen years after joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan is proud to have taken over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 14 May 2014. Over the next six months, the Azerbaijani Chairmanship will devote itself to pursuing the Council of Europe’s aims, focusing on the three pillars of the Organisation, namely human rights, the rule of law and democracy. It intends to work in close co-operation with the member states and the various Council of Europe bodies, particularly the Parliamentary Assembly.

2. The priorities of the Azerbaijani Chairmanship, which will be presented by Mr M. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Chair of the Committee of Ministers, to the Parliamentary Assembly on 23 June, have been set with due regard for the topical issues currently on the Council of Europe’s agenda and the challenges facing the member states. The priorities will focus on four main points: (i) strengthening the rule of law through enhanced co-operation in combating corruption, (ii) consolidation of culturally diverse societies based on mutual respect and understanding, (iii) social cohesion and social sustainability and (iv) youth education in human rights and democratic citizenship.

3. An important stage in the work of the Committee of Ministers during the forthcoming period will concern the follow-up to be given to the report on the “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe” presented by the Secretary General during the Session of the Committee of Ministers in Vienna on 6 May. The Ministers’ Deputies will hold a thematic debate on this subject on 3 July next.

1. Situation in Ukraine

4. The situation in Ukraine has continued to retain the Committee of Ministers’ full attention since the last Parliamentary Assembly session. It was the particular focus of discussions at the Ministerial Session in Vienna on 6 May 2014. The interim reply which the Committee of Ministers adopted at the end of May to Recommendation 2035 (2014) of the Parliamentary Assembly on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine” refers to the Chair’s conclusions following these discussions and all the decisions which the Committee has adopted on the subject over the last few months.

2. Human rights

a. European Convention on Human Rights

5. In April, in the context of the follow-up to the Brighton Declaration, the Committee of Ministers took note of a report by the European Court of Human Rights on interim measures indicated under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court and of the downward trend as regards the number of interim measures requested and granted. It welcomed the measures taken by the Court to increase the efficiency of its system for the management and processing of these requests, in particular the introduction of a centralised procedure for the handling of requests and the priority treatment given to such requests. The Committee also welcomed the Court’s strengthened dialogue with respondent governments on interim measures and encouraged it to continue to pursue this dialogue and reiterated their call on States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights to comply with indications of interim measures made under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.

6. At the Ministerial Session in Vienna in May, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the measures taken by the various stakeholders since its previous Session to implement the Brighton Declaration and welcomed, in particular, the additional measures taken by the Court to increase the effectiveness of its work following the entry into force of Protocol No. 14, resulting in a substantial decrease in the number of pending cases. The Committee noted, however, that the backlog of admissible and potentially well-founded cases pending before the Court remains a serious challenge. While welcoming the continued measures taken by States Parties to the Convention to implement it at the domestic level and to fully execute the Court’s judgments, it encouraged them to continue and to intensify their efforts in this regard, giving particular attention to structural and systemic problems generating repetitive applications to the Court. The Committee also reiterated its commitment to ensure effective and transparent supervision of the execution of the Court’s judgments and instructed its Deputies to continue to give priority consideration to this matter in order to make substantial further progress in this respect. Finally, it called on the States Parties to the Convention to sign and ratify Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention as soon as possible and to consider signing and ratifying the optional Protocol No. 16 to the Convention.

7. In June, the Committee of Ministers, in accordance with paragraph 3 of Resolution CM/Res(2010)26 on the establishment of an Advisory Panel of Experts on Candidates for Election as Judge to the European Court of Human Rights, appointed six personalities to sit on the Panel for a full term ending on 30 June 2017.

b. Execution of judgments

Supervision of the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

8. The Ministers' Deputies held their 1201st meeting (DH) in June 2014. They decided to close the examination of 30 decisions and judgments of the Court.

9. In the Mahmudov and Agazade group of cases against Azerbaijan, the Deputies underlined the recent developments which revealed continuing serious problems in the enjoyment of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. While taking note of the commitment of the authorities to introduce in early 2015 the legislation reducing the scope of criminal defamation, the Deputies expressed concern at this delay and called for the immediate resumption of co-operation with the Secretariat of the Department of Execution of judgments and the Venice Commission. They further urged the authorities to enhance rapidly their efforts to overcome the problem of arbitrary application of other criminal legislation which unjustifiably limited freedom of expression. In the absence of tangible information, they instructed the Secretariat to prepare a draft interim resolution for consideration at their DH meeting in September 2014.

10. In the Bekir-Ousta and others group of case against Greece, concerning violations of the applicants’ right to freedom of association, the Deputies adopted Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2014)84, calling upon the Greek authorities to take, without any further delay, all necessary measures to allow a new examination of the applicants’ complaints about the refusal to register their association or about the dissolution of the association, in proceedings complying with the Convention requirements, and in the light of the Court’s case-law. The Deputies called further upon the authorities to provide, without any further delay, tangible information on the measures taken or envisaged, accompanied by an indicative calendar for their adoption, to achieve these goals.

11. In the case of Catan against the Russian Federation, the Deputies expressed their deep concern about the reports of continuing violations of the applicants’ right to education, by acts of intimidation and pressure affecting the functioning of the Latin script schools in the Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova. They noted, also with great concern that the Russian authorities had still not provided any information on the individual or general measures taken or envisaged to give effect to the Court’s judgment, including on the payment of the just satisfaction awarded by the Court to the applicants. The Deputies decided to resume consideration of this case at their DH meeting in September 2014, and, in the absence of requested information from the Russian authorities, instructed the Secretariat to prepare a draft interim resolution.

12. The Deputies pursued their consideration of the case of Cyprus against Turkey. With a view to facilitating their supervision of the execution of this judgment, they instructed the Secretariat to present a general stock-taking of the execution of the different violations established by the Court in this principle judgment, as well as an analysis of the impact of the Cyprus v. Turkey judgment of the 12 May 2014 on just satisfaction, in good time for examination during the 1214th meeting (December 2014) (DH). They also agreed to decide at that meeting in December, in the light of this examination, on the order and the calendar for the examination of the three clusters of the principal judgment concerning missing persons, the property rights of enclaved persons and the property rights of displaced persons.

13. The Deputies resumed their consideration of the McKerr group of cases against the United Kingdom, concerning investigations into the deaths of the applicants’ next-of-kin in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. They expressed serious concerns regarding the outstanding individual measures and about the legacy inquest delays, highlighted in two recent judgments. They strongly urged the authorities to ensure the conclusion, as soon as possible, of the investigations in the cases of McKerr, Shanaghan, Jordan and Kelly and Others, and McCaughey and Others. The Deputies noted with interest the general measures envisaged, in particular the proposal to create a single, investigative mechanism. They noted the efforts being made, in the meantime, to improve the current system but considered that further measures might be needed and decided to review the progress made in these cases at their DH meeting in September 2015, at the latest.

c. Other questions concerning human rights

14. At its regular discussion on the abolition of the death penalty, in April, the Committee of Ministers reaffirmed its unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all places and in all circumstances, and reiterated the objective to create a death penalty-free zone in Europe. It also reiterated its strong and urgent call on the Russian Federation, as the only member State which has not yet abolished the death penalty, to take without delay all the necessary steps to transform the existing moratorium on the death penalty into de jure abolition of the death penalty and to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

15. The Committee further recalled its Declaration of 22 January 2014 appealing for sentences recently handed down in Belarus to be commuted, reiterated its deep concern at the fact that death sentences were pronounced in four cases in Belarus in 2013 and called on Belarus’ authorities to guarantee full access to all available legal means in accordance with international standards of the rule of law and to refrain from executing these sentences. The Committee of Ministers reiterated its strong call on all authorities of Belarus to establish without delay a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty and expressed its readiness to provide the authorities with the assistance they may need to that effect, including in the framework of the Council of Europe activities for Belarus 2014-2015 and also in co-operation with the Council of Europe Information Point in Minsk.

16. Later in April, the Committee of Ministers deeply regretted the execution of Mr Pavel Selyun, who was one of the four persons sentenced to death by the Belarusian authorities in 2013, and strongly urged Belarus to establish a formal moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty.

17. In a second declaration concerning Belarus adopted in May, the Committee of Ministers expressed its deep regret over the execution of Mr Hryhory Yuzepchuk.

18. On the same occasion, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration in which it expressed its concern for the exceptional circumstances surrounding the execution of Mr Clayton Locket in Oklahoma. Recalling a number of recent developments in the United States of America, the Committee urged that country, as an Observer State to the Council of Europe, to end completely this inhuman practice with the establishment of a moratorium on the use of death penalty as a first step towards its total abolition.

19. The Committee of Ministers has adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 2030 (2013) on “Violence against women in Europe” and 2024 (2013) on “National security and access to information”.

20. In April, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

21. It also adopted a Declaration on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors in which it urged member States to fulfil their positive obligations to protect journalists and other media actors from any form of attack and to end impunity in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and in the light of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

22. The Committee finally adopted a Guide to human rights for Internet users to help them better understand their human rights online and what they can do when these rights are challenged. The Guide is based on the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, and on other Council of Europe conventions and legal texts.

3. Rule of law and judicial co-operation

23. In June, the Committee of Ministers held exchanges of views with the chairs of the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI), the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). In this context, it took note of GRECO’s General Activity Report for 2013 and of the Venice Commission’s Annual Report of Activities for 2013.

24. Noting that Kosovo’s* membership of the Venice Commission is without prejudice to the positions of individual Council of Europe member States on the status of Kosovo1 the Committee of Ministers agreed in June to the request by Kosovo* to join the Enlarged Agreement establishing the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and invited Kosovo* to appoint a member to sit on the Commission.

4. Education, culture, youth and sport

25. As part of its Chairmanship, Azerbaijan is paying particular attention to combating discrimination and intolerance in Europe, in particular through intercultural dialogue. The 2014 Council of Europe Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, to be held in Baku on 1 and 2 September, will provide an opportunity for debate involving leading religious and non-religious figures. The theme of “Intercultural dialogue: interaction between culture and religion” will be debated from the angle of three sub-themes, namely “Tolerance of religion and non-religious convictions in culturally diverse societies: a social capital”, “Contribution of religions and non-religious convictions to combating all forms of discrimination, intolerance and violence” and “The contribution of cultural heritage of a religious nature to intercultural dialogue and to the respect of the universal values defended by the Council of Europe.”

26. Azerbaijan sets great store by the completion of the draft Council of Europe Convention against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions with a view to its adoption and opening for signature during its Chairmanship. The relevant rapporteur group of the Committee of Ministers has held an exchange of views on the issue with Mr Kent Härstedt, Assembly Rapporteur, and Mr Harri Syväsalmi, Chair of the convention drafting group. It is continuing to examine the draft convention in the light of Opinion 287 (2014) adopted by the Standing Committee on behalf of the Assembly in Baku on 23 May.

27. Another chapter of the Azerbaijani Chairmanship’s priorities concerns youth education in human rights and democratic citizenship. This objective will be pursued in close association with youth empowerment and enhanced access of youth to their rights. In this context, Azerbaijan will host the 4th regional ministerial meeting on the implementation of the European Higher Education Area in October 2014. Baku will also be the host for the UN Global Forum on Youth Policy on 28-30 October 2014, which will benefit from the institutional support of the Council of Europe.

28. The Azerbaijani Chairmanship will host several other events relating to culture, including a Platform Exchange on Culture and Digitisation at the beginning of July, the 2014 Cultural Routes Advisory Forum and an event related to the Heritage Days, both due to be held in Baku during October, as well as the Youth Forum of the No Hate Speech Movement, to be held in Gabala in October.

5. Specific co-operation

29. As part of the co-operation between the Council of Europe and Georgia, the Committee of Ministers in April approved an assistance programme for the local elections held in the country on 15 June. The assistance mainly concerned the revision and implementation of the legislation governing the elections, capacity building for the Central Election Commission, media coverage of the elections and raising voter awareness of electoral issues.

30. At the end of April, the Committee of Ministers also received the Secretary General’s ninth consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia. In the light of the report, the Committee expressed its concern at continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of those residing within the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the adjacent areas, and reiterated its unequivocal support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The Committee encouraged the Government of Georgia to further strengthen its efforts to reach out to the population of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by enhancing humanitarian activities, and reaffirmed its support for further confidence-building measures. It also urged the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia and to report regularly on the situation.

6. Co-operation with other organisations and external relations

31. As every two years, the United Nations General Assembly is due to adopt in the autumn, at its 69th session, a resolution on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations on the basis of a draft to be prepared by the Committee of Ministers. A draft resolution taking account of the progress in co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations over the past two years and of developments within each of the two organisations over that period is currently being discussed within the Committee of Ministers. The Parliamentary Assembly will be kept informed of progress here.

32. With regard to co-operation with the European Union, the Committee of Ministers took note with satisfaction of the development of the co-operation at the Vienna Ministerial Session, on the basis of a report presented on that occasion.

33. As far as relations with the OSCE are concerned, the relevant Co-ordination Group will meet in Vienna in autumn 2014 to examine co-operation between the two organisations in the areas of combating terrorism and combating human trafficking.

34. Lastly, with regard to the policy of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions, the Committee of Ministers welcomed, at the Vienna Session, the progress made in implementing the policy and expressed its determination to continue developing it on the basis of the Council of Europe’s values. It instructed the Deputies to take the necessary decisions to that end and report back to it at its next Session. It should be noted that a delegation of the Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) visited Tunisia and then Morocco at the end of May to discuss the state of and prospects for co-operation with the authorities and representatives of civil society in the two countries.

1 All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.



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