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

Committee Opinion | Doc. 13488 | 09 April 2014

Rapporteur :
Mr Hans FRANKEN, Netherlands, EPP/CD
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 13457 and Doc. 13459 corr., Reference 4038 of 7 April 2014. Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee). See Doc. 13483. Opinion approved by the committee on 9 April 2014. 2014 - Second part-session

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. 13483) complies with the Assembly's Rules of Procedure and the Statute of the Council of Europe.

B Explanatory memorandum by Mr Franken, rapporteur for opinion

1 Introduction

1 On 21 March 2014, Mr Walter and 73 other Assembly members tabled a motion for a resolution challenging the ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantial grounds, in accordance with Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure (Doc. 13457). On 24 March, a second motion for a resolution, on the suspension of the voting rights of the Russian delegation (Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly) (Doc. 13459 corr.), was tabled by Mr Jensen and 52 other Assembly members.
2 At its meeting on 7 April 2014, the Bureau decided to refer these two motions to the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe for report and, in accordance with Rule 9.2 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure, to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for opinion. This decision was ratified by the Assembly the same day.
3 The Committee on Rules of Procedure will therefore consider, in this opinion, whether the proposal contained in the Monitoring Committee’s report complies with the Rules of Procedure, particularly Rule 9, and the Statute of the Council of Europe.
4 The Assembly has not been asked to reconsider the credentials of a delegation on substantial grounds, on the basis of Rule 9, since October 2009. In the challenges of credentials made in the course of 2008 and 2009,Note the Committee on Rules of Procedure was obliged to clarify certain procedural points, relating in particular to the conditions for implementing the procedure for reconsideration of a delegation's previously ratified credentials and to the admissibility of amendments. The committee’s deliberations led to the introduction, in 2010, of a number of changes to the Rules of Procedure, in particular to strengthen the provisions of Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure.Note

2 Compliance of the request for reconsideration of the credentials of the Russian delegation with the Rules of Procedure

5 The committee points out that a motion calling for reconsideration of a delegation's credentials must comply with certain formal conditions in order to be admissible.
6 Rule 9.2 provides that “A motion for a resolution to annul ratification shall be tabled by at least fifty representatives or substitutes, belonging to at least two political groups and five national delegations, and be distributed at least two weeks before the opening of a part-session …”. These criteria are met.
7 In addition, Rule 9.1.a provides 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 Rule 8.2 …”.
8 Rule 8.2 provides that:
“The substantive grounds on which credentials may be challenged are:serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3Note of, and the Preamble to, the Statute; orpersistent failure to honour obligations and commitments and lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure.”
9 When examining the previous requests in 2008 and 2009, the committee had been particularly concerned that any procedure for reconsideration of credentials should be based on a duly substantiated request “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”.Note
10 It therefore welcomes the fact that the present motions challenging credentials – one alleging a “serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe” (Doc. 13457) and the other alleging a violation by the Russian military of “the territorial integrity of Ukraine” and a “direct violation of international law, including ... the Statute of the Council of Europe, as well as Russia’s accession commitments” (Doc. 13459 corr.) – contain a detailed statement of the grounds on which they are based. It should be noted that the procedure laid down in Rule 9 was introduced in parallel with the consolidation of the procedure for monitoring the honouring of obligations and commitments of member states, as a response to the Assembly’s wish to be able to “challenge ratified credentials when urgent action is deemed necessary”.Note

3 Examination of the proposal made by the Monitoring Committee

11 Rule 9.4 of the Rules of Procedure provides as follows:
“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.”
12 The proposal by the Monitoring Committee in paragraph 14 of the draft resolution is “to confirm the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation whilst suspending its voting rights until the end of the 2014 session”, in order to mark the Parliamentary Assembly's condemnation and disapproval of the Russian Federation's actions with regard to Ukraine.
13 The Committee on Rules of Procedure also notes that the Monitoring Committee's report includes a detailed presentation and analysis of the facts and circumstances leading the rapporteur and the Monitoring Committee to support the proposal to confirm ratification of the Russian delegation credentials, together with depriving its members of their voting rights. The Monitoring Committee considers that the actions of the Russian Federation “remain in clear contradiction with the Statute of the Council of Europe, in particular its Preamble, and the obligations resulting from Article 3, as well as with the commitments undertaken by the Russian Federation upon accession”, and that they are such as to substantiate and justify the requested sanction.

3.1 Precedents

14 It will be recalled that, to date, the Assembly has decided on only one occasion to suspend the voting rights of the members of a delegation, whose credentials had been challenged on substantive grounds. The Russian delegation was sanctioned in this way in April 2000, in connection with the conflict in Chechnya; it recovered all its participation and representation rights in January 2001 (Resolution 1241 (2001)).
15 It is also interesting to note, looking back a little further into the past, that the Assembly, faced with the situation in Greece following the 1967 military coup d’état and the installation of the “colonels’ regime”, took the decision “not to recognise the credentials of any Greek delegate purporting to represent the Greek Parliament until such time as the Assembly is satisfied that freedom of expression is restored and a free and representative parliament is elected in Greece” (Recommendation 547 (1969), January 1969). This decision was taken a few months before Greece’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe (December 1969 – November 1974).
16 Similarly, bearing in mind the situation in Turkey following the 1980 coup d’état, the Assembly decided in May 1981 not to “envisage the prolongation of the term of office of the Turkish delegation” (Order 398), and then, in September 1983, that the elected parliament “will not be able to be considered as representing the Turkish people in a democratic manner, and could not therefore validly constitute a delegation to participate in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly” (Resolution 803).
17 These two decisions are doubtless atypical but illustrate the Assembly’s ability to react to the violation by a member State of its obligations under the Statute and to sanction the parliamentary delegation of the member State in question, even where the latter breaks off all links in practice and withdraws from the Assembly (as was the case with Greece).

3.2 Points for further clarification

18 At its meeting on 9 April 2014, the committee noted that questions relating to the understanding and interpretation of the rules on challenging or reconsidering a delegation’s credentials had been raised, in particular the admissibility of amendments to a draft resolution which proposes to deprive members of the delegation concerned of their right to vote. More specifically, the question has been raised whether an amendment allowing members deprived of their voting rights to take part in the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe during the Assembly’s June 2014 part-session is in order. The Committee on Rules of Procedure was informed that the President of the Assembly decided to rule out any such amendment, considering that the right to vote of members of the Assembly is indivisible and that depriving members of a delegation of their right to vote applies to all votes in the Assembly and its bodies.

4 Conclusion

19 The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs considers that the draft resolution contained in the report submitted by the Monitoring Committee (Doc. 13483) meets the requirements of Rule 9 and complies with the Assembly's Rules of Procedure and the Statute of the Council of Europe.
20 Finally, the Committee on Rules of Procedure points out that the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation shall be submitted to the Assembly for ratification, together with all delegations of the Assembly, at the opening of the next ordinary session in January 2015 and, if necessary, could be challenged in application of Rules 7 and 8.
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