European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights (Rome, 3-4 November 2000)

Ministers' Deputies
Notes on the Agenda

CM/Notes/735/4.5 Addendum (Restricted) 9 January 2001

735 Meeting, 20 December 2000
4 Human rights

4.5 European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights (Rome, 3-4 November 2000)
Report of the Secretary General

Reference documents
CM(2000)172 Part I, II and Addendum Revised


The Deputies are invited examine, with a view to its adoption, the appended additional decision.


By letter dated 5 January 2001, the Italian Delegation presented to the Secretariat a revised version of its proposal to update the European Convention on Human Rights and indicated its intention of inviting the Deputies to ask the CDDH to consider the advisability and feasibility of such a proposal.  The letter and enclosure are appended to this addendum.






Permanent Representation of Italy

to the Council of Europe



Strasbourg, 5 January 2001








In the course of the six-month period ending on 4 November 2000, the Italian Presidency proposed to give the CDDH terms of reference to study the possible steps needed to update the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols.


At their 726th meeting (18 October 2000) and following a preliminary exchange of views (during which the interest for the Italian proposal was underlined several times), the Deputies decided to resume consideration of this item in the light of the Rome Ministerial Conference on Human Rights which was held on 3 and 4 November 2000.


Following this decision, the Italian Delegation submitted its proposal to the GT-Rome-Suivi which did not agree it.  Therefore, this proposal did not appear in the draft decision submitted to the Deputies at their 735th meeting and which will be considered again next Wednesday.


I would therefore be very grateful if this proposal could be included on the agenda of the next meeting of the Deputies in the form of an Addendum to the draft decision under item 4.3. Indeed, I feel that the study of the possibilities of updating the Convention – which is directly in line with the spirit of the commitment to improving human rights protection inspired by the Rome Conference – should be added to the terms of reference given to the CDDH in the context of the follow-up to this Conference (see letter d of the draft decisions).


To this end, I therefore sent a new version of the Italian proposal, revised in order to take into account the changes made in the European context as well as the result of the informal consultation with the Directorate of Human Rights.


Yours faithfully,



Chargé d'Affaires a.i.

(signed Sergio La Tella)






(Revised proposal by the Italian Chair)


            The precepts of the European Convention on Human Rights, which were laid down long ago as a means of protecting democratic societies from their governments' authoritarian excesses, are now increasingly under threat from entirely new dangers.  Some stem from technological progress or the emergence and consolidation of new power bases or pressure groups – in short, from within society itself just as much as from the public authorities.  Others result from action which the public authorities are compelled to take on account of new constraints, highlighting the need for a balance – often difficult to achieve – between protecting the interests of an increasingly complex society and respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups.  In this way, the state is gradually losing its role as the main, if not only, and in a sense “natural” opponent of individuals and their rights, subject only to the obligation of non-interference, in favour of a more active role entailing a widening range of positive obligations and the preservation of the balance between the fundamental rights of different interest groups, which alternately threaten and are threatened by one another.  In preserving this balance, the state is expected to exercise the discretion to which it is entitled, under the supervision of the European Court of Human Rights.


            This change in the political, legal and social climate in Europe is reflected by the case-law of the Court, as it strives to pursue a “living” interpretation of the precepts of the Convention and its protocols, gearing their application to the new social context.  No praise is high enough for such a progressive approach; nevertheless, over the years, this makes it increasingly difficult – not least for the ultimate beneficiaries of the Convention and its protocols, the citizens – to comprehend the scope of the rights enshrined in these texts, which cannot be read without an in-depth knowledge of the case-law.


            Furthermore, a number of other extremely important documents have been drawn up to protect fundamental rights.  We are referring, naturally, to the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.  This instrument should in no way be seen as undermining the Council of Europe's achievements in the field of human rights protection.  On the contrary, we feel that the Council may be rightly proud of the fact that the eminent drafters of the Charter have drawn so much inspiration from the wording of the European Convention on Human Rights and from the concepts that have emerged from the Court's case-law.


            While taking pride in our pioneering role, we may nonetheless observe that that this new instrument uses the wording of the Convention on a number of occasions to expand on and clarify the meaning of certain principles that were originally expressed somewhat succinctly, and that it addresses certain rights and freedoms which have only recently assumed popular significance and are not explicitly protected by the Convention and its protocols.


            In the light of these considerations, we feel that an investigation should be launched into whether it is advisable or possible to make this imposing body of rules formed by the Convention, its protocols and the Court's case-law more user-friendly, laying down a clearer, more precise definition of certain principles that have emerged over the course of time, incorporating the protocols into the text of the Convention as far as possible and extending the protection of fundamental rights to new areas.  Accordingly, the time seems ripe to ask the CDDH to take stock of developments in the Court's case-law and to carry out a detailed analysis of the text of the Convention and of other legal instruments adopted to protect fundamental rights at European level, with a view to submitting proposals to the Committee of Ministers concerning the most suitable ways of achieving these aims.


            The CDDH could be given two years to complete this task.





735th meeting – 20 December 2000



Item 4.5



European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights (Rome, 3-4 November 2000)

Report of the Secretary General

(CM(2000)172 Part I, II and Addendum Revised)





The Deputies asked the CDDH to study the advisability and feasibility of the Italian proposal to update the European Convention on Human Rights.




  Related Documents
   Other documents