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Follow-up to the report of the Independent Investigation Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly

Committee Opinion | Doc. 14543 | 25 April 2018

Committee
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur :
Ms Olena SOTNYK, Ukraine, ALDE
Origin
Reference to committee: Assembly Decision, Reference 4372 of 22 April 2016. Reporting committee: Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. Doc. 14540. Opinion approved by the committee on 25 April 2018. 2018 - Second part-session

A Conclusions of the committee

1 The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights welcomes the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs and congratulates its rapporteur, Ms Petra De Sutter. It generally supports the draft resolution and recommendation tabled by the Rules Committee, whilst offering some observations from the legal point of view. Some of these observations take the form of proposed amendments to the draft resolution.
2 Firstly, regarding the limited scope of the mandate of the Independent External Body of Investigation into allegations of corruption (IBAC), the committee wishes to stress that the IBAC did not have the investigatory powers usually vested in national parliamentary committees of inquiry, let alone judicial authorities, such as subpoena powers or the right to inspect bank or communication records. The Assembly therefore could not and did not expect the IBAC to provide proof in the judicial sense of any corrupt wrongdoings it became aware of, let alone of any possible criminal offences. This is the task of the competent national authorities, whom the Assembly and its national delegations should invite to follow up and act on the information provided by the IBAC. The committee stresses the need for all findings and other information contained in the IBAC report on the corrupt activities of certain countries to be duly followed up, without exception. It therefore fully endorses the call to the Committee of Ministers, in the draft recommendation presented by the Rules Committee, to support the Assembly in its efforts.
3 Secondly, the committee notes that the IBAC report, whilst recognising that attempts to influence members of the Parliamentary Assembly by unethical means were made not only by Azerbaijan, but also by other countries, does not refer at all to the scandalous visit in Syria of then Assembly President Pedro Agramunt, Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Alain Destexhe and ALDE group leader Jordi Xuclà. Relevant information was in the public domain and readily available to the IBAC. The implication, as instigators and organisers, of members of the former Russian delegation in this clear-cut violation of the Assembly’s rules is well-established, but must be explored in addition by the Rules Committee. The outrage in the Assembly, in the second trimester of 2017, leading inter alia to the resignation of the President, clearly contributed to overcoming the same persons’ resistance against the launch of an independent inquiry.
4 Thirdly, the committee commends the Rules Committee on its determination to make full use of the Code of Conduct as revised in October 2017 in order to hold to account all individuals named in the IBAC’s report for having committed violations of the Assembly’s deontological rules, duly assessing the degree of seriousness of alleged breaches in respect of each member concerned.
5 Finally, the committee considers that when further revising the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure in line with the recommendations made by the IBAC and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), on a proposal to be prepared by the Rules Committee, the Assembly should be first and foremost guided by the need for transparency and accountability in accordance with the principles and values of the Council of Europe.

B Proposed amendments

Amendment A (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 4, add the following words:

“, as well as the fact that the IBAC could not be granted robust investigatory powers such as those of national parliamentary committees of inquiry and judicial authorities”

Amendment B (to the draft resolution)

After paragraph 4, insert the following paragraph:

“The Assembly therefore could not and did not expect the IBAC to provide proof in the judicial sense of any corrupt wrongdoings it became aware of, let alone of any criminal offences potentially involved. This is the task of the competent national authorities, whom the Assembly and its national delegations invite to follow up the information provided by the IBAC. In this context, the Assembly stresses the need for all findings and other information contained in the IBAC report on the corrupt activities of certain countries to be duly followed up, without exception.”

Amendment C (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 5, in the first sentence, replace the words “probably also existed in relations with” with the words “clearly also been used by”.

Amendment D (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 12, after the words “the Assembly”, insert the following words:

“, recalling the principle of individual political responsibility, including the possibility for those elected to relinquish their mandates”

Amendment E (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 12.2, replace the words “give thought to” with the word “implement”, and add the following words at the end:

“, bearing in mind the need for transparency and accountability”

Amendment F (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 13.2, add the following words:

“and report back to the Parliamentary Assembly by the end of 2018”

Amendment G (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 15, second sentence, replace the words “cannot stop halfway” with the following words:

“must use this opportunity to make a fresh start and give all necessary follow-up to any allegations of wrongdoing”

C Explanatory notes

1 Amendment A (to the draft resolution)

See paragraph 2 of the conclusions of the committee.

2 Amendment B (to the draft resolution)

See paragraph 2 of the conclusions of the committee.

3 Amendment C (to the draft resolution)

The IBAC report refers to some questionable practices used by countries other than Azerbaijan. The most obvious one is not mentioned in the IBAC report itself, but is well-known in the Assembly, namely the organisation of a highly questionable visit to Syria by members of the former Russian delegation, involving prominent members of the Assembly (see paragraph 3 of the conclusions of the committee).

4 Amendment D (to the draft resolution)

It is important to recall that in addition to possible criminal responsibility for acts of corruption, there is also a need for political responsibility of those having been found in violation of ethical norms in their political activities. Political responsibility includes the possibility for those elected to relinquish their mandates when they can no longer fulfil them in accordance with their voters’ expectations.

5 Amendment E (to the draft resolution)

Transparency and accountability are the foundation of public trust in the political process. Parliamentarians should be accountable before their voters for the positions they express by voting, also in the Assembly and its committees. Parliamentarians should be prepared to publicly explain and defend their voting record.

6 Amendment F (to the draft resolution)

This amendment is self-explanatory.

7 Amendment G (to the draft resolution)

This amendment is intended to strengthen the message that the real overhaul of the parliamentary attitudes and practices must begin now. We are not yet halfway, unfortunately.

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