Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Freedom of expression, assembly and association deteriorating in Azerbaijan
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks

Strasbourg, 23.04.2014 – “Freedom of expression, assembly and association are regrettably deteriorating in Azerbaijan. I once again call on the authorities to pay urgent attention to these issues so as to comply with Azerbaijan’s human rights obligations and commitments as a member state of the Council of Europe” said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing his observations on the human rights situation in the country, which follows upon his report published in August 2013.

“Unjustified and selective criminal prosecution of people expressing dissenting views, including journalists, bloggers and activists, continues unabated. This is unacceptable. All those who are detained because of the views they expressed must be released.”

The Commissioner deplores in particular a series of arrests reportedly based on charges which lack credibility. This includes the arrests of Parviz Hashimli, a journalist with the Bizim Yol newspaper, online activist Abdul Abilov and blogger Omar Mammadov. The Commissioner is also concerned by the recent conviction of the journalist, academic and minority rights defender Hilal Mammadov, as well as of Tofig Yagublu, deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and journalist with the Yeni Musavat newspaper, and Ilgar Mammadov, Chair of the Republican Alternative Civic Movement. “Another disturbing example of intimidation of the press is the case of Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist known for her investigations into corruption, who was repeatedly questioned by the Prosecutor General’s office in February 2014”. (more...)

See also:
Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe

Committee of Ministers
New Evaluation Report on Minority Languages in Slovenia
Member states that have signed and ratified the Charter in dark green, those that have signed but not ratified in light green

Strasbourg, 22.04.2014 - The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers recently made public an evaluation report on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Slovenia. The Charter is the European convention for the protection and promotion of languages of traditional national minorities. The report has been drawn up by a committee of independent experts, which monitors the application of the Charter.

The Council of Europe asks the Slovenian authorities to reduce the gap between legislation and practice regarding the use of Hungarian and Italian in the provision of public services, in economic and social activities, and in relations with the State administration.

The Council of Europe also calls upon Slovenia to recognise German, Croatian and Serbian as traditional minority languages of Slovenia and to apply the Charter to these languages, in co-operation with the minorities. (more...)

Slovenia and the Council of Europe

Council of Europe
Council of Europe launches a human rights guide for internet users

Strasbourg, 17.04.2014 – The Council of Europe today launched a guide for internet users to help them better understand their human rights online and what they can do when these rights are challenged.

The creation of the Guide was triggered by the need to empower users to exercise their human rights online. Generally, their rights are set out in the terms of service of Internet companies, which are mostly lengthy legal contractual conditions which are seldom read and even more seldom fully understood.

The Guide focuses on the human rights on which the internet has most impact: access and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly, association and participation, privacy and data protection, education and literacy, protection of children and young people, and the right to effective remedies for violations of human rights.

Adopted by the Committee of Ministers representing the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, it 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.

Welcoming the Guide’s adoption, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “Governments, private companies and other actors have a duty to respect human rights offline and online. We will work with them to apply the guide, and to ensure that internet users have access to effective remedies when they believe their rights have been restricted or violated.”

The Guide was developed with broad multi-stakeholder consultation with governments, private companies, in particular telecommunication and online service providers, civil society organisations, and representatives of the technical community and academia.

Press release

Secretary General
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: “Europe in biggest human rights crisis since Cold War”

Strasbourg, 16 April, 2014 - Serious human rights violations including corruption, human trafficking, racism and discrimination persist across Europe, according to a new report by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. Unemployment and poverty in many countries are nurturing extremism and conflicts. The report represents the first consolidated analysis of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe, based on the findings of the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies.

Referring to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, Mr Jagland warned of the risk of similar conflicts erupting in Europe: “The lack of democratic checks and balances, free media and an independent judiciary caused widespread corruption and misuse of power”. The Secretary General called on member states to comply fully with the European Convention on Human Rights:

“I urge member states to stop the erosion of fundamental rights and adopt further reforms of Europe’s unique Convention system. Europe needs a new pan-European security agenda which must include the protection of the rule of law and democratic principles. Together, we need to put Europe back on the path of unity and co-operation, based on common values, standards and legal obligations”, said the Secretary General.

The report, which makes a series of recommendations on how the organisation can provide more rapid and effective assistance to its 47 member states, will be discussed at the meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Foreign Ministers on 6 May in Vienna.

Expressing his concern over current outbreaks of violence in eastern Ukraine, Mr Jagland said: “I call on all parties in Ukraine to stop the escalation of violence and engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine’s international partners should support the country to find solutions leading to peace and stability”.

Report by the Secretary General

Press release

Secretary General
International Advisory Panel on Ukraine concludes first working session. Next meeting scheduled 5-7 May 2014
Mr Anpilogov, Sir Bratza, Mr Butkevych and Mr Jagland

Strasbourg, 15.04.2014 - The first working session of the International Advisory Panel on Ukraine took place at the Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg, from 9 to 11 April 2014. The International Advisory Panel (IAP) was initiated in December 2013 by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. With the appointment of its Members, the IAP was constituted in early April 2014. Its purpose is to oversee that the investigations of the violent incidents which have taken place in Ukraine from 30 November 2013 onwards meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Members of the panel are:
- Sir Nicolas Bratza, Chairman, former President of the European Court of Human Rights
- Mr Volodymyr Butkevych, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights
- Mr Oleg Anpilogov, member of the Kharkiv Regional Council, former prosecutor.

The members of the Panel concluded their first session was “positive and constructive”. They expressed their appreciation to the Council of Europe for facilitating the meeting. The Panel will communicate information on the scope of its work at a later date.

Press release

Secretary General
Europe takes major step forward to protect women’s rights, says Secretary General Jagland
Secretary General Jagland

Strasbourg, 23 April 2014 - As Andorra became the 10th country to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the treaty – which required 10 ratifications to enter into force – will become applicable on 1 August this year.

In a statement today, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland praises its application, stressing how the convention pulls together judicial reform, victim support and monitoring to eradicate violence against women.

The convention’s entry into force is set for 1 August this year, because governments that have ratified need time to take necessary administrative steps to apply it.

So far the following countries have ratified the treaty: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Turkey. Denmark is expected to ratify this week as well.

Statement by the Secretary General
More information

Secretary General
Secretary General Jagland welcomes Geneva agreement on Ukraine

 Strasbourg, 17 April 2014 -  Statement of Secretary General Jagland on the Geneva agreement of the European Union, the United States, Ukraine and the Russian Federation:


"The Council of Europe welcomes the Geneva agreement on Ukraine. All parties should now refrain from violence and engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine needs a comprehensive and inclusive constitutional reform process. We have agreed with the Ukrainian authorities to provide our expertise towards the necessary democratic and judicial reforms. All 47 Council of Europe member states support this approach."

Committee of Ministers
Committee of Ministers deeply concerned at situation in Eastern Ukraine, expresses full support to Geneva Contact Group meeting

Strasbourg, 16.04.2014 – Council of Europe member States today expressed their full support to the four-party Contact Group meeting to be held in Geneva on 17 April 2014, and reiterated their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and their respect for international law and the territorial integrity, unity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

Expressing deep concern at recent acts of violence and the occupation of administrative buildings in Eastern Ukraine, the Ministers’ Deputies called on all parties urgently to take steps to reduce tensions and engage without delay in dialogue for a peaceful and negotiated settlement.

The Deputies underlined the importance of inclusive preparation of free Presidential elections, scheduled for 25 May 2014, and called on all Ukrainian political forces to participate.

The Deputies reiterated their support to initiatives taken by the Ukrainian authorities to consolidate the functioning of democratic institutions, the protection of human rights and the rule of law, and welcomed recent contacts with the Council of Europe.

The Ministers’ Deputies welcomed the holding of the first meeting of the International Advisory Panel on investigations in Ukraine on 9 to 11 April 2014, and the Venice Commission visit to Ukraine on 15 April 2014 to provide assistance for reforms, in particular regarding the Constitution.

Full text of the decision

Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)
Council of Europe encourages Denmark to further develop its tools for preventing corruption

Strasbourg, 16.04.2014 – Danish measures to prevent corruption among members of parliament, judges and prosecutors appear to be quite effective in practice. However, the current system based on trust might not always provide sufficient safeguards against corruption risks in the future.

These are the main findings of an evaluation report published today by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

The report notes that Denmark has traditionally been considered one of the least corrupt countries in Europe and that perceptions of corruption among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors are relatively low. However, there is still room for improvement – particularly with regard to conflicts of interest among parliamentarians.

GRECO therefore recommends drawing up a code of conduct for parliamentarians, as well as further developing the rules on conflicts of interest and declarations of assets. (more...)

See also:
Denmark and the Council of Europe


Secretary General
Secretary General Jagland statement on Ukraine clashes

Strasbourg, 13.04.2014 - Reacting to the situation in Ukraine, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland released the following statement:


"I am deeply concerned by reports of violent clashes in Ukraine today. I call on all parties in Ukraine to refrain from violence and to engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine's international partners should support the country to find solutions leading to peace and stability."

Read also:
International Advisory Panel on Ukraine investigations meets for the first time at the Council of Europe
Ukraine and the Council of Europe


Press Releases