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26 January 2021 morning

2021 - First part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting num 3

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:02:11

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, please sit down to the hemicycle hall.

Very nice to see you here in Strasbourg, few of you, as most of you are throughout Europe. So most welcome also everybody to this second day of our plenary sessions of Council of Europe. And to this hybrid format of meeting as we got already used yesterday.

Somebody might say that this day is the most interesting, most demanding day, because we do have the elections of some officials taking place today and this mornings' agenda first item calls for the election of 2 judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Greece and Switzerland. The list of candidates and biographical notes are to be found in the documents 15187 and 15153 and addendum.

The agenda also calls for the election of the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Also the list of candidates is to be found in document 15198.

The agenda also calls for the election of the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly. The list of candidates is to be found in document 15197.

So there are three elections. All of them will take place by individual electronic secret ballot voting. And I want to explain to you all also here in the hall in the hemicycle that we all take part in these elections in the same similar way via this electronic secret ballot voting system. So all of us we do the voting procedure exactly in the same way.

Each political group has appointed a teller according to the rules. The chair, whoever is chairing, will announce the results at the start of this afternoon sitting at 4 p.m., and I will now declare the ballots open and we will close the ballots at 3 p.m., Strasbourg time. So we have now actually from nine to three o'clock time for these elections, six hours time. So you can do it in peaceful way and concentrate now on the meeting, and later on during the day you can do the voting, but it will be closed sharply at three o'clock. And at four o'clock we will announce the results.

As I said I declare now that the ballot is open.

We will now move to the second item of our agenda that's a membership of committees. There are some proposed changes in members of committees, this is set out in document Commissions (2021) 01 Add. 2. Are the proposed changes agreed to accordingly? Seems that it's agreed to and it's now agreed.

The changes in the committees have been agreed to.

Now we move to the next item, that's a debate on the report title "The implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights" presented by Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. In order to finish this debate by 10:50 a.m. we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 10:30 to allow time for the reply and the vote. So we'll have the discussion up to 10 to 11 a.m. this morning.

Now I will call Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, the rapporteur. You have 10 minutes to present the report and 3 minutes to reply to the debate.

Now, Mister EFSTATHIOU, please, the floor is yours.

Elections: Judges to the European Court of Human Rights

Elections: Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Elections: Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly

Debate: The implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Rapporteur

09:07:12

Good morning.

Good morning Mr President.

Good morning to all colleagues from Cyprus.

This is the tenth time the Assembly is debating a report on the implementation of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

We all know that since 2000, this Chamber has taken a close interest in the implementation of the Court's judgments, even if from a standpoint of the Convention. This matter, is above all, the responsibility of the Committee of Ministers. In particular, the Assembly has always promoted a more proactive argument involvement in this process. Consequently as I was treating this subject I have done my best to check how the recommendations set out in the previous reports and Assembly resolutions in this subject, and especially how resolution 2178 of 2017 has been implemented.

Following the method of my predecessors and in particular Mr Pierre-Yves LE BORGN', I have focused again on nine member states with the largest number judgments pending before the Committee of Ministers. Some judgments whose implementation entails particular difficulties due to their political significance or legal complexity. Some of them were rightly called pockets of resistance by my predecessor.

According to a Committee of Ministers 2019 report, at the end of 2019, 5231 judgments were pending before the Committee of Ministers at different stages of execution. These figures show a constant reduction in the number of judgments pending before the Committee of Ministers. At the end of 2018 there were over 6 000, and at the end of 2016 when my predecessor was preparing the ninth report, almost 10 000 judgments.

According to statistics, at the end of 2019 the following 10 countries had the largest number of pending cases: the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Moldova and Bulgaria. These countries still face serious long-standing structural or complex problems, and I would rather say political complexities, some of which have not been resolved for over 10 years. As a matter of example the judgment Cyprus vs Turkey has been pending before the Committee of Ministers since 2001, 20 years ago.

The issue of non-execution of domestic judgments in Ukraine, the Zhovner group has not been resolved for over 18 years.

Since the adoption of the last Assembly resolution in June 2017 only a few of such long-standing problems concerning Turkey, Italy and the Republic of Moldova have been sorted out. It is also worrying that some states have moved backwards in this context. This has been particularly the case of Romania as regards to the abolition of compensatory mechanisms for poor conditions of detention, and of course the last developments in the Russian Federation.

As regards to judgments whose execution raises specific challenges, they have been analysed in detail in my report. These are the interested cases: Cyprus vs Turkey and Georgia vs the Russian Federation.

Cases displaying interstate features such as the al-Nashri and Abu Zubaydah cases concerning the CIA secret detention programme in Poland, Lithuania and Romania.

Cases displaying unresolved conflicts of post-conflict situations such as the Catan v. Russia judgment concerning the right to education of the Transnistria region. The judgements against Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning displaced persons in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the judgment of Sejdić and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina concerning the right to stand for election.

And finally cases related to national politics such as judgments against Azerbaijan, Paksas v. Lithuania, Yukos v. Russia.

Judgment which are considered violations of the Convention in relation to tax proceedings brought against the applicant company.

In the last three years there were few, if any, developments in the execution of such cases which imply new challenges to the implementation of the Court judgments. We are particularly worried about the implementation of the judgment on just satisfaction in the case Yukos v. Russia. There are systemic resistances to the payment of just satisfaction awarded by the Court that have brought about changes at the constitutional level which have made the implementation of this judgment even more difficult. The latest amendment of article 79 of the Russian Constitution increases the possibility of the Russian Constitutional Court to declare decisions of international bodies non-executable. My addendum is dealing with that issue thoroughly.

A strong resistance was also observed in Azerbaijan. The judgment Mammadov v. Azerbaijan requiring the release of the applicant following his arbitrarily and politically motivated detention. Following for the first ever use of the infringement procedure under article 46 paragraph 4 of the Convention coupled with political pressure, the Azerbaijani authorities reconsidered their previous position and released Ilgar Mammadov and quashed his conviction, as well as the conviction of human rights defender Rasul Jafarov.

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights. Parties have achieved a certain progress in incorporating the Convention into national law. That was also the demand of the Interlaken Process, stating that the principle of subsidiarity is the primordial duty of the states. However many new and old challenges lie ahead. It is worrying that the considerable number of leading cases have still not been executed, due to deeply rooted problems such as problems of capacity of domestic workers, lack of resources, insufficient political will and even clear disagreement with the judgment and persistent prejudice against certain groups of society.

Therefore the draft resolution includes a number of proposals concerning further improvements on the implementation of the Court's judgments. States should continue to be engaged and proactive at all levels of power, and should fully cooperate with the Committee of Ministers and other relevant bodies of the Council of Europe. They should provide timely action plans which are mentioned in the Interlaken declaration, actual reports and information on the payment of just satisfaction, and pay particular attention to considerating structural problems and provide for effective remedies to address violations of the Convention at national levels.

National stakeholders responsible for implementing the Court judgments should be provided sufficient resources. Parliaments have a special role in this respect as many judgments concerning complex problems have not been implemented because of the lack of legislative measures. Since many parliaments have still not established special structures to examine the compatibility of draft legislation with the Convention and the Court's case law, the Assembly should repeat its call for establishing such structures in line with its previous resolutions on the implementation of the Court's judgments in resolution 1823 of 2011 on national parliaments guarantors of human rights in Europe.

Also at a critical stage, we urge the Italian authorities to ratify as soon as possible protocol number 15 which boosts procedures before the Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers.

I also encourage states which have not yet ratified protocol number 16, including my own state.

As regards to my draft recommendation, it proposes the Committee of Ministers to continue to use all available means to fulfil its tasks arising under article 46 of the Convention. The example of Azerbaijan looks like a chance for everybody to have a new boost to the whole process.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:17:18

Thank you very much, rapporteur Mr EFSTATHIOU for your sharp and analytical statement. Thanks a lot indeed.

Now we'll move to the debate and we start as usual with the political groups.

I remind you that now the speaking time is three minutes. I try to be quite sharp on that one because the speaker's list is quite heavy so in order to allow everybody to speak let's start right to be on time within the time limits.

We start with the ALDE Group and Mr Damien COTTIER from Switzerland.

The floor is yours.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, on behalf of ALDE

09:17:58

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The European Court of Human Rights is the ultimate guarantor of the fundamental freedoms of every inhabitant of our continent. It is a very precious legacy that we must take special care of.

On behalf of the ALDE Group, I thank the author of this tenth report on monitoring the Court's judgments. While the primary responsibility for this work lies with the Committee of Ministers, the fact that our Assembly is closely monitoring these issues remains useful, necessary and important. We must welcome the follow-up to the Interlaken Conference held in 2010 under the Swiss presidency of the Committee of Ministers and the subsequent process that has just come to an end after ten years. It has led to significant improvements, both upstream, at the level of national courts and legislation at the heart of the process and the reforms of the functioning of the Court, which has succeeded in considerably reducing the number of pending cases since 2011, but also downstream, with improved implementation of judgments and, here again, a substantial reduction in the number of pending judgments.

However, everything is far from perfect and the number of judgments awaiting execution remains high – and this, as the rapporteur has pointed out, in some cases without progress for more than ten years. The responsibility lies primarily with states. The Court emphasised this last November when it spoke of their crucial role and, I quote, "their crucial role in this matter". In particular, progress is significant with regard to cases involving structural issues, especially in order to avoid the repetition of the same or similar cases. Back in 2010 the Interlaken Declaration invited the Committee of Ministers to strengthen its oversight in this field.

As for the Assembly, as the Steering Committee for Human Rights recently pointed out, and here again I quote, it "makes an important contribution to execution and has unique tools at its disposal, as it is in direct contact with the parliaments of member states". The role of national parliaments, and our responsibility, dear colleagues, as parliamentarians and members of this Assembly, is important in ensuring, at national level, the compatibility of our legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights and the effective execution of the Court's judgments. We must challenge and push our governments on this issue. Few parliaments have specific tools. Our role must therefore continue.

We must also urge our governments to ratify Protocols Nos. 15 and 16 to the Convention; this includes my country. It is with these priorities in mind that the ALDE Group will support the draft resolution and recommendation before us.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:21:02

Thank you very much Mr COTTIER. The next one is EC/DA group, Mr John HOWELL from the United Kingdom.

Please, the floor is yours. John is not here in the Hemicycle, he is trying to get the connection via the internet. He is coming.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, on behalf of EC/DA

09:21:35

Thank you very much, Mister President. There's been a lot of talk during the course of this week about what is a core part of the Council of Europe. I think, however we look at it, the European Court of Human Rights and the subject of Human Rights is a core part of our business. We cannot ignore that nor should we try to brush it under the carpet. It's interesting to see that the two States that have the largest number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights are Russia and Turkey. Let's just remember that: They are Russia and Turkey.

So many of the cases that are there are similar in nature. They come out of a similar activity. But it does mean that there are an enormous number of cases waiting to waiting to be settled there. Now, I can speak about this from the UK's perspective because we are relatively good boys in this, in that the percentage of cases that apply to us is very small indeed. In fact, in the U.K. Parliament I asked the former Lord Chancellor for the percentage of cases that were in fact dismissed before they were actually brought before judges and the European Court of Human Rights, and it's an enormously high percentage.

Having said that, I can look at what is happening with some of objectivity and I can also look at it with some objectivity too being the co-rapporteur for Turkey for the monitoring committee. I think that my co-rapporteur Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG and I are very grateful for the activities of the Council of Europe in supporting the stance that we've taken in relation to one particular individual, and that individual, of course, is Osman Kavala in Turkey, who was arrested in October 2017 on suspicion of attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order in Turkey through force and violence. The European Court of Rights has looked at this case several times and has ordered that he should be released.

But there comes a time when we have to decide what we do about this. We cannot go on accepting that there are States that will simply reject the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights. We have to be prepared to take the ultimate step of banning those countries from the Council of Europe, if necessary, if they do not fulfill the needs of the European Court of Human Rights.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:24:40

Thank you very much, Mister John HOWELL.

And the next one is Mr Tiny KOX from United European Left, please.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, on behalf of UEL

09:24:51

Thank you, Mr President, and let me first thank you thank our rapporteur, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, for what is in our view an excellent report.

I will make some general remarks with regard to the report and come to some specific judgments, which are very worrying - the non-execution of these judgments.

First, if you read Mr EFSTATHIOU's report, you realise how unique this construction is: 47 States under one Court. And the good news is that a lot of the judgments made by our court here in Strasbourg are indeed implemented in our national States. That is unique, we don't see it anywhere else on Earth, and it's here. And a lot of people benefit from this system and indeed helps to make Europe more united as is mentioned in Article 1 of the statute. That is the goodness and also that we see on the national level improvements so that national law and national procedures become compatible with the European convention.

We also see that there are improvements in the whole system of the reform - due to the reform of the convention system - that we are doing since 2010. We had in 2010 as the rapporteur mentions 10 000 pending cases before the Committee of Ministers; it's now 5 000. That's the good news. The bad news is that there are still 5 000, over 5 000 judgments of the Court pending for the Committee of Ministers waiting to be implemented. That is of course a bloody shame, to say it in that way. Especially because many of these judgments deal with that important cases dealing with human beings and dealing with structural problems in the national States. The longer this goes the worse, the higher the decrease of the trust in the system. So that's my general remark. The report is important. It also makes you sad when you read it.

Then to conclude, a remark with regard to the specific judgements and the non-implementation of Mr Cavala and Mr Demirtaş. I think this Assembly has to send a clear warning to the Turkish authorities that if they do not implement these final judgments of the Court then we will have to do something, the Committee of Ministers has to make use of Article 46.4 for infringement procedure or this assembly, after we have adopted today the new procedure joint procedure on states that blatantly violate their obligations, then this Assembly has the right, the power, and I think, the obligation to use that new joint procedure in order to make Turkey execute judgments.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:28:09

Thank you very much, Mister KOX. The next one on my speakers list is Mr Frank SCHWABE, who represents the Socialist and Greens.

Please.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, on behalf of SOC

09:28:21

Thank you very much, Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

My home country is Germany, and hardly anyone in Germany knows about the Council of Europe, but there are a great many people who do know about the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, many people think that it is part of the European Union and not of the Council of Europe, but we can still clarify that. The fact that many people know about this Court shows how important it is, even in a country like Germany.

The Court is at the heart of this organisation and it is our task to ensure that it can work efficiently and well and that it has qualified judges. That is why, at the end of the day, we have to secure the budget and we have to ensure, as we are doing today, that qualified judges are elected. That is our responsibility, that is our task. The responsibility of the member States is nothing other than to implement the judgments. That is why I would like to thank our rapporteur, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, for this very important report, which is probably always one of the most important reports we can hear here in the Parliamentary Assembly. Sometimes the devil is in the detail, in the implementation of the judgments. Sometimes it is also difficult to transpose them into national law. Sometimes it takes a long time, but it has to be done. I want to make that crystal clear once again at this point so that everyone knows what the condition for us to work together here is, without playing games, but very clear on the matter. There are two basic conditions for me, in any case, to be able to work here, and I would like everyone to cooperate. The 47 member States that are here. I would like to see at least one or two more if possible.

The basis is two things. One, to cooperate; to let us into the countries, to allow us to monitor. That is the first thing. The second thing - and there's no getting around it and no discussion about it - is to implement the court rulings. There we have indeed a couple of countries that we could and should talk about in detail here. Two in particular are in the foreground, both in terms of the qualitative and quantitative form, i.e. the number of cases, as well as the difficult cases, so to speak. That is Russia; at the very moment we are discussing the case of Nawalny, where there is quite obviously a court ruling. Whatever the national situation in Russia is, you can assess it either way. The court ruling here from Strasbourg is binding and if it is not implemented, we will have a big problem with each other. The second is Turkey and the cases have been mentioned. This is Osman KAVALA, it is Selahattin DEMIRTAŞ and there I think you cannot make a mistake.

The Committee of Ministers is willing, I think, to take tough measures, which may end up being the toughest measures if the court rulings are not implemented. From this afternoon onwards, I hope that we will have a new procedure to deal with these issues together. That is why I am ready for any cooperation and any dialogue, but the court rulings must be implemented. In the Kavala case in particular, we have come to the point where the court has established that the judgments have not been implemented. That is why this is now a very serious moment for us, and I think we must make that clear. Once again, full support for the rapporteur. Thank you for a very good report.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:31:40

Thank you very much, Mister SCHWABE.

The last one in terms of the political groups representations is the EPP group and Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from Norway, my neighboring country, as a matter of fact.

Ingrid, please, try to connect. I know that you have good connections from Oslo.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, on behalf of EPP/CD

09:32:14

Thank you chair,

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is the Council of Europe's foremost and Europe's most important human rights body: 820 million European citizens can have their case tried in the court, if they believe that a Council of Europe member state has violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Through this unique system, the Court has guaranteed the rights and freedoms of thousands of individuals for more than 70 years.

I am pleased to read that there has been significant progress with regards to implementation of the judgments of the Court.

Yet it is disappointing to read that still some 5 000 judgments have not been implemented, and is under the supervision of the Council of Ministers, some of them for more than 10 years.

In his report, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU points to the fact that many of these cases reveal structural problems, and that the lack of implementation may be a result of deeply-rooted problems such as persistent prejudice against certain groups in society, inadequate management at national level, lack of necessary resources or political will, or even open disagreement with the Court’s judgment.

These trends and tendencies are important to work against.

The EPP Group would like to underscore the role of parliamentarians, and points to what Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU writes in his report – that many parliaments still have not established special structures to examine the compatibility of draft legislation with the Convention, nor do they have structures to systematically monitor the implementation of the Court’s judgments concerning their countries or regular parliamentary debates on this subject.

We have heard time and again in this Assembly that the fundamental values of the Council of Europe are under pressure, and that we need to act.

It is therefore important that we promote such structures, and use our positions and our powers to question our governments on their actions related to executing judgments, including the elaboration of action plans and examination of draft legislation.

As members of this Assembly, we have a special responsibility in promoting this kind of measure, and in raising awareness of the standards of the Convention in our national parliaments.

Thank you, Mr KIMMO.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:35:28

Thank you very much Ingrid.

It was nice that you were quite precise and sharp. We had all the groups. Now we go to the individual members of the Assembly and we start with Mr André VALLINI from France.

Try to be a similar way: sharp, three minutes, please.

Mr André VALLINI

France, SOC

09:36:03

Mr. Speaker,

My dear colleagues,

The European Court of Human Rights is certainly the institution of the Council of Europe that citizens are most familiar with, as Mr Frank SCHWABE said just now; the institution that they turn to as a last resort to assert their rights; the institution that ensures respect for the values enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights that we all share. We celebrated the 70th anniversary of this Convention, which was the first post-World War II text to provide for a supranational decision-making process.

I regret that, seven years after its adoption, Protocol 15, which strengthens the principle of subsidiarity, has not been ratified by all the States Parties. I regret that the execution of the Court's judgments remains difficult in some states, and in particular in the Russian Federation, as has been mentioned before me. By ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights, the Russian Federation undertook to recognise the Court's jurisdiction. Conferring on the Russian Constitutional Court the competence to declare a judgment of the Court as non-binding in itself already appeared contrary to the obligations of the Russian Federation towards the Council of Europe.

The new draft amendments examined by the Venice Commission would further increase the possibility for the Russian Constitutional Court to declare decisions of inter-state bodies unenforceable on grounds which go far beyond human rights and the fundamental principles of the Russian Constitution. This is unacceptable. I want to support here the position of our excellent rapporteur, who has stressed that the choice of whether or not to execute a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not arise; neither for the Russian Federation nor for any other member state.

Respect for the Convention, ladies and gentlemen, is our common good. It is therefore essential that our Assembly today forcefully reminds all states parties, and in particular the Russian Federation, of that fact.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:38:00

Thank you very much, Mr VALLINI.

Next one is Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR from Hungary.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR

Hungary, EPP/CD

09:38:10

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

The implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights is largely hampered by the complexity of the issues raised by the Court and faced by several Council of Europe Member States. The Hungarian Government actively cooperates with the Council of Europe in order to find solutions in these cases.

One of the problems is the excessive length of judicial and related proceedings. The drafting of legislation establishing an effective domestic remedy for the prolongation of court proceedings is under way in Hungary. The Parliament started the discussion of the draft law concerning the introduction of a domestic remedy in November 2018. The draft concept for a new law was prepared by the Ministry of Justice in 2020 and sent to the Council of Europe for comments. The legislative process should be concluded by the end of June 2021.

As regards prison overcrowding, compensation paid to prisoners due to overcrowding in prisons has led to abuses in the application of the law, which must stop. The reference to inadequate prison conditions and the billions in compensation paid to prisoners and their representatives rightly violates the sense of justice in society. By creating almost 3 000 new places in prisons, the Hungarian Government intended to liquidate prison cases.

In the light of experience with the application of this domestic remedy, the applicable rules were reviewed in 2020. The legislative amendments that were submitted to the relevant officials of the Council of Europe were adopted by the Parliament on 16 December 2020.

As regards the education of Roma children, the Hungarian authorities have taken a series of measures to strengthen legal safeguards and standardise a new diagnostic tool for testing the learning capacities of Roma children. There is no indication that there is a continuing problem of systematic misdiagnosis of mental disability among Roma and non-Roma children. Appropriate domestic remedies are also available as part of the review process.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:41:01

Thank you very much Ms CSÖBÖR.

Next one is Lord Richard BALFE from the United Kingdom, please.

He doesn't seem to be connected, I heard. So you can return back later on.

Next one is from Armenia, Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN.

Once again, is Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN on the line? Yes, please.

Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN

Armenia, EC/DA

09:41:42

Mr speaker,

Dear colleagues,

The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are very important for everyone but, at the same time, the world today is in a state of serious crisis. This crisis is the result not only of conflict, on the one hand, and tradition and the preservation of the national state, on the other.

For me, one thing is obvious: if we do not respect our national and family values, if we do not listen to our ancestors, then we reject what gave us birth. Everyone knows that Europe is a "foundation society" where the so-called foundation has been practically engaged in implementing the ideas of neo-liberalism and globalism throughout the world for years. Its investments will be several tens of millions of dollars in various areas of Armenia's public life and have a decisive impact. Taking advantage of the previous authority and social problems as well as the lack of justice, they have used the discontent of the people.

Dear colleagues, one of the reasons for our defeat is this ideology, which came into conflict with our national value system, thus breaking the real backbone of our country. The Parliamentary Assembly rejects the discussion on the unjustifiable delay by the Azerbaijani authorities in repatriating Armenian prisoners of war, but considers the discussion of the Navalny issue to be urgent.

The 44-day war unleashed by Azerbaijan and Turkey on 27 September 2020 has become a veritable genocide in Artsakh. There have been thousands of victims, more than 10 000 wounded and destinies broken. Unfortunately, the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are not implemented by Azerbaijan. And no matter how high the national sentiment of our young soldiers and experienced militias is. The anti-national and globalist system of governance shows this error.

Alexei Navalny's activities in the Russian Federation are more problematic. Navalny's real objective issues are well known in the Russian Federation, but one thing is clear: as leader of the opposition, he is not popular. Today, Europe is making a story about Navalny but it does not note the Turkish-Azerbaijani genocide in Artsakh.

Europe, I have a direct question to ask you: where were you in October and November 2020? Why didn't we hear you? It was the Russian Federation that ended the war. Europe was absent. If the Russian Federation had gone as far as Europe, this part of Artsakh would not have been saved and Armenia would be in a very difficult situation. The Russian Federation, where Navalny was born, is a Russia without a national identity, which will be very far from my homeland. One cannot go against his father and mother, Alexei Navalny.

Europe, do not use the Russian Federation as a way of looking away from the globalist crisis, do not use Alexei Navalny as a cheap instrument.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:45:16

Thank you very much, a little bit over time, but the next one is now Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO from Ukraine.

I don't see him in the Hemicycle, is he there?

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC

09:45:30

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Dear colleagues, the key question regarding the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights is how to guarantee efficient implementation of the judgments. How to make them real, in the sense of the influence upon behavior of human beings, people. To answer this crucial question we need to understand that legal phenomena exist in the minds of human beings. The judgments, just like laws themselves, motivate a certain conduct of people. From this perspective we should treat the issue of the judgments' implementation, not only from a purely formalistic perspective, but also from a, so to speak, psychological perspective. Fom this perspective we need to care about the development of a culture of respect for human rights in general, and the European Court of Human Rights judgments in particular.

Talking about this culture we can divide all the countries regarding their attitude towards human rights into two categories. First of all, those countries which in good faith are trying to implement human rights and judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, despite difficulties, political problems which they may encounter. Also, there is another category of countries, these are those countries which cultivate the culture of distrust to the Court of Human Rights, which are constantly seeking pretexts to avoid the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments. The notable example of the last category of states is Russia, which has recently created an internal legal mechanism by means of the changes to its Constitution, with a view to pick and choose judgments of the European Court of human rights, with a view to ignore those judgments which Russian authorities, the Russian authoritarian regime, doesn't like.

A notable example is, of course, the Yukos case, having such attitude from Russia to the European Court of Human Rights and its judgments, it would be extremely naive to believe that Russia will be implementing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in good faith. Russia's behavior in the international arena proves the idea that the country which violates human rights of its own people within this country will inevitably disregard international law and will be aggressive towards its neighbors. The problem here which we face, is the tremendous patience of PACE, which continues to tolerate serious violations of human rights by Russian authorities. The true way out from this impass is to stop tolerating Russia's crimes against human rights. Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:48:16

Thank you, Mr MEREZHKO.

The next one is Ms Mariam KVRIVISHVILI from Georgia.

Please.

Ms Mariam KVRIVISHVILI

Georgia, SOC

09:48:32

Thank you, Mr Chair, distinguished colleagues.

With respect to the International Court decisions it should be underscored that the statistical data of the European Court of Human Rights demonstrates that democratic reforms carried out by the Georgian government have led to significant reduction in the number of applications lodged in the ECHR against Georgia.

The overall number of applications have gone down 8 times since 2012, when the ruling party came to power. The statistical data clearly demonstrates that the quality of remedies for the citizens and the trust towards local institutions and Judiciary has drastically improved at the national level bringing Georgia even closer to the European standards.

As we advance on our value-based choice of European integration, the Georgian Dream government has declared its determination to submit a formal application for the fully pledged membership of European Union in 2024.

Earlier this month the Georgian Parliament adopted the resolution on foreign policy which was the first resolution to be adopted by the newly elected Parliament. The resolution introduces a new paragraph on intensifying efforts related to international disputes against Russia as one of the Georgian government's top foreign policy priorities.

I would like to underline that Georgia has won two interstate cases against Russia. The deportation case concerning coordinated policy of arrests, detention and collective expulsion of large number of Georgia Nationals by the Russian Federation. Russia was to pay Georgia ten million euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage suffered by the group of at least 1500 Georgia Nationals. As of now the decision has not been executed.

And the recently ruled case of Georgia versus Russia concerning the 2008 August War which indeed is the historical victory for Georgia.

The execution of both interstate cases represents the shared responsibility of all members of the Council of Europe. The Georgian government remains committed to all possible efforts to fully effectively execute the judgments of ECHR. Georgia strongly relies on the support of all the members of Council of Europe in the execution of interstate cases.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:51:01

Thank you, Ms KVRIVISHVILI.

The next speaker is Mr François CALVET from France.

Mr François CALVET

France, EPP/CD

09:51:14

President, colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank our rapporteur for his very comprehensive report. It is true that progress has been made in improving the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, but our rapporteur nevertheless stresses the scale of the challenges that remain.

Four states deserve particularly close monitoring: the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and Romania. More than two thirds of the applications pending before the Court concern these four states, which are also at the top of the list of states with the greatest number of judgments pending before the Committee of Ministers.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is our common good: it is the foundation of our membership of the Council of Europe. The values it embodies are our common bond. It is therefore essential that it has full effect in all member states.

As we prepare to elect two judges to the European Court of Human Rights this morning, in respect of Greece and Switzerland, I want to stress the importance of the Court. The execution of its judgments is the responsibility of each state that is party to the Convention and should not be a subject of debate, whether in individual or inter-state cases, even though the latter are often of a very sensitive political nature.

I therefore fully support our rapporteur's approach, calling on Council of Europe member states to execute the Court's judgments promptly and fully. I also support his analysis that the Committee of Ministers should give priority to those complex cases pending for more than five years and the possibility of recourse once again to Article 46 of the Convention in the event of strong resistance from the respondent state.

As we are about to finalise the new joint procedure, it is a question of overall and credibility of the Council of Europe. Our Assembly must play its full part in this process and play its indispensable role as a stimulus.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:53:41

Merci, Monsieur CALVET.

Next one is Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK from Poland, please.

Takes a bit of time. Here he is, please.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, EC/DA

09:54:02

[Not understandable The recognition] and implementation by member States of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the tribunal of holding the European Convention on Human Rights, is the foundation on which the entire system of the Council of Europe is based. Despite this, in the case of some COE member States, [interrupted by the President] the importance of the ECHR errors [interrupted by the President] and moreover some of the Court's judgments relating to structural problems have not been implemented in more than 10 years. In this context, it is justified for the German presidency in the Court's Committee of Ministers to give these matters new inputs in the COE forum and to intensify our co-operation with host countries that have achieved great success in reducing the number of judgments, acquitting enforcement in recent years.

Poland has performed particularly well in this respect over the last eight years. Poland has overseen a reduction of 92% of the number of judgments of the Tribunal against Poland in assisting the procedures of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This was possible thanks to the modern solution for the enforcement of ECHR judgments that were introduced at the national level. Poland is ready to co-operate with the German presidency in promoting good solutions and mechanism in this area. Thank you very much. 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:55:38

Thank you very much.

I would like to remind you that try to, when you're speaking from remote via internet, put "floor" because it was echoing.

Just now we heard Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK's speech. It was echoing too much. So please put "floor" down when you are making your presentation.

Now it's Ms Nicole DURANTON from France.

Please.

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, ALDE

09:56:04

President, dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank our rapporteur for his very comprehensive work.

The European Convention on Human Rights is the cornerstone of the Council of Europe. It affirms our common values, those that our states have chosen to affirm as their own through their signature of the Convention. These values are essential and they are demanding. We cherish them and they are binding on all of us, even if their application is sometimes difficult.

The European Court of Human Rights is the guardian of this Convention and it is fundamental that its judgments are implemented by member states. It is not up to member states to pick and choose the judgments according to their national approaches or constraints. It is the credibility of the entire organisation that is at stake here. I therefore want to support our rapporteur's call on Council of Europe member states to execute the Court's judgments promptly and fully.

Our Assembly has already stressed the role of national parliaments in ensuring the proper implementation of judgments. I want to bear witness here to the initiatives taken by the French delegation within PACE to hold a substantive debate last December with the Minister of Justice, the French Supreme Courts, lawyers and the European Court of Human Rights on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Convention. Similarly, our delegation made a detailed assessment of the situation in France with regard to the Court's case law.

While national parliaments of course can play an important role, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe must nevertheless take a more offensive stance in order to ensure certain structural problems are resolved. It is not normal that many judgments relating to structural problems have not been enforced for ten years. The Committee of Ministers must therefore adress the issue and act decisively. It is the role of our Assembly to urge it to do so.

I hope that our resolution will be heard.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:58:20

Thank you Ms Nicole DURANTON.

The next one is Mr Kakhaber KUTCHAVA from Georgia. Please.

Mr Kakhaber KUTCHAVA

Georgia, SOC

09:58:29

The decisions of the International Court provide a solid legal basis for strengthening Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Just recently the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment on the case of Georgia against Russia where the Georgian government accused the occupying force, Russia, of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights during the war in 2008.

Georgia submitted approximately 700 credible pieces of evidence to the Court and argued that Russia grossly violated the Convention.

The European Court has found violations on the right to life, the prohibition of torture, right to liberty and security, freedom of movement and obligation to cooperate with the Court. The Court established that Russia exercised effective control over South Ossetia, the Tskhinvali region, Abkhazia and the buffer zone.

The strong Russian presence and the dependency on Russia indicated that there has been a continued effective control over the occupied Georgian regions.

The Court concluded that the events that followed the ceasefire agreement on August 2008 fell within Russia's jurisdiction. These issues and their history, according to which Russia violated a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. These violations prove that Russians carried out ethnic cleansing of Georgians during the August War.

Georgia and its people were victims of Russia's aggression in 2008. Worth to note that the decisions coincided with the European Parliament's report on the Common Foreign and Security Policy where Members of the European Parliament expressed their concerns that Russia's military force still occupied large parts of Ukraine and Georgia, and that Russia continues to destabilise peace and security in the region.

The successful resolution of interstate disputes launched by Georgia is the most effective means of restoring the violated rights of Georgian citizens by the Russian Federation, and serves the consolidation of European order based on human rights and international law.

Tomorrow the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will challenge the Russian delegation's credentials. The Russian delegation members will say that they deserve to be part of this Assembly. But can we be sure they respect this Assembly, this institution or any other European institution? Comments made yesterday by the head of the Russian delegation with regard to the Georgian territories they occupy is the clear demonstration of their disrespectful attitude towards the rules based International order.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:01:03

Thank you very much, Mr KUTCHAVA. The next one is Mr Pieter OMTZIGT from the Netherlands.

Are you connected? No, he is not connected.

I'll put him at the end of the list because of the connection problems.

Next one is Mr Paul GAVAN, from Ireland. Please.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, UEL

10:01:30

Thank you, chair.

I want to begin by commending the rapporteur and offering my full support for this very important report.

I want too, like so many colleagues, to also highlight the case of Mr Selahattin Demirtaş and Mr Kavala in Turkey. And I echo the calls of my group leader that if Turkey does not act on these cases that we must take immediate further action. It's entirely unacceptable and an affront to the human rights principles of this organisation.

Chair, I also want to speak about my own country. There have been over 30 judgments issued by the European Court of Human Rights in which Ireland was a party and Ireland has also taken actions to protect human rights. Notably in 1978 against Britain for their authorities' interrogation techniques in the north of Ireland from 1971 to 1975.

However Ireland also has been slow to act on certain judgments, and in the short time available, I want to highlight one: the case of Ms Louise O’Keeffe v. Ireland. As many of you will know Ireland has had a particularly shameful history when it comes to the sexual abuse of children.

Over six years ago, Ms Louise O'Keeffe won her landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights, where it was found that the state failed to protect her from sexual abuse in junior school when she was 8 years old, in the 1970s.

In 2014 the European Court ruled that the state had violated Articles 3 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had failed to fulfill its obligation to protect Louise O’Keeffe from inhuman and degrading treatment, and had failed to provide her with an effective remedy.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has warned that victims of historic child sexual abuse in schools are still being forced through the courts to secure their rights, due to the Irish State’s narrow interpretation of the 2014 European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of Louise O’Keeffe.

Under the state’s restrictive interpretation of the ruling, a victim of child sexual abuse is required to establish the existence of a prior complaint before the state’s liability was triggered.

The Commission sets out that the criteria adopted by government to identify cases covered by the O’Keeffe judgment are based on a limited and narrow interpretation of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms O’Keefe wrote to the Irish Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, last July stating “the state continues to fail its children by not fully accepting the responsibility that is and always was theirs to protect children from sexual abuse in our day schools.”

So, chair, I call on the Irish government to finally fulfill its duty, to end this shamefully narrow interpretation of the Court judgment and bring the execution of this judgment to a just conclusion.

We have in recent days seen yet another apology from an Irish Taoiseach in relation to the awful things that happens in mother and baby homes in various detention centers, but this judgment is outstanding and it is an affront to those apologies and I call for justice today.

Thank you

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:04:33

Thank you very much, Mr Paul GAVAN.

Next one is Mr Özdemir BEROVA from Cyprus.

Are you connected? No, it seems that he is not connected.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:04:47

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

10:04:57

Colleagues, I really would like us to move away from emotions and get down to the facts. I think that the statistics from the last 10 years show that the number of applications to the Court have gone down three-fold and the Committee of Ministers report on execution of judgments has shown that 162 of those judgments have been withdrawn thanks to Russia's assiduous work. And certainly Russia is at the top of the list when it comes to the payment of just satisfaction, to the tune of €28,547,000 million. 

And when it comes to the Russian Constitution and many of you criticise it without even having read it, I can assure you that Russia's international obligations are set out in Article 15, which stipulates that the principles and standards which are universally recognised under national law are an integral part of its legal system. If an international treaty stipulates different rules to those provided for under the law, then the rules of international law shall prevail. So you can see that it is Russian law that has supremacy over international law and Article 79 of the Constitution does not provide for any fresh or new interpretation of newly concluded treaties, contrary to those that existed when a treaty was signed. So there is no failure to respect the law.

So whether and to what extent the proposed amendments will have adverse effects on honouring Russia's commitments under the ECHR depends on the manner in which the amendments will be applied - "depends on the way in which these amendments are applied". So this is not about a violation of the way in which the rules are applied or indeed whether they are respected. The constitutional court has only rejected cases on two occasions and indeed dialogue is ongoing so I would appeal to you to deal with the facts. We are not talking about transferring prerogatives to international tribunals or courts when it comes to those international treaties which have not yet been ratified and I think issues pertaining to the transfer of powers or prerogatives need to be reviewed because the delegation of powers remains an exclusive prerogative of parliament and I think, therefore, transferring powers to international tribunals or courts is tantamount to democratic delegitimisation, which is contrary to established procedures under the national constitution. Thank you very much. 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:07:57

Thanks, Mister BASHKIN.

Next is Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra.

Mr Pere LÓPEZ

Andorra, SOC

10:08:06

Thank you very much, as many of the previous speakers have done already, I would like to underscore the prestige and the status and positive image of the European Court of Human Rights. That is why all states have to do their bit to see to it that such an important and indispensable institution is given both the human and financial resources it so badly needs.

I would also like to support the excellent work done by our rapporteur Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU and I share his concern to see to it that judgments of the courts be properly executed, particularly in some of the countries we have mentioned. Finally I would like to refer to one of the recurring issues in ECHR judgments: excessive length of judicial proceedings. This is an aspect which has a direct and highly adverse impact on protection of individual and personal human rights, particularly the fundamental human right of all to be heard within a reasonable period of time. Thank you.

 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:09:33

Thank you very much.

Next is Mr Andreas NICK from Germany.

Please.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD

10:09:39

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A few weeks ago we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. This reminds us once again that here in the Council of Europe we have created a system for the protection of individual human rights that is unique and exemplary in the world. A system in which states voluntarily but bindingly submit to the jurisdiction of an independent international court, namely the European Court of Human Rights. That is why I want to emphasise once again that compliance with and implementation of the judgments of this Court is not optional, but an obligation entered into as a member of the Council of Europe. It is therefore right and proper that, with this report, we should attach particular importance to compliance with the implementation of the judgments. It is no coincidence that the German Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has also made the issue of compliance with and implementation of judgements one of the focal points of its Chairmanship.

I want to deliberately build a bridge, a link, to two other debates that we will be having yesterday evening and this evening. We looked at the monitoring procedure update last night. Just as we protect individual human rights through the case law of the Court of Justice, so we protect, through the monitoring procedure, the institutional framework in which this individual protection must also take place in the Member States. The rapporteur rightly pointed out that the question of compliance with the judgments must be assessed not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. When the core area of individual human rights, of the rule of law and of pluralist democracy is touched and called into question, it really does go to the heart of what we have committed ourselves to here in the Council of Europe. This applies to all member states, whether large or small, whether founding members, de facto founding members or those who joined after 1990.

The second bridge I want to build; tonight we will probably take the decision to finally put the Joint Procedure into force and this is an important instrument where we together with the Committee of Ministers as the Parliamentary Assembly have the ultimate weapon in our hands to also enforce compliance and adherence to the rules of the Council of Europe. I can only appeal once again in this report to the states that are particularly affected - Russia and Turkey have been mentioned here in particular - that we do not have to get into a situation where we have to argue with each other about this procedure in order to be able to enforce the elementary obligations arising from membership of the Council of Europe. I hope that this is also one of the results of this week's debates, and we will keep at it.

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:12:42

Thank you very much, Mr Andreas NICK.

Next is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia.

Please.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

10:12:48

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

The European Court of Human Rights is the main pillar of existence of this organisation.

Due to the European Court of Human Rights and its very existence, the people of the Council of Europe may enjoy the same system of international human rights guarantees.

Ladies and gentlemen, the European Court of Human Rights exists until we believe in it.

Twenty years ago when we joined this organisation we believed in the European Court of Human Rights and in European values. Now we believe in European values and in the European Court of Human Rights.

I do believe that in the future we will believe in European values and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, honourable colleagues, the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights is not only the fulfilment of its final verdicts, but it's also the respect of all the other rulings adopted by the European Court of Human Rights. Honourable colleagues, after the ceasefire, the European Court of Human Rights adopted a large number of interim measures demanding Azerbaijani authorities to provide relevant information about Armenian hostages kept by Azerbaijan. Up until today, the European Court of Human Rights got nothing. Up until today, Azerbaijan is reluctant to provide relevant information, minimum information, about the physical conditions of Armenian hostages.

I would like to solemnly declare that these people are kept by Azerbaijan not because they have committed any crime but just for being Armenian. Can you imagine that in the 21st century we may have, as a member of the Council of Europe, a State that actually has a policy of state-sponsored racial discrimination against Armenians? Being Armenian is a threat to physical security and the very existence of Armenians in Azerbaijan.

Honourable colleagues, I do believe that European values are crucial for the building of democracy in our continents. I do believe that the fulfilment of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are quite important. I do believe that we should join forces to release the hostages kept in Azerbaijan, the only basis of which is racial discrimination. I think we cannot tolerate the existence of a racist state within the Council of Europe. All the countries of the Council of Europe should respect the European Court of Human Rights and its rulings.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:15:52

Thank you very much, Mister VARDANYAN.

Now we move to the neighboring country of yours, to Turkey. It's Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

Please, the floor is yours.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Turkey, NR

10:16:20

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the Rapporteur for his report "The implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights". The report includes many valuable insights and suggestions from which Member States will certainly benefit. As a Turkish parliamentarian, I would like to inform you about the progress of implementation of the judgements of the Court in Turkey.

Turkey attaches the utmost importance to the execution of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. In the recent years, Turkey carried out a series of reforms to facilitate the implementations of the judgements. As a result of these reforms, Committee of Ministers closed 3392 cases belonging to Turkey since 1996, of which 206 were leading cases.

To put the commitment of Turkish authorities in perspective, I believe the number of cases closed would be, and I think should be, indicative. Turkey closed 732 cases in 2019. The figure was 123 in 2017, while it was 372 in 2018. The trend of an increasing number of closed cases is a clear decisiveness and willingness of Turkish authorities to ensure that the judgements of the Court are duly implemented. 

The number of pending cases before the Committee of Ministers has also been significantly decreasing in the recent years. As a result of the reforms made in recent years in Turkey, the number of cases before the Committee decreased from 1593 in 2016 to 1287 by the end of 2018. At the end of 2019, the total number of pending cases was 689, almost half of the figure in previous year. Please take this into consideration. This trend of decreasing number of pending cases before the Committee of Ministers, demonstrates Turkey’s successful cooperation with the Council of Europe bodies. And apart from what some of our colleagues in the Assembly have said about it, we will continue to do so. 

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:19:30

Thank you very much, Mister ALTUNYALDIZ.

The next one is Ms Lesia VASYLENKO from Ukraine.

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:19:41

Thank you, colleagues,

I will take a few minutes to explain how the convention and the European Court of human rights are the basic instruments for guarding the European peoples against violators who are often their own respective states.

We have to look at the statistics to identify the countries who are most culpable of grave breaches of Human Rights. Year in year out the Russian Federation has led this list was the greatest number of cases admitted to and decided by the European Court of Human Rights against it. But does this mean that the judgments are being executed? No. On the contrary. Last year the Russian Federation adopted amendments to its constitution denouncing the obligation to execute court judgments. This is a dangerous precedent and an even more dangerous message that this member State has sent to the rest of Europe. The message is that it is okay to violate, it is okay to ignore agreements, and it is okay to disregard principles.

What is more frightening, colleagues, is the lack of reaction of this Assembly, which sends all the people across the Council of Europe countries another message: violators are free to violate, accountability is optional. The result is obvious: further violations by the violator, one to be exact. The examples are plenty and put in the open for everyone to observe.

Today we are observing the case of Navalny versus Russia, a ruling that is being ignored and that has led to many arrests and detentions across one country, to beatings, and to unlawful arrest of peaceful protesters, who do not agree with the corrupt undemocratic regime.

My concern is that also in the same way that Russia ignores the court decisions with regard to its own citizens it will disregard any decision of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to interstate disputes whenever it contradicts Russia's own interests. There have been examples of that, plenty of them.

Russia has been condemned for violations of human rights in Transnistria and Georgia, but nothing has been done. So, I wonder what will be the fate of the perspective decision of the European Court of human rights in the case of Ukraine versus Russia, a case were tremendous human rights violations have been committed by Russia and the illegally annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Shall this decision too remain unanswered and remain as empty words written on hundreds of pieces of paper?

We as members of this Assembly have a duty before the peoples of Europe to ensure that due mechanisms, sanctions mechanisms are implemented against perpetrators and that the perpetrators and violators are brought to accountability.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:22:50

Thank you very much Ms VASYLENKO.

The next one is Ms Sena Nur ÇELİK from Turkey.

Ms Sena Nur ÇELİK

Turkey, NR

10:23:10

Dear President, dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for emphasising the importance of execution of the judgements of the Court. The report calls for providing sufficient resources to relevant national stakeholders and instituting parliamentary structures to monitor compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. I believe such steps will contribute to the timely implementation of the judgements.

In the framework of this report, I would like to draw your attention to the outstanding issues regarding the implementation of judgements of the Court in Greece. Unfortunately, the Turkish Muslim minority in Western Thrace has been denied their identity, religious and education rights for decades despite bilateral and international treaties. Greece was sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights three times in 2007 and 2008 for denying the existence of the Turkish minority and banning their NGO’s for using Turkish in their names. These actions of Greece were qualified as discriminatory and in contradiction with the freedom of association by the Court. However, the Greek authorities have been systematically refraining from the implementation of the Court decisions for over a decade. The Committee of Ministers urged the Greek authorities several times on this issue.

The rightfully elected muftis in Komotini and Xanthi are also not recognised since the 1990s. This is a blatant violation of the Athens Treaty of 1913, which is still valid, as well as a serious breach of religious freedoms. There exist five rulings of the European Court of Human Rights against Greece for the cases taken to the Court by the elected muftis about the breach of the article 9 of the Convention. Despite these rulings, the elected muftis of Xanthi and Komotini still remain under legal pressure. They are constantly interrogated or sued on grounds that they usurped the office.

I believe the report will be a timely reminder for all member states to uphold their international obligations stemming from the Convention. It is without doubt that as members of PACE, we should encourage our respective governments to exert efforts towards ensuring the implementation of the Court’s judgments.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:26:03

Thank you very much.

The next one is Mr Sergiy VLASENKO from Ukraine.

Please.

Mr Sergiy VLASENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:26:09

Thank you, Chairman.

First of all I would like to thank the rapporteur for his brilliant job. For me, as a Ukrainian, it's a pity to see that my country is on the top of the list after the Russian Federation and Turkey, talking about the amount of appeals to the European Court of Human Rights. As a Ukrainian I understand that that is a result of a lack of reforms in the judiciary in my country. But we are trying to improve the situation.

First of all, I would I would like to say that at the beginning of this year the government of my country just created a special governmental commission on the implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. This commission is dealing with the individual and common measures directly mentioned in the decision of the European Court of Human Rights against Ukraine. As a result of the work of that commission the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the law on the right of the individual to change patronymics. That was mentioned by the Secretary General yesterday in this Hemicycle and that is a direct fulfillment of the case Garnaga v. Ukraine. We also have the draft law in the parliament which will be passed as soon as possible dealing with the resolving of the long-lasting issue of life imprisonment in Ukraine and that will be the fulfillment of the case Petukhov v. Ukraine.

I would like to say to say a few words about the implementation of another decision, which was issued by the European Court of Human Rights on 14 January this year, that's the case Ukraine v. Russia. In this decision the European Court of Human Rights stated that the Russian authorities occupied Crimea, not after the so-called referendum, but just before this period of time in the night from 25 to 26 February 2014, and that's not my political position. That's the position of the European Court of Human Rights, the highest judiciary institution of our organisation.

And I have the question of how that decision of the ECHR will be implemented, the same way as Russia implemented the decision in Yukos case? Just rejecting it? Just rejecting that decision by the decision of their constitutional court? Will they do the same with the decision in the case of Ukraine v. Russia? I have a rhetorical question to this Assembly: will we, as an Assembly, implement that decision of the European Court of Human Rights? Will we do that? And my answer, my personal answer is yes, we must do that, we must do that in the respect of rule of law, in the respect of international law, in the respect of democracy and in the respect of human rights.

Thank you

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:29:06

Thank you very much. Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS from Lithuania, please.

I am afraid this might be the last speaker because as I said originally we must finish the debate around 10:30 because time not for us just now.

So, Mister Emanuelis ZINGERIS, the floor is yours.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:29:29

Yes sir. Thank you so much and thank you for smoothly chairing our meeting.

From our side, I would like to point out after Mr Sergiy VLASENKO's statement that we concentrated in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on questions to the Venice Commission during all this year about the Russian Federation being under international law and under the influence of the European Court of Human Rights's implementation of decisions. The amendments to the Russian Constitution make us extremely worried, and be warned of the Russia Federation, asking the Venice Commission to give clarification. Who has the upper hand: international law or Russian law?

This shift that in some cases internal Russian law can overturn the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is extremely worrying and that we should have for our consideration having the Venice Commission explanation for this point requested by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. So from my point of view, the biggest change in the Russian Constitution related to the European Court of Human Rights's decisions, in the territory of human rights, especially in the case of Navalny and the 2017 European Court of Human Rights decision, making Navalny not guilty in the case of Kirovles it is extremely worrying that this decision is implemented in a Russia at the level of Russian Court's decisions not our Court, not the European Court of Human Rights.

So at the same time Mr Sergiy VLASENKO, as our friend mentioned, Ukraine and other young democracy countries are going to improve their relations to European Court of Human Rights implementations on the territory of Ukraine, Georgia and new democracies. So for that reason we should be supporting their move for implementation of the European Court of Human Rights, especially when the European Court of Human Rights made a clear declaration that Crimea was actually occupied by the Russian Federation and the referendum had zero influence. The occupation and annexation of Crimea was done before the so-called referendum by the Russian government. So in this case, I would like to emphasise the decision by young democracies to show that they are distant from the Russian Federation who just not make a decision not yo implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights  [interrupted by the President] and to do that yes. And I would like to say that we are expecting Ukraine and Georgia to implement showing their primary [interrupted by the President] ties to the Council of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:32:54

I'm so sorry because we do have actually a problem with the timing for the speaker's list. 

I must now interrupt the speaker's list to continue because of the time limits we do have for this session.

There were actually still six speakers still to come, and two were not connected. So eight altogether.

The speeches of the members on the speaker's list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the table for publication in the official report.

The texts can be submitted typed electronically no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

Unfortunately I have to do that now because we declared beforehand already, so 10:30 is the time limit for for this session's speeches.

Now the rapporteur Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU. Do you wish to reply? Three minutes for you.

 

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Rapporteur

10:34:07

Thank you, Mr President.

First of all I would like to thank all the colleagues who gave their consent and congratulate the excellent work mostly made by the team of the people working in Strasbourg whose assistance was exceptional to me and for which I thank them all.

I fully agree that the crucial obligation is an effective execution of the judgments as rightly said by Mr Damien COTTIER. The prominent speaker on behalf of the ECDA group had rightly raised that the core part of the very foundation of the Council of Europe is the respect and implementation of the judgments. Otherwise the rule of court stays at empty words.

I also fully agree that there is a need to take drastic measures. 70 years after the institution was founded, it is time to change our attitude towards the violators of the rule of law principles.

Thank you very much for the excellent remarks from Mr Tiny KOX and for his remarks on the excessive number of non implemented judgments.

I think that the emblematic personage of Mister Demirtaş and Cavala merit the drastic intervention of our institution. If the Mammadov case gave the possibility of implicating article 46 paragraph 4, what about Mister Demirtaş and Mister Cavala? This is something which we have to take into consideration.

Thank you very much for the excellent remarks of Mr SCHWABE that the court is the jewel of the crown of our institution and we also agree about Demirtaş case.

I think that what we can say according to the excellent reports and the excellent comments of our colleagues is that the margin of appreciation given to the states cannot and does not mean that there is a choice whether or not to execute the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

This is my firm position on that and I wish I had more time to comment on the speakers, who all agree that it is time that no space must be given to violator to continue the violation, as Ms VASYLENKO rightly stated.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:37:46

Thank you very much indeed, rapporteur Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

Does the chair of the committee wish to speak?

You have three minutes please.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:38:02

This report is about the very core of the entire organisation, the Council of Europe.

The system of the Convention and the Court is really unique. It offers the right to petition to everybody under the jurisdiction of any of the Council of Europe's member states.

While the court procedure is judicial, the monitoring of execution of judgements is political. The primary role lies with the Committee of Ministers, but our Assembly plays an increasingly important role in the entire process.

I fully agree with Ms SCHOU. We all are in a sense ambassadors of the Convention and of the Court in this hemicycle. Therefore I call upon you, ladies and gentlemen, not only to support this excellent report by Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, but to convey the messages included in this report to our national parliaments. Indeed we are always inclined to criticise other states for non-execution of judgments, but I believe our first responsibility is to ensure that our own states, which we in a sense represent here in this Assembly, implement judgements quite diligently.

So I congratulate Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU and please support the report.

Thank you Mr President.

Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA

Russian Federation, NR

12:58:50

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Work carried out by international courts is extremely vital since for many people the decisions issued by ECtHR seen as the only way of protecting their rights, provided that all domestic remedies have been exhausted. All ECtHR decisions and documents relating to ECtHR activities, must be verified and based on an accurate interpretation of existing legal norms. It is, hence, especially important to assess legal provisions of the participating countries in a rather competent, professional manner. Any distortion thereof is unacceptable. Unfortunately, conclusions presented in the report with regard to my country – Russia – are incorrect, distort the meaning of Russian legislation, represent false grounds for further discussions.

1. The speaker distorts the conclusions drawn up by the Venice Commission, which actively interacted with the Russian state authorities and had an opportunity to delve deeply into the issue. Thus, under item 67 of its report the Commission basically admits that the changes to the Russian Constitution are consistent with ECHR provisions.

2. The report is one-sided. It does not provide objective data on the number of the decisions of the ECtHR that had already been enforced, it gives no examples of positive interaction of the parties, including on complex issues. In particular, relating to the constructive position voiced by the Russian Constitutional Court which allowed to find certain legislative, law enforcement solutions with regard to the ruling on “Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia”. In 2019, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers recognized it as executed and discharged it from its control list.

3. Implementation of ECtHR judgments often requires the parties to undertake mutual actions towards each other. Unfortunately, these judgements are sometimes used for political purposes as pressure instrument. For this reason, certain conditions under which the actual implementation of a decision of ECtHR becomes impossible, can be created. For example, "Georgia v. Russia (I)" case (on the issue of awarding compensation). The Georgian side still refuses to provide up-to-date lists of affected citizens to whom compensation needs to be paid. At the same time, the list presented to the ECtHR in the very beginning of the proceedings included the deceased or non-existing people, as well as those not entitled to compensation.

These circumstances make it impossible to approve the submitted texts of the report, of the resolution and of the recommendations.

I believe that the essential issue of human rights protection should be covered accurately, objectively and impartially.

Mr Sergey FABRICHNYY

Russian Federation, NR

12:59:13

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Since the end of 1990s, Russia, like other countries, see that international bodies entitled to interpret international treaties (including ECtHR) deviate in their decisions from their literal wording, filling norms of such treaties with a different meaning than the one that was laid down during their signing, ratification.

So-called "evolutionary" approach to interpretation, appeared two decades ago, prompted the Council of Europe member countries, not just Russia, to draw up legal mechanisms to protect against arbitrary decisions of international courts.

Several decisions of the German Constitutional Court, including those taken in connection with ECtHR decisions, indicate that an international agreement has the status of an ordinary federal law and the state has the right to disregard it in cases of contradiction with its constitutional values. This position was applied by the German Constitutional Court in May 2020 in a decision on the inadmissibility of applying in Germany the pan-European monetary measures. This decision states that if an international body arbitrarily interprets an international treaty or goes beyond its competence, national bodies should not be guided by such interpretation. Similar approaches exist in practice of the highest courts of Italy, France, Britain.

The exercise of state powers in areas of fundamental public importance cannot be entirely fitted to the "Procrustean bed" of an international treaty, for example, in the field of foreign investment law, which provides for the protection of a foreign investor and the possibility of referring a dispute with a state to international arbitration. The threat of major financial sanctions under such agreements should not force the state to abandon, for example, the implementation of policies aimed at ensuring a sound environment. This approach, inter alia, is consistent with the alleged subsidiary role of ECtHR in relation to national legal systems and the discretion of the member states in applying the Convention at national level.

It is essential that international courts act within the framework of states-given mandate and do not try to resolve issues of clear political meaning.

Please note that the amendments to the Russian Constitution were introduced in accordance with the established procedure and were supported by the Russian citizens in referendum. Making the relevant amendments is an internal matter of Russia and is outside the purview of PACE and its speakers.

Neither in the previous nor in the updated 2020 version of the Russian Constitution there is no opposition of Russian law to international law.

Mr George LOUCAIDES

Cyprus, UEL

12:59:24

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I wish to congratulate my colleague, Mr. Constantinos Efstathiou, for his report, and the wealth of information provided.

Indeed, it is important to highlight that the Interlaken Reform Process has brought about tangible results, including in particular the processing of cases by the Court. The implementation of the pilot judgments’ procedure and the effective filtering of applications has led to a steady decrease of the previous influx of pending cases, thus allowing the Court to remain more effective. Simultaneously we must underline that the 2010 process has prompted the State Parties to undertake more tangible steps towards improving knowledge and training domestically.

As the Report underlines, however, problems in the implementation of judgments persist, particularly as regards the most serious and complex cases with varying structural, legal and political difficulties, such as the inter-state case of Cyprus v. Turkey (2001). Therefore, more needs to be done on the political level to ensure compliance, without excluding the option of using the infringement procedure by the Committee of Ministers albeit only in exceptional circumstances.

Another interesting point are the areas identified as falling under enhanced supervision. Recurrent violations of the rights in these areas, namely actions of security forces, conditions of detention, violations to the right of life, torture and the excessive length of judicial proceedings, merit our utmost attention. It has also become clear that individual and general measures have become more difficult to monitor, implement and assess as these measures may be wide-ranging and politically controversial, and may often involve changes to legislation and policy or simply face the State Parties’ disagreement over the Court’s judgments.

What I have just mentioned indicates that Parliaments have a crucial role to play in nurturing a true human rights culture in their respective States. Their proactive involvement must be strengthened through the creation of permanent structures in national chambers to monitor compliance with human rights standards and obligations as deriving both by the European Convention and other international conventions and protocols (ICCPR and ICESCR) providing for the general or thematic protection of human rights. It would also be useful to develop mechanisms to scrutinise draft national legislation as regards its compatibility with the Convention. Moreover, we must hold regular debates, give more visibility, ensure that no measures are taken that could hinder the implementation process and make this a priority in our national parliaments. We must also develop synergies and liaise with other competent human rights bodies and stakeholders. Mostly though, it is through our political influence that we can readily assist the Committee of Ministers in applying varying degrees of political influence on fellow states in relation to their implementation records. The Joint Mechanism that we have adopted, can greatly contribute in this direction.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:39:46

Thank you very much indeed.

The debate is closed.

We are now starting to consider the amendments of the document for the draft resolution and and draft recommendation. As you are aware, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution to which seven amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will consider the draft resolution first. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium. I remind you that the speeches on amendments are limited only to one minute, it's only one minute now the speaking time.

We start with the Amendment 1 and I will call Mr Sergiy VLASENKO to support the Amendment 1. You have one minute, please.

Vote: The implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

Mr Sergiy VLASENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:40:49

Thank you, Chairman.

That's an absolutely technical amendment just to improve the legal wording of the resolution.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:40:55

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I don't see anybody.

Please.

We don't have anyone to speak against.

If not, then the Committee's opinion.

 

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:41:52

The Committee is in favour.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:41:54

Okay, now I shall put the amendment to vote.

The voting is similar to yesterday. Those who are present in the chamber hall will use the Hemicycle voting system here and members parties being remote should vote using the remote voting system. The vote in the Hemicycle and remote voting is now open.

Is it open already? It is. Still a few votes were not voted yet.

The vote is now closed. I call for the result – it is approved. No, sorry, sorry. We have technical problems. I see only one element of the voting; part of the voting.

Is this the final result now? Okay, it's agreed. Amendment 1 is agreed. 

Ms RUKAVISHNIKOVA, please, point of order. Somebody is asking for point of order but not technically connected.

Shall we move on? Yes, we will move to Amendment 5.

I have been informed by the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights that Amendment 5 was rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority. Does anyone object on this? If so, please ask for the floor by raising your hand, those who are here in the chamber hall or by teller via the remote system. We need 10 people to oppose this rejection. There is not very...  One. Two. And how is the remote system? Nine altogether, ten are needed. So there is no objection adequately enough. I declare that Amendment 5 is rejected.

Then we move to the next amendment, number 3, if I have calculated correctly. Yes, Amendment 3. I call Mr Sergiy VLASENKO to support Amendment 3. You have one minute.

Mr Sergiy VLASENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:45:40

Thank you, Mister Chair.

I would like to add to paragraph 5 the following sentence: "The Assembly stresses the inadmissibility of member States to legitimise the possibility of non-implementation of the Court's decision."

So the amendment just emphasises that non-member states can legitimise the possibility of non-implementation of any of the Court's decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:46:05

Is there anybody against?

Now there is a technical problem.

Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA

Russian Federation, NR

10:46:21

I would like to say that I am opposed to this amendment because in my view the wording is superfluous in this draft resolution. What is more, we are not able to express ourselves as we would wish. We are not respecting the rules of procedure. 

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:47:06

Miss Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA, put in on "floor" because it was echoing once again. Not very well, but we caught your point anyhow.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:47:15

The Committee is in favor of Amendment 3.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:47:20

We put the amendment to the vote and the procedure is the same, like in previous ones.

The vote is now open

The vote is closed.

And the result: it's approved. 

We move to Amendment 6 and once again, the same situation, that it has been rejected by the Committe by two-thirds majority and now I would ask the same, like previous times, are there 10 members of the Assembly who are opposing this rejection? If so, please, raise your hands here or... Okay, it seems that we must put this to the vote, because there are 10 people there.

I ask Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN to support Amendment 6 because we have to vote on this. Please, you have one minute.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

10:49:22

Thank you very much, President and colleagues.

As in the case of amendment 5, our reasoning is that there was duplication in the text. This proposal concerning administrative measures which may be an obstacle is over dimensioned in paragraph 8.5.

What is more, constitutional law is not one of the prerogatives of this Assembly.

 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:49:59

Who wants to speak against?

Okay, no one.

The Committee's opinion.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:50:09

The Committee was against with two-thirds majority. Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:50:14

Okay. We shall vote now.

And we are using the same system as earlier.

The vote is now open.

We are closing the vote now.

And the result is soon.

It is rejected.

Then we move to Amendment 4.

I call Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU to support Amendment 4.

You have one minute.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Rapporteur

10:51:31

Thank you, Mister President.

I'm in favour of the amendment because the Venice Recommendation is crystal clear. There is no room or space to challenge the concluding remarks; so, I'm in favour of amendment 4.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:52:05

Anyone against?

These are the problems of connections.

Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA please.

Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA

Russian Federation, NR

10:52:33

Colleagues, I would like to speak against this amendment because the aim is to interfere in the domestic matters of Russia through the principle of sovereignty. It's based on an interpretation which is not a fair interpretation of the conclusions of the Venice Commission, which acknowledge the proper way in which the Russian constitution interprets the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

I would like to repeat this. This is not a prerogative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:53:10

Thank you.

And the Committee¡s opinion, please.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:53:13

The Committee is in favour.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:53:17

We should put down the issue to the vote, the amendment to the vote. The vote is now open.

Vote is closed now.

The result is that it's approved.

Now we go to Amendment No. 7.

If I correctly calculate it. Once again this has been rejected by the Committee by two-thirds majority. Does anyone object? If so, please, now you indicate. Once again, we need 10 people to object. One, at least in the hemicycle, with the others a little bit time obviously. On the list there.

Seven. Nine. Still one is lacking. Do we have voting or not? It is there, so we have to vote.

We have to vote on it, and I call Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN to support Amendment n.7.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

10:55:04

President, we are dealing with paragraph 8.9, we call on the paragraph to be deleted. It's providing a clarification which could supposedly damage the reputation of the Court. Who should decide this? This is almost like censorship that is being practiced. We are in favour of the freedom of opinion. I do not think it makes sense to have this text. We are talking about freedom of speech and there are differences of opinion of course. What we are doing? We are not discussing this so... I cannot support this paragraph.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:55:52

Sorry, does anyone wish to speak against?

Mr VLASENKO, please.

Mr Sergiy VLASENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:56:02

Thank you, chair.

I would like to speak against because this paragraph is not about the discussion, it's about the attacks on the European Court of Human Rights, on the government agents working for the implementation of the Court's decisions and NGOs working in the promotion and protection of human rights. So that's not about the discussion, that's about the attacks.

Thank you. 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:56:27

Thanks.

And the Committee opinion, please.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:56:30

The Committee was against with a two-third majority.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:56:34

I shall put the issue to the vote.

The vote is now open.

The vote is now closed.

And the results:

Amendment 7 is rejected.

We move to Amendment 2. Once again the same situation, the Committee was rejecting this amendment by two thirds majority. Now once again, does anyone object? We need once again the same threshold. One at least in the Hemicycle – one, two, three, four in the Hemicycle.

So, it's enough.

We have to vote on this issue.

I call Mr Sergiy VLASENKO to support Amendment 2, please.

Mr Sergiy VLASENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:58:06

Thank you, chair.

In this amendment I would just want to include a new paragraph to the resolution as follows:

"The implementation of the Court’s decisions should be a priority for the State, the Assembly calls on all State Parties to legally facilitate the admissibility and enforcement of all ECHR judgments".

So, that's the amendment we are talking about and this amendment just emphasises that implementation of ECHR decisions should be a top priority for all – all member states, the other parties to the convention and the members of this Assembly.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:58:48

Thank you very much.

Does anyone wish to speak against?

No one. I don't see and I don't hear.

Okay. Committee opinion, please Chair.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

10:59:03

The Committee was against with a two-third majority.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:59:08

Now we put the Amendment 2 to vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is now closed.

The results will appear.

Amendment 2 is rejected.

Thanks a lot, we have now done the amendments and now we go to the draft resolution itself. We have to vote to the draft resolution too, we will use the same voting pattern we have already used, and now I remind you that we are voting about the whole draft resolution.

The vote is now open for the draft resolution.

The vote is now closed.

The results, the draft resolution is approved with a clear majority.

Now we move to the last item on this overall item is a draft recommendation and we will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation. The same pattern.

The vote is now open for the whole draft recommendation.

The vote is closed.

That draft recommendation is adopted with a very clear majority.

Now this overall item is over and we will move the next item. But before we move the next item of the program as a whole, I must remind you that the votes are in progress to elect two judges to the European Court of Human Rights and the deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly.

I remind you that the poll will be closed at 3 p.m. Those who have not yet voted may still do so by using the electronic voting system. And I remind you also that in this whole hemicycle you vote in the same pattern, same way, like those who are voting in remote way. So by an electronic voting system the overall voting takes place.

Thank you very much, we will move the next item and I think the chair will be changed. Is it so?

Thanks for this morning.

Debate: Judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova must remain independent

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:06:22

I do apologise for keeping you waiting for a couple of seconds but as you might imagine this is quite busy these days. So sorry for that.

Our next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled 'Judges in Poland and the Republic of Moldova must remain independent'. This is document 15204 presented by Mr Andrea ORLANDO on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Right. This will be followed by a statement by Ms Sabine LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER, former Federal Miniser of Justice of Germany.

In order to finish by 1 p.m. we must unfortunately interrupt the list of speakers at about 12:10 to allow time for the reply in the votes. There are more than 20 amendments if I get it right.

So without any delay I call Mr Andrea ORLANDO the rapporteur. I recall that you have 10 minutes to present the report, if you can do it in less we would welcome that, and three minutes to reply to the debate.

Mr Andrea ORLANDO you have the floor.

Mr Andrea ORLANDO

Italy, SOC, Rapporteur

11:07:26

Thank you, Mister President.

Following the motion for a resolution, six judges were to remain independent in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova. I was mandated to prepare this report and to examine the situation of the legal and judicial power in the two countries.

The report was prepared by hearing experts and authorities.

Unfortunately, due to the difficult conditions we are experiencing, I was unable to go to Warsaw, where I had been invited, on 1 December. However, we organized a videoconference attended by representatives of the National Council of the Judiciary from the Constitutional Tribunal, the Chancellery of the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Justice, the holder of disciplinary action on judges, and the President of the Supreme Court.

My first test report was ready in March 2020, but its adoption was not possible because of the pandemic. Today's text of my report, which was adopted by the Committee last December, seeks to take into account the latest political and legal developments in the two countries.

It is useful to recall that the Assembly has already decided on the issues of independence of judges on several occasions. In particular in Resolution 2188 of 2017 based on the report of our former colleague Mr Bernd FABRITIUS entitled "New threats against the primacy of law in Council of Europe member states. Selected examples".

The Assembly expressed disquiet and made specific recommendations concerning the two countries in question. Unfortunately, after 2017, the threats worsened. The problems of the two countries, however, it must be said, are very different.

I want to mention how in January 2020 the Assembly opened a monitoring procedure for Poland. I do not want to do double work, so I will just highlight a number of legal problems that have arisen.

On the Republic of Moldova in October 2019, the Assembly adopted its last resolution that concerned the functioning of democratic institutions in that country, 2208. Deep reforms of the judiciary have been lacking over the last two decades despite recommendations from the European Union and Council of Europe articulations such as GRECO and the Venice Commission. The level of perception of corruption is very high in the public sector and also in the judiciary. Many judges have been accused of complicity in money laundering and there has been frequent talk of state privatisation.

Recently, the government and parliament approved the Strategy for Judicial Independence and Integrity 2021-2024. It is a plan whose implementation is awaited. In addition, following consultations by a Council of Europe working group last September, the government adopted a draft constitutional amendment. Following an amendment, 12 members of the Constitutional Court will be chosen by their peers from all levels of the jurisdiction. This draft amendment was welcomed by the Venice Commission.

We must demand from this Assembly that the Moldovan authorities take concrete measures in particular in the fight against the corruption of the judiciary, capable of dealing with the various cases of conflict of interest involving certain members. We must also recommend that anti-corruption measures should no longer be used for political purposes.

It is in this context that I welcome the commitment of the new President, Maia Sandu, to strengthening the rule of law, in particular, the independence of judges. I hope that the authorities will bring the reforms in this field to a successful conclusion.

In Poland, on the other hand, the majority party launched much-discussed reforms in October 2015. The contents are set out in detail in my report. Let us recall here the merger of the Minister of Justice with the figure of the Prosecutor General, the change in the composition of the Constitutional Court, and on this change this House has also already given its opinion.

I would like to focus attention on the further so-called reform of justice initiated in 2017, which has elicited the stance of this Assembly, the Venice Commission, the European Commission, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. I would like to point out that as a result of these changes, 15 judges of the National Council of the Judiciary were elected by Parliament. And in March 2018, Parliament proceeded to elect 15 new judges so that the 15 old members were removed. A new law also established two new panels within the Supreme Court: the Disciplinary Chamber and the Chamber for Extraordinary Control of Public Affairs. The Court of Justice of the European Union, in a 2019 ruling with reference to the political composition of the National Council of the Judiciary, concluded that the Polish Supreme Court must verify the independence of a new disciplinary chamber in order to determine whether this panel can validly hear laws concerning the retirement of supreme court judges. As a result, the supreme court concluded in December 2019 that the disciplinary chamber is not an impartial tribunal under EU law.

In January last year, the supreme court adopted a resolution stating that the participation of a judge appointed by the new National Council of Magistrates can produce nullity in criminal and civil proceedings. However, this ruling was found unconstitutional by the Polish Constitutional Court.

In April 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union asked Poland to suspend the operation of the Disciplinary Chamber. Subsequently, the Disciplinary Chamber ceased making rulings regarding disciplinary procedures. However, it continued to examine requests for the removal of judges' immunities and thus waived such immunities for three judges. According to the committee, this was done against EU law, which therefore sent a letter supplementing the infringement procedure already initiated in April 2020.

Another controversial aspect is the law on the organization of justice and in particular the rules for the retirement and disciplinary sanctions of judges. On these two points, the European Commission has launched two infringement procedures which are currently before the Court. On retirement, the Court then ruled on 5 November 2019 in the sense that it was contrary to EU law. The second procedure is still ongoing.

On 20 December 2019, the Sejm adopted a law introducing some additional disciplinary sanctions with regard to judges' right of expression. The law entered into force in February 2020. The Venice Commission has strongly criticized this law, which is also the subject of an infringement procedure by the European Commission.

Many appeals regarding all these changes are pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Eight groups of appeals have already been communicated to the government. The rulings of our Court will be decisive in assessing the impact of these changes in the light of the Convention, in particular with regard to access to justice and the conduct of due process in accordance with the principles set out in the Charter.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise how these reforms have produced a legal schism that can make it difficult to justify rights.

The Venice Commission has issued recommendations to overcome this crisis by proposing to return to the old rules with respect to the election of the members of the National Council of Justice and to review the composition of the Supreme Court and to reduce its powers and to return to the old procedure regarding the choice of the first president, as well as to establish new powers of the judiciary and on the appointment and removal of the promotion of judges.

I believe that it is right to emphasise that each of the choices made by Poland is referred to in one of the European Union legal systems. I believe, however, that there is no other country in which all these choices in which politics intervenes in the activity of the judiciary have an impact at the same time.

This is why we cannot but emphasise the critical nature of these choices as contained in my report.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:17:48

Thank you very much, mister rapporteur, Mister ORLANDO.

We will now hear a statement by Ms Sabine LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER, former Federal Minister of Justice Germany.

Madame LEUTHEUSSER, I am very very glad to have you on board for your expertise and without any delay I will give you the floor for 10 minutes.

I do apologize because I know we could debate for hours on the issue given your expertise on the issue itself but unfortunately I can only allow you 10 minutes because we've got so many people wanting to intervene, and amendments.

So without any delay, Madame Minister, you have the floor.

Ms Sabine LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER

Former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany

11:18:30

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for allowing me to make a few comments on this important debate on the rule of law and the work of the European Court of Human Rights. I have followed the debate so far with interest, including on the first item on the agenda. I would like to start by saying that, as Minister of Justice, I myself have implemented judgments of the ECHR in Germany, on preventive detention and on lengthy court proceedings. It is necessary to have the political will to take these judgments seriously and then to transpose them into national law. Today's debate shows that, unfortunately, not everywhere has the political will to respect human rights to such an extent that they are given the highest priority in national policy.

Just now, after Mr ORLANDO's speech - and I congratulate him on his report - we are talking about the independence of the judiciary. That is the central element of a constitutional state, because if citizens can no longer trust their own judiciary, if they are treated arbitrarily there, if their opinions are not respected, if they are arbitrarily imprisoned; then of course they lose confidence in a system. That is why it is so crucial that there should be independence of judges, and this upper principle, unfortunately, has been violated in some Member States, not only of the Council of Europe, but also of the European Union. Mr ORLANDO's report shows this with regard to Poland, I would like to say it a little more pointedly after the individual presentations, the important steps that Mr ORLANDO has mentioned. In Poland, unfortunately, we are witnessing a transformation from a more independent judiciary to a judiciary which is supposed to comply with the political dictates of the government. And thus to a judiciary in which the judges do not have this independence. That is the background to the changes to the disciplinary chamber, that is the background to the new procedures for appointing but also dismissing judges from the judiciary. This should also make them dependent in their internal opinion-forming and this process has been going on for over four years, ladies and gentlemen. Mr ORLANDO has mentioned the many judgments of the European Court of Justice. That is why there must be a renewed political will in the Member States not to allow such developments to take place, as we are seeing in Poland, but also in other countries. The European Commission is looking in particular at Hungary, Malta, Bulgaria and Romania, and here in the Council of Europe we are looking at 47 Member States with very different legal cultures, legal traditions and legal systems. That is why this debate here is important, also hybrid, also online and that is why these reports are so important, ladies and gentlemen. However, the first part of the debate is also about ensuring that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which has rightly been highly praised, are effectively implemented.

The debate has also shown that there is still a worrying trend in various national situations, despite the fact that the numbers are falling. Let me say this in no uncertain terms. Over 60 000 cases are pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Over 5200 judgments are in the supervision process of the Committee of Ministers. That, ladies and gentlemen, is truly frightening, because it takes up to 18 years for judgments to be implemented or not implemented at all in national law. That is, let me put it so bluntly, denial of justice. Judgments that have no effect. That means denial of justice, that means, in addition to statistics, simply the continuation of terrible violations of human rights which are not remedied by national justice.

National law is the first step and if it fails and the national judiciary does not adhere to standards, does not adhere to these elementary human rights of the European Convention on Human Rights, then the Council of Europe comes in as the last hope for many people who are arbitrarily detained, who are arrested after demonstrations - thousands of them, who are not allowed to vote. Then you can't get involved in the process in your own country either. And whenever that is prohibited, the Council of Europe is there to give these people - and there are far, far too many of them - one last helping hand; to be the last lifeline for these people. And that is why my very great appeal to the Member States, also to the governments: respect these judgments, respect what the Council of Europe is doing. This is not negligence; this is the most important thing there is. For everyone, for every system, for every human being. Human rights can live and develop in a system, peacefully, without violence. That is why developments such as those we are witnessing in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, where the judiciary is being deformed to some extent, as the Venice Commission has repeatedly stated in no uncertain terms, must be resolutely opposed.

And here, of course, in the debate this morning, one name has always come up, quite clearly in the current situation. That is Alexei Navalny, who is now back in prison. I just want to pick up on that, alongside all the other important cases and proceedings that are here at the ECHR and in national countries. Navalny has now won seven judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. That is, seven times Russia has lost.

Even now, at the end of last year, Russia was again ordered to pay damages, and the arrest now was based on a judgment that the European Court of Human Rights had already objected to years ago, namely in 2012.

So the balance sheet for the development of the rule of law in the work of the judiciary, respect for human rights; unfortunately, the development is not only good, it has many dark sides. Too many people are still falling victim to national power politics and are therefore unable to exercise their rights. That is why this Council of Europe really is a watchdog, a protective power for the human rights of individuals. And that is why we are working for constitutional changes in Member States; to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, to strengthen the independence of public prosecutors' offices in general. I have already dealt with this in reports of the Council of Europe, which is very important, so that the fates behind the figures can see that there is hope. So that you can see: Justice is working, judges are also guided by the European Convention on Human Rights, and that is why what you are deciding here is so important.

However, you should also make use of the sharp instruments; Article 46 of the ECHR offers enough of them. And also now the report - which offers possibilities by Mr ORLANDO - which is so clear, which contains such unambiguous demands, so that a government cannot politically bypass resolutions with overwhelming acceptance. That is precisely what is to be produced. The hopes of young people - and I see this time and again - are pinned on the Council of Europe. I am grateful to all of you for trying to achieve precisely that: more freedoms, the rule of law, integration and human rights.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to say a few words.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:28:43

Thank you very much, Ms LEUTHEUSSER for your expertise and for the information that you have given to our assembly.

We really welcome that, we always are very happy to have experienced people enlighten us before we start a debate for people who wish to do so, colleagues who wish to do so, to take elements that you have brought to the debate on board, or not.

Because, as you know, specifically and more than anywhere else, in the Assembly speech is as free as it can be.

Thank you very much again and we really hope to see you one of these days physically in Strasbourg and so, once it's possible, why don't you drop by, as they say? Thank you very much again and hope to see you soon.

We will now go to the speaker's list.

As you know, the speaker's list starts with five delegates from the political groups, after which we will continue.

I call upon the colleagues who were indicated to me as being speakers on behalf of the political groups to request the floor.

I am looking at my list.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK, but I don't see him on my small screen.

Oh ok, Mr MULARCZYK, you have the floor.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, on behalf of EC/DA

11:30:14

Dear colleagues,

[interrupted by the President] you have the fort.

I would like to underline that Poland is not the only country whose political powers have decided to reform the system of justice or system of justice administration. We know about such projects in Spain or in France and other countries. Both of them faced opposition but this does not mean that they are inadmissible. In a democratic pluralistic society it is normal that reforms meet some resistance, mostly from those whose interests are affected. This is something we should always remember.

The report is not based on concrete arguments, but mostly on general and conditional opinions rather than facts. The report uses ambiguous terms such as "general concern", which are hard to understand and analyse. Mr Andrea ORLANDO prepared his statement without visiting Poland and without talking to the institutions he described in this report, notably the Polish NCJ members or the first president of the Supreme Court or other institutions. In the report, it was mentioned that in Poland courts remained the last resort for numerous prosecuted civil rights activists and disobedient judges, but the report fails to precisely identify who these prosecuted activists and judges are. No judges have been punished for resistance to the judicial reform.

Regarding the merger of the function of the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General, one should remember that these two offices were merged between 1990 and 2010.  In that period Poland became a member of the Council of Europe and the European Union and such situation was never criticised.

The Polish NCJ: there is no rule that states that National Council of the Judiciary of Poland members who are judges could be only elected by other judges. The manner of election does not prejudge the independence or lack of it.

The Supreme Court issues: the Court of Justice of the EU has now ruled that the current structure of Polish Supreme Court is contrary to EU law. I would like to mention that the disciplinary chamber only works within the frames as set out by the CJEU judgment.

The ordinary courts issue: the president and vice president of the Polish courts have no power over the jurisdiction of particular judges; they have only administrative competence. As I mentioned before the argument that hundreds of judges and prosecutors have been subjected to various forms of harassment in recent years has no factual basis and Mr Andrea ORLANDO does not offer evidence to support this argument. I may stress that explanatory proceedings are not harassment but they are a normal element of disciplinary proceeding that allows potential disciplinary delict to be examined. Disciplinary prosecutors are judges who are independent from both the NCJ and Ministry of Justice and also from judges' associations. None of the concepts expressed in the report were based on actual events, there is no political pressure on judges and there have been no politically-sentenced judges.

I am finishing. Judges in Poland are not harassed. I would like to express my disappointment with Mr Andrea ORLANDO's report, who co-operated [interrupted by the President] with the group within the Polish Judiciary and who co-operated with Opozycja, who didn't want engage with the Polish institutions that I mentioned above or listen to the arguments. This is not an objective report.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:34:02

Excuse me.

Will you please conclude?

Ok. Next speaker on the list is Mr Paul GAVAN from Ireland, from the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, on behalf of UEL

11:34:24

Thank you chair.

On behalf of the United European Left I want to welcome this report. Access to justice before independent and impartial courts is essential to the rule of law in any country and is one of the core values of the Council of Europe.

I believe there is a fundamental difference between the two states named in this report: in Moldova there have been efforts to support moves towards a more independent judiciary; this is acknowledged in this report which nevertheless underlines the need for further progress, especially with regard to the full implementation of the new strategy for reform of the judiciary, and the GRECO recommendations. There are gaps between reform plans and reform implementation, which need to be closed out. 

In Poland however there is an altogether different direction of travel. Since 2015, under the rule of the so-called Law and Justice Party, Poland has been sliding rapidly towards authoritarian rule.

We have witnessed a power grab of the judiciary by this right-wing government, which regrettably seems all too happy to disregard the need for judicial independence. The Polish Government has been forcing Supreme Court judges to retire and appointing new obedient ones. There is international concern with regard to the passing of the so called “repressive law” or “gag law” of 20 December 2019.

I welcome in this resolution the clear call on the Polish Government to refrain from applying the provisions of this law.

As the resolution notes, many judges have been subjected to various forms of harassment in recent months. Disciplinary or pre-disciplinary proceedings have been brought against judges who have spoken in public about the independence of the Judiciary or been outspoken against the ongoing reforms.

It is also important to note the recognition in this resolution that the powers of the Minister for Justice with regard to the appointment and dismissal of court presidents, disciplinary proceedings against judges, and the internal organisation of the courts remain excessive.

We believe it is vitally important to see these steps to remove judicial independence in the wider context of a government bent on removing space for civil society, and the same government's attacks on LGBT communities, on women's rights, the disgraceful decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and its crude anti-immigrant stance. 

In conclusion, Poland is on a very dangerous path right now, and it is the duty of all of those who value democracy, human rights, to support this very clear call to halt the erosion of judicial independence. 

I want to commend the rapporteur, I want to commend the comments of Ms Sabine LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER and I agree with her on this point, that we are witnessing the transformation of judges, who are now expected to carry out the political wishes of their government. That is why it is so important that we all speak out on this debate today.

Thank you. 

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:37:24

Thank you.

Next speaker is Ms Margreet De BOER from the Netherlands for the Socialist Group.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, on behalf of SOC

11:37:32

Thank you.

I also want to welcome the words that Ms Sabine LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER spoke so passionately.

And of course on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group I most welcome the report of Mr Andrea ORLANDO.

The independence of judges is a crucial element of the rule of law, which is one of the core values of the Council of Europe. Democracy and human rights cannot function without it.

The Venice Commission uses access to justice before an independent and impartial court as one of its main indicators for assessing the respect of the rule of law in a given country.

The report of Mr Andrea ORLANDO is called: Judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova must remain independent. After reading the report, the question arises whether its title was right. It suggests that judges in both countries still are independent while the report contains many examples of corruption, harassment and political prosecution of judges who hand down judgments that the authorities do not like, proximity of courts to political authorities, and laws that limit the freedoms and human rights of judges and make them vulnerable.

For sure there are judges in Poland and Moldova taking their duties seriously and trying to act as an independent and impartial judges in very difficult situations. They deserve our respect and our support.

This is not the first report or resolution on the worrying situation in both countries. There are previous resolutions by our Assembly, reports by our Monitoring Committee, opinions of the Venice Commission, and decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU. We also acknowledge the differences between the two countries, with Moldova trying to improve the situation while Poland is deliberately making it worse, not only for the judges but also for the human rights of women, minorities and a lot of people in the country.

We think it is important that our Assembly keep on defending the rule of law and hold our member states accountable. The Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group fully supports the report and the resolution so the judges in Poland and Moldavia will be independent again.

Thank you.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:40:07

Thank you.

Next speaker on the list is Ms Kamila GASIUK-PIHOWICZ for the Group of the European People's Party, Poland. 

Ms Kamila GASIUK-PIHOWICZ

Poland, on behalf of EPP/CD

11:40:15

Ladies and gentlemen, the repressions against judges in Poland are worsening with every month. They are concrete people, with names and surnames. One of the repressed judges, Igor Tuleya, might end up in prison for rendering a judgment which simply didn't please the ruling party. Judge Beata Morawiec might face similar sanctions – she became a political target after suing the Minister of Justice in a civil proceeding.

Overall, approximately 1,000 Polish judges face disciplinary proceedings or were threatened with such measures in connection with their actions to defend the independent judiciary. One of the reasons was even the mere fact of submitting prejudicial questions to the European Court of Justice, for example, by judge Ewa Matjeska. According to the so-called gag act, from one year ago, a judge can face disciplinary proceedings for questioning the legality of appointments of other judges, which were decided by the National Council of Judiciary, itself appointed in a violation of the Polish Constitution.

The governing party has been undermining systematically the reputation of the judge profession. A foundation controlled by the government, organised a few years ago, dedicated a billboard campaign to stigmatise the judges and undermine the public trust in this profession. In 2019, journalists revealed an organised group of haters in the Ministry of Justice.  Its members used internal information of the ministry in their social media activity to attack and defame judges and politicians known for defending the independence of the judicial system.

Ladies and gentlemen, the report has given you just a glimpse of the deep destruction of the independent judicial system caused by the governing party in my country. These examples alone show clearly why we need reports such as the one presented today picturing the situation comprehensively and accurately without any doubts. They are an important weapon in our fight for the independence of the judiciary. I trust that this and similar reports will help us to reconstruct faster the independent judiciary and the rule of law in Poland.

Yet, there is also something else, which is extremely important, that fills me with pride and hope for a better future: the steadfastness of Polish judges who firmly defend the independence of the judicial system. So, once again, let me express my gratitude for this report in the name of EPP Group. I hope that this and other reports will be followed by decisive actions from all European institutions. Thank you very much

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:43:08

Thank you.

The next speaker on behalf of the ALDE Group is Ms Emilie Enger MEHL from Norway.

Ms Emilie Enger MEHL

Norway, on behalf of ALDE

11:43:26

Thank you Chair.

President and dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, I would like to thank the rapporteur for this thorough report. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group recognises this resolution as important.

A safe and fair society is built on rights and duties for the individual, many of which are adopted by law.

However, these rights and duties are not of any value unless they are guaranteed by an independent judiciary. The existence of an independent court system, independent from political power, is an absolute requirement for a liberal and free society where human rights can be guaranteed for all.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group shares the concern about how legislative and administrative measures are putting the rule of law and independence of the judiciary at risk in Moldova and Poland. Distance between the legislative and judicial branches are necessary for courts to be independent. Threatening, demoting or silencing judges or other critical voices, as has been reported in Poland, is both alarming and totally unacceptable.

We share high respect for individual cultures, also with regard to different legal systems. However, implementing measures that undermine the independence of the national legal system, a core pillar of democracy, is unacceptable. National safeguards of cultural values should be ensured in other ways, not through challenging the independence of the judiciary.

The situation in Poland and Moldova is serious. The assembly and other international bodies have repeatedly spoken up, and have urged both Poland and Moldova to take action and bring their practice in line with democratic principles and the rule of law.

President, in between speeches on the international stage, we must not forget, who this serious situation is actually affecting. The lack of independence of the judiciary is of course a problem for our principles and a threat to the European values that we all share and take pride in. But, but most of all, it affects the people that the judiciary fails to protect if the courts can not be trusted to be independent and impartial.

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group we call on Moldova and Poland to listen to the messages from both the international society, and their own civil societies, and answer not with harassment of judges, undemocratic legal reforms and corruption, but with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, both in law and in practice.

Thank you.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:46:14

Thank you. This concludes the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

Next speaker on the list is Mr Krzysztof ŚMISZEK from Poland.