Strasbourg, 21.10.2014 - Thorbjørn Jagland and Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Charles Flanagan, met in Strasbourg today to discuss the state of human rights in Europe, the situation in Ukraine, Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General’s priorities for the next five years.
Mr Flanagan also informed the Secretary General that Ireland will be making a voluntary contribution of €45,000 to support the work of the Council of Europe’s expert anti-racism body, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
“I would particularly like to thank Ireland for its support to ECRI and its work to fight discrimination, which is closely related to our aims of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for minorities,” said Secretary General Jagland.
“The fight against racism and intolerance in Europe is a key priority for Ireland. I am delighted to be able to make this contribution to the important work of ECRI, in particular to support its efforts to combat homophobic violence and discrimination,” said Mr Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan also commended the Council of Europe for its work to abolish the death penalty in Europe and worldwide.
Ireland and the Council of Europe
Aveiro (Portugal), 16.10.2014 - The Council of Europe today awarded the 2014 European Crystal Scales of Justice Prize to the General Council of Spanish Bars for an initiative concerning online legal aid.
The award ceremony was held in Aveiro (Portugal) on the occasion of the European Day of Justice with the participation the State Secretary of Justice of Portugal, António Costa Moura and the Chair of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), John Stacey.
The Crystal Scales Prize rewards innovative judicial practices applied by European judicial institutions in civil matters, in respect of conduct of proceedings, court organisation and the general functioning of the justice system.
This year´s edition winning project creates a unique online entry point to request judicial aid for the costs of justice and the designation of a lawyer. (more...)
Strasbourg, 15 October 2014 - In a statement today, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, responded to reports of the possible liquidation of the prominent Russian NGO “Memorial”:
“In recent days there have been reports that the Ministry of Justice of Russia has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court, demanding the closure of the prominent and long-established non-governmental organisation “Memorial”.
I called the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, Alexander Konovalov, and I expressed my deep concern about this situation. I asked the Minister to use all possible means in order to find an appropriate legal solution allowing this highly respected organisation to continue its important work.
For Europeans, Memorial has always been closely associated with the name of Andrei Sakharov. It has been a symbol of the fight for the respect of human rights, the defence of the rights of the repressed and support to the democratisation process in Russia.
The loss of “Memorial” would undoubtedly be a shock for many Russians, and would send a wrong signal to the Russian civil society and the international community.”
Russia and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 14.10.2014 - The members of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, meeting at the 27th Session in Strasbourg (France), today elected Jean-Claude Frécon (France, SOC) by acclamation as President for a two-year term of office.
Jean-Claude Frécon is a French Senator and a municipal councillor in Pouilly-lès-Feurs (Rhône-Alpes), where he also held the office of mayor for many years.
“It is by being as close as possible to our fellow citizens and experiencing their problems that we can best represent them in our national and European assemblies”, said the new Congress President.
“I believe that, through the political dialogue it has established with governments and, here in Strasbourg, with the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, in line with the policy directions set by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Congress can persuade central governments to establish and protect local and regional democracy more effectively throughout Europe.” (more...)
Strasbourg, 13.10. 2014 - With reference to a recent judgment from the European Court of Human Rights which it declared final today, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has called on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release jailed opposition politician and commentator Ilgar Mammadov.
“The court has now rejected the government’s appeal, which means the judgment is final. I therefore call on the authorities to rapidly implement the judgment and to release Mr Mammadov,” he said.
Ilgar Mammadov was sentenced to seven years in prison in March after being charged with offences linked to street riots in the town of Ismayilli in January 2013.
In May of this year, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that Mr Mammadov had been arrested and detained without proper evidence, and that the purpose of his detention had been to silence or punish him for criticising the government and publishing information it was trying to hide.
Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 20.10.2014 - The Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland made a statement on today’s adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the Law on ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons in Ukraine:
“This is a welcome development,” Jagland said. “The law is a good basis for addressing the needs of those who fled their homes as a result of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and of the illegal annexation of Crimea. It shows that Ukraine is ready to take the measures needed to protect the most vulnerable, upholding human rights despite the difficult circumstances in the country.”
“This is a strong signal of the Verkhovna Rada’s will to abide by European and international human rights law.”
Ukraine and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 16.10.2014 - In a strongly worded report – based on visits made in April 2013 – the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) said that “the situation has not improved, notably in respect of the conditions of detention of irregular migrants and the situation in the prisons.”
The visit took place two years after the committee had issued a public statement in which it expressed serious concerns about the lack of effective action to tackle systemic deficiencies that it had identified in Greece.
The report issued today includes the Greek government’s response.
Greece and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 14 October 2014 - Following today’s vote in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, made this statement:
“I welcome today’s adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of the package of laws related to the reform of prosecution, the fight against corruption and the creation of the anti-corruption bureau. The law on prosecution and the removal of the general supervisory function have been long-standing commitments of Ukraine to the Council of Europe and their adoption today is an important step toward fulfilling these commitments.
At the same time, I was disappointed that because of the disruptions, the Verkhovna Rada could not continue its session today, and therefore important legislation, notably the law on Internally Displaced People, could not be adopted.
The Council of Europe will continue to assist Ukrainian authorities in their reform efforts”.
Ukraine and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 14.10.2014 – "The Netherlands has a solid human rights protection system, but in practice there are shortcomings, in particular as concerns migrants and children, that need to be addressed" said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing the report on his visit to the country carried out last May.
Particularly concerning is the extensive use of administrative detention of asylum seekers and immigrants, a practice at variance with international standards which only allow it as a measure of last resort, for the shortest possible period of time and when no effective alternative is applicable. Addressing specifically the systematic detention of asylum seekers arriving at international (air)ports from non-Schengen countries, the Commissioner notes that unaccompanied minors are exempted from its application and that families with children are to be detained only in exceptional circumstances. However, he urges the Dutch government to "stop detaining all children seeking asylum and all asylum seekers in particularly vulnerable situations".
The Commissioner further calls on the Dutch authorities not to detain foreigners whose deportation is not feasible because "this is incompatible with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, which established that detention is arbitrary if it is not closely connected to the grounds on which it has been ordered". (more...)
The Netherlands and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 13 October 2014 - Following the 7th general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Secretary General Jagland published the following statement:
“The voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina have voted to elect their representatives in elections which appear to have been conducted in line with technical standards for free and fair elections. The newly elected bodies will face a colossal challenge to reverse the current economic situation and improve social conditions. For this they need and will receive all our support. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that this was another second election ignoring the Sejdic and Finci judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which ask Bosnia and Herzegovina to change its constitution. Yet again, a significant number of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been deprived of their right to stand for the highest office because they belong to the wrong ethnic group. Bosnia and Herzegovina will receive our support, and it needs to change its constitution soon. A prosperous and stable Bosnia and Herzegovina will require a constitutional and legal set-up that allows all citizens the right to compete in elections for the highest office in the country, and allows its citizens to live with each other, and does not keep them apart.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Council of Europe