The European Convention on Human Rights, as well as many other Council of Europe legal instruments that form our Convention system, set clear “red lines” that cannot be crossed even in times of severe public health emergency, PACE President Rik Daems said today. “We have to protect the lives of our citizens, but this cannot be done at the expense of human rights and democracy which are the cornerstones of our societies and institutions,” he added.
Addressing the 2020 annual conference of the Council of Europe Programme on Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) in Strasbourg, Rik Daems pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic had put democracy, human rights and the rule of law under extreme pressure. “To continue to uphold these values in difficult times we are guided by the European Convention on Human Rights. This is especially relevant today when, in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, the vast majority – if not all – of our member states have had to enact emergency measures giving broad powers to the executive and limiting the exercise of individual freedom,” he said.
“HELP is much more than a training system,” the PACE President emphasised, “it is a programme constantly adapting to demand. During this conference, for example, a new course on human rights and the environment will be presented. This is particularly important for me and for the Assembly, because linking the environment to human rights is and should be one of the political priorities of our Organisation.” Recent years have seen growing case-law of the Strasbourg Court and of national courts on environmental matters, he added.
“We need to consolidate our legal framework in order to come up with clear guidance and standards in this field. The most beautiful thing that nature has given us is life. Article 2 of the European Convention guarantees the right to life. Therefore, the environment is a human right! We are looking forward to working with the Greek and German Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers to make further progress in this field,” Mr Daems concluded.