Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
GR-J
Rapporteur Group on Legal Co-operation

GR-J(2009)6 8 April 20091
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The Council of Europe and the rule of law
Comments received following the decision by the Ministers’ Deputies CM/Del/Dec(2008)1042bis/1.2b
A. Comments by the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ)
B. Comments by the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG)
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A. Comments by the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ)

1. On 27 November 2008, the Committee of Ministers decided to forward the document entitled “The Council of Europe and the Rule of Law – An overview” (CM(2008)170) prepared by the Secretariat to various Council of Europe committees and bodies, including the European Committee for Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) for information and possible comments by 31 March 2009.

2. The Bureau of the CDCJ examined with great interest the above mentioned document and welcomed the possibility given to comment the overview made of the rule of law activities in the Council of Europe.

3. The terms of reference of the CDCJ give competence to the Committee to “promote law reform and co-operation in the field of […] justice and the rule of law”, which places the CDCJ in a prevailing position in terms of normative activities in the field of rule of law.

4. The CDCJ has indeed constantly contributed, through the standards it has prepared and through the legal co-operation it has ensured, to the promotion and strengthening of the conditions which are necessary to the rule of law and welcomes the reference made in paragraphs 65, 66, 74 and 75 of the above mentioned document to this important contribution.

5. The fields of intervention of the CDCJ in the rule of law perspective have been of an extreme variety and the Bureau of the CDCJ wished to underline the current activities carried out in that respect:

- the Group of Specialists on the Judiciary (CJ-S-JUD) is entrusted with the task of revising the Recommendation (94)12 on the independence, efficiency and role of judges;
- the Group of Specialists on Child Friendly Justice (CJ-S-CH) will prepare European guidelines on child friendly justice, together with the European Committee on Crime problems (CDPC) and the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) and in consultation with the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) ;
- the follow-up to the report on access to justice for migrants and asylum seekers in Europe;
- the revision of the handbook “the administration and you”.

6. The Bureau of the CDCJ is of the opinion that future activities of the CDCJ in the field of the rule of law, subject to the approval of the Plenary meeting, could focus on public administration as well as on administrative law, building on the work which lead to the adoption of Recommendation (2007)7 on Good Administration, and aiming at increasing for instance the responsiveness of administrative authorities in the context of urgency or financial crisis. The CDCJ could also lead a review of the relevant conventions with a view to strengthening co-operation between the member states. Another topic of interest for the CDCJ in the context of the rule of law could be the issue of fair trial guarantees in administrative law procedure. However, it should be noted that a lack of budgetary and human resources could impeach the implementation of such activities.

7. The Bureau of the CDCJ is of the opinion that the overview given confirms the need for a Council of Europe strategy in the field of the rule of law in order to ensure normative consistency and complementarity.

8. The rule of law being at the heart of the Council of Europe’s activities, in order to sustain its leading role in the field, the Organisation could propose future initiatives aiming at assessing the rule of law in its member states, basing itself on the variety of relevant standards, findings of monitoring bodies and proposing as a follow-up to those assessments targeted cooperation programmes. A coordinated approach to the rule of law could imply the setting-up of a dedicated team within the Council of Europe Secretariat, stimulating synergies between the different sectors involved and ensuring consistency in the work carried out in the field.

9. The Bureau of the CDCJ finally wishes to support the statement on the interdependence which exists between the notions of rule of law, human rights and democracy, and more particularly of the close and dependent links of rule of law and human rights. The CDCJ has indeed gradually strengthened the human rights dimension in a number of its activities and will continue to do so.

B. Comments by the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG)

The CDEG takes note with great interest of this document. It shares the Committee of Ministers’ opinion on the importance of the principle of the rule of law for consolidating democracy and respect for human rights and wishes to contribute to the implementation of these principles. As the principle of equality - as a principle under the rule of law - concerns also equality between women and men, the CDEG is actively working for the full realization of this principle, including de facto equality. In this regard, the CDEG proposes to launch a study on women’s access, compared with men’s access, to the European Court of Human Rights.

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set out in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.


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