National parliaments: guarantors of human rights in Europe
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on
23 June 2011 (25th Sitting) (see Doc. 12636, report of the Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Pourgourides).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 23 June 2011 (25th Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls
that Council of Europe member states are responsible for the effective
implementation of international human rights norms they have signed
up to, in particular those of the European Convention on Human Rights
(ETS No. 5, hereafter “the Convention”). This obligation concerns
all state organs, whether executive, judicial or legislative.
2. National parliaments are often overlooked in this context.
Their potential needs to be further explored. They are key to the
effective implementation of international human rights norms at
national level and fulfil their duty to protect human rights through
legislating (including the vetting of draft legislation), involvement
in the ratification of international human rights treaties, holding
the executive to account, liaising with national human rights institutions
and fostering the creation of a pervasive human rights culture.
3. The members of the Assembly, having a double mandate – as
members of the Assembly and of their respective national parliaments
– are under a particular duty to contribute to such action.
4. The Assembly notes that the United Nations “Paris Principles”
of 1993 have become the internationally accepted benchmark for core
minimum standards for the role and functioning of independent national
human rights institutions; similar benchmarks should be drawn up
for parliamentary bodies.
With respect to the implementation of judgments of the European
Court of Human Rights (hereafter “the Court”), the Assembly:
5.1 believes that national parliaments
are uniquely placed to hold governments to account for swift and
effective implementation of the Court’s judgments, as well as to
swiftly adopt the necessary legislative amendments;
5.2 regrets that the post-Interlaken debate on the future
of the Convention system does not sufficiently take into account
the potentially important role of parliaments and deplores the silence
of the Izmir Declaration in this respect;
5.3 points to the positive examples in several member states,
notably the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and
Romania, which have set up parliamentary structures to monitor the implementation
of the Court’s judgments.
Furthermore, the Assembly:
parliamentarians to monitor the determination and enforcement of
human rights standards by the domestic judicial and administrative
6.2 urges parliamentarians to exercise their responsibility
to carefully scrutinise the executive in their countries when it
comes to the implementation of, in particular, international human
6.3 calls on governments to involve national parliaments in
the negotiation process of international human rights agreements
and in the process of implementation of judgments of the European
Court of Human Rights;
6.4 calls on all member states to provide for adequate parliamentary
procedures to systematically verify the compatibility of draft legislation
with Convention standards and avoid future violations of the Convention,
including regular monitoring of all judgments which could potentially
affect the respective legal orders;
6.5 urges parliaments to step up their efforts in contributing
to the supervision of the Court’s judgments by overseeing steps
taken by the competent authorities to execute adverse judgments, including
scrutiny of the actual measures taken;
6.6 calls on parliaments to set up and/or to reinforce structures
that would permit the mainstreaming and rigorous supervision of
their international human rights obligations, on the basis of the
7. The Assembly therefore invites parliaments to implement the
following basic principles for parliamentary supervision of international
human rights standards.
Appendix - Basic principles for parliamentary supervision
of international human rights standards
1.Appropriate framework and responsibilities
National parliaments shall establish appropriate parliamentary
structures to ensure rigorous and regular monitoring of compliance
with and supervision of international human rights obligations,
such as dedicated human rights committees or appropriate analogous
structures, whose remits shall be clearly defined and enshrined
These remits should include, inter
- the systematic
verification of the compatibility of draft legislation with international
human rights obligations;
- the requirement for governments to regularly submit reports
on relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and
- the initiation of legislative proposals and amendments
- subpoena powers over witnesses and documents concerning
Such committees shall have the responsibility
to ensure that parliaments are properly advised and informed on human
rights issues. Human rights training should also be provided for
parliamentarians and their staff.
Human rights committees or appropriate analogous structures
shall have access to independent expertise in human rights law.
Adequate resources shall also be made available to provide
specialised secretariat support.
3.Co-operation with other institutions
and civil society
Co-operation and regular dialogue shall be maintained, as
appropriate, with relevant national (for example, national human
rights institutions, parliamentary commissioners) and international
bodies (for example, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of
Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, European and other international
human rights monitoring bodies), as well as with representatives
of well-established non-governmental organisations which have significant
and relevant experience.