Logo Assembly Logo Hemicycle

Reconsideration of previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantial grounds

Committee Opinion | Doc. 11728 | 01 October 2008

Committee
Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs
Rapporteur :
Mr John GREENWAY, United Kingdom
Origin
See Resolution 1631 (33rd Sitting, 1 October 2008). 2008 - Fourth part-session
Thesaurus

A Conclusions of the committee

The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs considers that the proposal in the report by the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe concerning the credentials of the Russian delegation (Doc. 11726) complies with the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure and the Statute of the Council of Europe. However, it wishes to present two amendments in order to clarify the draft resolution.

1 Introduction

1 On 12 September 2008 Ms Kristiina Ojuland and 23 others tabled a motion for a resolution contesting the ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantial grounds, in accordance with Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure (Doc. 11703).
2 At the Bureau meeting on 29 September, the question arose as to whether signatories could withdraw their signatures once the motion had been tabled and published. The Bureau decided to consult the Chair of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs about the possibility of withdrawing or adding signatures to motions for resolutions tabled under Rule 9.1 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.
3 At the opening of the part-session, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, bearing in mind the opinion provided by the Chair of the Committee on Rules of Procedure Immunities and Institutional Affairs, decided to follow the Assembly’s established practice, whereby a motion for a resolution, once it has been declared admissible by the President of the Assembly and published as an Assembly document, is no longer the property of its signatories but of the Assembly and may no longer be amended in any way. Consequently, no signature may be withdrawn from the motion for a resolution, any more than any new signatures may be added.
4 As the procedure in question is of major political importance and needs to be conducted with rigour because of its implications, it cannot be used as a mere means of exerting pressure for purely tactical reasons. It would therefore be worth amending the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure to specify that it is impossible to withdraw a signature from a motion that has already been tabled, or indeed to withdraw the motion itself.
5 Following the President’s proposal, on 29 September 2008, at the opening of the current part-session, at its 28th Sitting, the Assembly decided to refer the matter to the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe for report and to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for opinion.
6 The Committee on Rules of Procedure Immunities and Institutional Affairs must therefore consider in this opinion whether the proposal put forward by the Monitoring Committee in its report complies with the Rules of Procedure, in particular Rule 9, and with the Statute of the Council of Europe.

2 Compliance of the motion calling for reconsideration of credentials with the Rules of Procedure

7 As the motion tabled in the Assembly under Rule 9, calling for reconsideration of previously ratified credentials of a delegation, sets a true precedent, it is worth expressing an opinion on the compliance of the motion itself with the Rules of Procedure.

2.1 On the formal admissibility of the motion

8 Rule 9.2 states: “A motion for a resolution to annul ratification shall be tabled by at least 20 members, belonging to at least 2 political groups and 5 national delegations …”. The motion is admissible, having been tabled by 24 members, belonging to 5 political groups and 15 national delegations.
9 The deadline provided for in Rule 9.2 (“A motion for a resolution to annul ratification shall... be distributed at least two weeks before the opening of a part-session...”) was also met, as the motion was received and distributed on 12 September 2008.

2.2 On the grounds of the motion

10 The motion contesting the credentials which is before the Assembly reads as follows:
“Seriously concerned about the conflict opposing two member states of the Council of Europe in the South Caucasus, we the undersigned, demand the Assembly to reconsider – on the basis of Rule 9.1.a of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly – the ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on the grounds of serious violations of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in the Preamble to the Statute.”
11 Rule 9.1.a states that “The Assembly may reconsider ratified credentials of a national delegation as a whole … on a motion for a resolution to annul ratification based on the grounds set out in Article 8.2 …”.
12 Article 8.2, meanwhile, stipulates that:
“The substantive grounds on which credentials may be challenged are:
a. serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of, and the Preamble to, the Statute; or
b. persistent failure to honour obligations and commitments and lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure.”
13 In challenging the credentials of the Russian delegation, the signatories of the motion for a resolution contend that the Russian Federation is guilty of “serious violations of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in the Preamble to the Statute” related to the “conflict opposing two member states of the Council of Europe in the South Caucasus”.
14 It is recalled that the version of Rule 9 which was in force before January 2000 (Rule 6.9) stipulated that the motion for a resolution tabled “must state the reasons and shall be based on a serious violation of the basis principles of the Council of Europe …”. The current wording of Rules 8 and 9 is somewhat different. The Committee on Rules of Procedures, Immunities and Institutional Affairs therefore recommends that when a motion is tabled according to Rule 9.1, the authors should cite evidence for the serious violation mentioned in Rule 8.2. Any motion to challenge a delegation’s credentials on the basis of Rule 9 must be properly substantiated.

3 Examination of the proposal made by the Monitoring Committee

15 The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has examined the report adopted by the Monitoring Committee, and examined the draft resolution contained therein for compliance with the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and the Statute of the Council of Europe.
16 Article 9.4 of the rules states that:
“Reports submitted to the Assembly or the Standing Committee under paragraphs 2 and 3 shall contain a draft resolution proposing in its operative part:
– confirmation of the ratification of the credentials;
– annulment of the ratification of the credentials;
– confirmation of the ratification of the credentials together with depriving or suspending the exercise of some of the rights of participation or representation of members of the delegation concerned in the activities of the Assembly and its bodies.”
17 The Monitoring Committee proposes to confirm the ratification of the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation in order to ensure continuing dialogue with members of the Russian delegation to help bring about a resolution to the ongoing conflict.
18 However, it notes that the Assembly can be seized again of the matter at any moment in accordance with its rules. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs recommends that this be made clearer by specifying that at any moment a new motion under Rule 9.1 may be tabled. Furthermore, in January 2009, the credentials of all national delegations to the Assembly will need to be ratified and, if appropriate, credentials may be challenged under Rules 7 and 8.

4 Amendments to the draft resolution presented by the Monitoring Committee

19 The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs wishes to table two amendments to the draft resolution, worded as follows:
Amendment A

In paragraph 2 of the draft resolution, leave out the words “has led to further infringements by Russia, as well as Georgia,” so paragraph 2 reads as follows:

“The Assembly considers that the recent war between Russia and Georgia, two member states of the Organisation, constitutes, in itself, a serious violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe and of their obligations and commitments as member states of the Council of Europe”.

Amendment B

In paragraph 4, after the words “in accordance with its rules”, add the following words: “and that a motion under Rule 9.1 may be tabled again”.

5 Final remarks

20 The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs is of the opinion that the draft resolution contained in the report submitted by the Monitoring Committee (Doc. 11726) meets the requirements of Article 9 and is in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and the Statute of the Council of Europe.
21 The Parliamentary Assembly has never before had occasion to consider a motion tabled under Rule 9 of its Rules of Procedure, and this motion therefore sets a precedent. In the light of the discussions both in the Assembly Bureau and in the Assembly itself at its 28th Sitting, during which several members referred to the need to clarify the rules, the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs reasserts its competence to provide some preliminary answers to such important questions.

Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee).

Committee seized for opinion: Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

Reference to committee: Doc. 11703 and Reference No. 3488 of 29 September 2008.

Opinion unanimously approved on 30 September 2008.

;