Appendix 3 – AS/Bur (2013)
mechanism against attacks, in the Bureau and committees, on members’
honour and reputation
16 January 2013
Bureau of the Assembly
Memorandum prepared by the Secretary General of the Assembly
At the last three meetings of the Bureau of the Assembly,
on 5 October, 29 November and 17 December 2012 respectively, the
question has been raised, at the initiative of Mr Volontè, chair
of the European People's party group, of statements made by members
during meetings of the Bureau (and by extension the committees)
which call into question the honour and reputation of an Assembly
2. As Mr Volontè pointed out in those meetings, it is important
to protect the dignity of Assembly members against offensive statements
or accusations (of corruption for example) made by other Assembly
members without foundation or proof. He furthermore thought it expedient
to consider the possibility of setting up a specific committee within
the Assembly to examine complaints from members targeted by statements
of this kind and sanction those making such statements.
1. The Assembly's Rules of Procedure contain provisions
on members' conduct which give the President of the Assembly certain
powers to guarantee the proper running of debates. The Rules state
that those provisions may be applied by committee chairs where maintaining
order in meetings is concerned.
relating to the maintaining of order in plenary sittings
Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure regarding order
stipulates inter alia
"21.1. The President shall call
to order any member of the Assembly who causes a disturbance during proceedings.
21.6. Words or expressions which affront human dignity,
undermine the right to respect for private life, or which may prejudice
orderly debate may not be used. The President may order such words
to be struck from the report of debates. (…)The report of the debates
shall record any such decision."
The Assembly adopted Resolution
on "Ensuring protection against attacks on a person's honour
to supplement the provisions
in the Rules regarding members' conduct during plenary sittings
of the Assembly.
As mentioned in the 2011 report of the Committee on Rules
of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs on protection
against attacks on a person's honour and reputation, the protection
of a person's reputation and honour forms an integral part of the
right to respect for private lifeNote
affording protection from attacks on a person's honour and reputation
(Rule 21.6 of the Rules of Procedure) through a right of reply
By adopting Resolution
, the Assembly established a mechanism allowing a person
who believes that their reputation or honour has been damaged by
a statement made during an Assembly debate to have a right of reply,
with certain conditions attached:
Any member of the Assembly who has been named or referred to directly
and considers that his or her reputation has been adversely affected
by a statement made in the course of a debate by another member
may ask the President of the Assembly to take the floor for not
more than two minutes at the end of the debate. The President has
the discretion to decide on how to respond to such a request. He or
she may ask the person who made the statement to provide an explanation.
2. Any person who has been named or referred to directly
and considers that his or her reputation has been adversely affected
by a statement made in the course of a debate by a member of the
Assembly may submit a written request to the President of the Assembly
for an appropriate response to be included in the record.
3. The written request shall be reasoned, make reference
to the impugned statement in the record and shall not contain any
vexatious or offensive wording; it shall be submitted within three
months of the date of the sitting during which the statement at
issue was made.
4. The President shall examine the request and decide:
to include in the record a note in respect of the impugned statement
along the following model: “By letter dated …, [person’s name] disagrees
with the assertion/statement appearing in this record, on the ground
- or not to include such a note.
5. This provision shall not apply if the words spoken
have been struck from the record in accordance with Rule 21.6.".
of these provisions to the maintaining of order in committee meetings
1. The Rules of Procedure stipulate that "Except as otherwise provided, procedure in
committee shall follow that in the Assembly" (Rule 46.1)
and makes committee chairs responsible for ensuring compliance with provisions
for maintaining order (Rule 46.6: "The
chairperson shall open, suspend and close the meeting and shall
direct the committee's debates. (…) He or she shall ensure observance
of the Rules and maintain order."). Consequently, the
provisions of Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure are fully applicable
to the maintaining of order in committee meetings.
2. Regarding statements or the disclosure of personal information
that may damage the reputation and honour of individuals made during
a committee meeting, it is pointed out that, unlike the Assembly's
plenary sessions, committee meetings are not public and only Assembly
members may attend them (unless a committee decides otherwise).
3. The requirement of confidentiality which this imposes on committee
members means that they should not disclose the content of discussions
taking place at committee meetings, and all the more so if these meetings
are held in camera, like those
of the Bureau, the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments
by member States and the Sub-Committee on the Election of Judges
to the European Court of Human Rights, which are open solely to
their members. Moreover, the minutes of Bureau and committee meetings
are confidential, at least until they are adopted, after which they
may be communicated on request.
4. However, a violation of the confidentiality requirement does
not automatically harm a person's reputation and honour. To do so,
the information revealed must be damaging, to a certain extent,
to that person's character and integrity.
Concerning the protection of
Assembly members, in Bureau and committee meetings, from attacks
on their honour and reputation:
The application mutatis
of the right-to-reply procedure provided for
in Resolution 1854 (2011)
concerning response to defamatory statements made in
plenary sittings, to statements made during meetings of the Bureau
or of committees would be quite feasible, if the provision's wording
was adapted to indicate that the procedure must be implemented by
the President of the Assembly in the case of Bureau meetings and
by the chair of the committee concerned in the case of committee
Concerning the setting up of
a specific committee within the Assembly:
2. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and
Institutional Affairs is currently examining the question of Assembly
members' discipline. Within that framework, the Bureau could expressly
assign it the task of examining the question of setting up a special
committee responsible for order-related matters, including complaints
over defamatory statements made by Assembly members.
3. The Bureau could therefore instruct the Committee on Rules
of Procedure to examine this question, within the aforementioned
1. The Bureau of the Assembly is invited to examine
the present memorandum and approve the proposals set out in paragraphs
12 to 14 above.