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Threats to the rule of law in Council of Europe member States

In a draft resolution adopted today in Paris, PACE's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights urges member, observer and applicant States to ensure that the judiciary is fully independent to resist politically-motivated prosecutions of political opponents, journalists and civil society activists as well as cover-ups of crimes committed or instigated and organised by politicians. The judiciary must also be decently resourced in order to ensure high-quality justice for all, the committee stressed.

Based on a report by Marieluise Beck (Germany, ALDE), it recalls several of the Assembly’s previous texts upholding the rule of law, which provide examples of a variable nature and gravity concerning states which represent different legal systems and cultures, namely the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Germany, France and Belarus (an applicant state). It concludes, with regret, that a number of its recommendations have still not been implemented by the states concerned.

Regarding the Russian Federation, the committee notes that key recommendations to strengthen the independence of the judiciary have not been implemented. The rule of law continues to be threatened by a climate of intimidation with respect to lawyers, journalists and human rights activists.

As concerns Ukraine, the committee still calls for the instigators and perpetrators of the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze to be held to account.

For Germany, the committee continues to support earlier recommendations in favour of more judicial self-administration and greater independence for prosecutors as well as pay raises for judges and prosecutors.

Regarding France, the committee is satisfied that the institution of the investigating judge has not been abolished and that the right of ministers to give instructions to prosecutors has been curtailed. Regrettably, the call to strengthen the role of elected representatives of judges and prosecutors in the High Judicial Council remains unheard, and the judiciary is still seriously underfunded.

Concerning Belarus, the committee reiterates its calls for the ending of abuses of the criminal justice system to persecute political opponents, for senior officials suspected of involvement in a series of high-profile disappearances to be held to account, and for abolition of the death penalty.