AS (2018) CR 17
2018 ORDINARY SESSION
Thursday 26 April 2018 at 3.30 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Jonas Gunnarsson, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.35 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Europe’s role in peacemaking initiatives in Syria (current affairs debate)
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is a current affairs debate on Europe’s role in peacemaking initiatives in Syria. Speaking time is limited to three minutes for all members except the first speaker, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 10 minutes. In the debate I call first Ms Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir. You have 10 minutes.
Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – Dear colleagues, what began as a brutal crackdown by Syria’s security forces on civilian demonstrators dissatisfied with the Assad regime in early 2011 has resulted in seven long, dark years of a horrendous Syrian war. During those years, Syria has turned into a battlefield of regional and international powers, including the United States, Britain, the Russian Federation, France, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Over the years, the war in Syria has escalated into more than a civil war between those for and against the Assad regime; it has rather become a stage for foreign powers who have created even more complex alliances based on conflicting interests, complicating the situation on the ground and making the possibility of a political solution to the conflict ever more unlikely.
The war in Syria has been fought by countless militant groups within Syria, representing various interests and ethnicities with complex interconnections, and foreign troops from neighbouring countries, as well as individual foreign fighters who have travelled to Syria to take part in the war. The war in Syria has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis of our times, but even more it is a humanitarian catastrophe of immense proportions, in which atrocious crimes, forced displacements, the use of chemical weapons, and torture and attacks against civilians are commonplace.
The war in Syria has led almost 6 million people to flee Syria – most of them women and children. It has caused 6.3 million Syrians to become displaced within their own country. Furthermore, according to the United Nations, 2.9 million people in Syria cannot be reached by humanitarian organisations that could provide them with necessities and assistance. Dear colleagues, these figures are so high that it is hard for us to get our heads around them, or around the painful fact that behind each and every number is a human individual and a human life – and they are mostly women and children.
The vast majority of Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, which have shouldered their responsibility and hosted them. Although countries such as Jordan have extensive historical experience of receiving refugees from its neighbours, Jordanian officials and the King of Jordan himself confirmed in a meeting with the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons in Amman, Jordan, in March, that the demanding task of receiving Syrians fleeing the war has pushed Jordan to the brink of its capabilities and might lead to a re-examination of Jordan’s refugee policy. The growing unemployment rate and worsening economic situation in Jordan is not helping either. Our Assembly cannot ignore the ever greater risk of insecurity and instability in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey that this humanitarian catastrophe has created. And, dear members of the Assembly, while Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have received the majority of the refugees from Syria, Europe has only welcomed 10% of Syrian refugees fleeing unbearable living conditions. That is a test of humanity that Europe has, unfortunately, failed, but we still have a chance to get better marks on another test: the test of Europe’s role in peacemaking initiatives in Syria.
Europe is doing well in its contributions to humanitarian aid to Syria. For example, the European Union has mobilised collectively with European Union member States over $10.6 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for Syrian refugees inside Syria and in surrounding countries. But we, as a continent, cannot keep the problem away and pacify our conscience by giving money to humanitarian organisations or financial support to governments in the region and then sit back and leave it to others to find more sustainable solutions. Our solutions to the problem are often aimed at the symptoms rather than the causes, as was perhaps the case regarding the deal on migrants struck between the European Union and Turkey. This solution might have solved the migration crisis for the time being for Europe, but Syrian refugees are trapped in conditions that violate the most basic human rights not only in Syria’s neighbouring countries, but also in Europe. Criticism of conditions in detention camps in Greece by the international community and non-governmental organisations is an example of this.
We have a greater obligation, duty and responsibility to stop the ongoing horror in Syria than we have until now taken on, and that responsibility cannot be shouldered by military actions such as that which France and Britain along with the United States chose to take on 14 April, with support from many western powers. Please don’t get me wrong: the use of chemical weapons constitutes a crime, and those responsible for their deployment must always be held to account. International law forbids the use of chemical weapons and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 of 2013 required the Syrian regime to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpiles. However, military interventions as a response to the use of chemical weapons carry the risk of further escalation, with the situation spiralling out of control and increasing the danger of direct military confrontations between the United States, the Russian Federation and Iran, with the possible intervention of Turkey and Israel. Air strikes have not, and will not, resolve the war in Syria.
There have been multiple attempts at country-wide peace talks, backed on various occasions by the United States, the Russian Federation, and the United Nations, and several rounds of peace talks have taken place since 2012 in Geneva, Astana and Sochi, but most of them have, unfortunately, achieved limited results. We must change that, and we must believe that it is possible to change that.
Europe must step into the vacuum of the international arena and step up to its role, based on its culture and history and the lessons learned from brutal wars on the continent. Syria represents the most serious current threat to international peace and security, and we must not be bystanders. Over the past seven years, our Assembly has thoroughly analysed the Syrian conflict and related issues. In Resolution 2190 on prosecuting and punishing the crimes against humanity, or even the possible genocide, committed by Daesh. There is also extensive ongoing work: the report by Rapporteur Theodora Bakoyannis on the situation in Syria and its effect on surrounding countries.
Our role is vital, and our message as a Parliamentary Assembly must be clear: we must emphasise negotiation for a political settlement where all parties to the conflict are given access to the peace process, and consider an urgent peace process plan for Syria.
This process must be supported by the active involvement of the international community, and Europe needs to play a bigger and more united role in that, and active European diplomacy must be used to de-escalate the conflicts. There is an urgent need for a strategy for peace in Syria, one which would contribute to a peaceful and relatively stable transformation of a war-torn Syria into a country with a fair political system. The focus and priority must be on providing security and stability for Syrians and stabilising a war-torn country.
But above all, dear colleagues, we must maintain our humanity and be the peaceful warriors of humanity, because our humanity is the source of our empathy which connects us all so we can solve the most difficult tasks facing us, such as horrible wars and poverty. And, dear colleagues, we the members of the Assembly are in a unique position to talk and work for peaceful solutions both here and back home in our national parliaments.
It is my hope that this debate does not turn into a blame game. There are no good or bad fighters in Syria; atrocities have been committed by all parties. There are suffering civilians who desire nothing more than peace, and for their sake we must move forward fast to a peaceful resolution to the war in Syria.
I call upon the participants in this debate to focus on solutions and fruitful discussion of how we can all do better than we have until now.
Mr DAEMS (Belgium, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – The United Nations estimates that in a country with a pre-war population of 23 million, 6.1 million people have been internally displaced by the fighting and more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country; that is 50% of the population. More than 350 000 people have been killed.
In view of the ongoing and ever escalating conflict, the most acute needs in the short term are humanitarian, and I specifically express my concern regarding the humanitarian situation in Idlib. It is critical that Idlib does not become the new Aleppo. Although all parties concerned – and there are many – agree that the only definite solution for the Syrian crisis is a political one based on a vision of a “democratic and non-sectarian state...with full respect for and protection of the rule of law”, the political negotiations are at a standstill.
The Syrian war is an unfolding catastrophe that has embroiled several of the world’s major powers, and, in this world at present, geopolitical interests come before human lives. That is a shame. The more destruction we see on the ground, the more urgent the need for a political solution becomes. We in the Council of Europe and Europe in general must focus on this: we must denounce geopolitical interests that destroy countries and kill citizens. I explicitly state that again: Europe and we in the Council of Europe must denounce the geopolitical interests of the superpowers that destroy countries and kill innocent citizens.
I urge all members of this Assembly to pass on that message when they return to their national assemblies, and also to fight for the resumption of the peace negotiations within the framework of the United Nations by eradicating what we always see in the world: that the geopolitical interests of superpowers kill countries and kill innocent people. This is a shame.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I congratulate the Bureau on allowing this timely current affairs debate on Europe’s peace making initiatives in Syria, and Ms Brynjólfsdóttir on her excellent opening remarks.
UEL is of the opinion that Europe has still unused potential for bringing Syria out of its present apocalyptic situation and, having failed to avoid war, must assume further responsibility for building peace. Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline the need for criticism since Europe, perhaps to a lesser extent than the United States, carries some of the responsibility for opening the Pandora’s box in Syria. The ongoing civil war in Syria was mainly triggered by approaching the Syrian conflict from the perspective of forcible regime change, which fuelled age-old antagonisms in Syrian society. The initially peaceful demonstrations in 2011 rapidly grew into an armed uprising without a coherent exit plan, reliable leadership or a political promise.
As a part of Europe, Ankara’s approach towards the war in Syria, with support from Washington, has further complicated the situation. The civil war, which has ended up in a stalemate, gave jihadist groups a greater initiative and gave birth to ISIS. Now that ISIS has been militarily defeated through the direct impact of the Kurdish revolutionary forces, Europe should use its economic and political power to reintegrate a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Syria around the values of a democratic secular republic based on self-rule. Europe should urge the retreat of the foreign armies from Syria. It should start talking to all parties in the conflict and urge Turkey to stop the military invasion of the Kurdish regions of Syria, and Afrin in particular. Syria should be returned to the people. Their right to self-determination should be raised up as the basic clear principle around which to restart finding a solution in Syria.
Mr AMORUSO (Italy, Spokesperson for the Free Democrats Group)* – In the past few weeks, the Syrian crisis has witnessed dramatic events. The Syrian territory has become a place of confrontation for both regional and global interests involving the Kurds, Iran and its allies, which are regarded as a threat by Israel. The Russian Federation is more and more present in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The civilian population are being used as human shields by terrorists. There are millions of refugees, and religious minorities are being persecuted. Then there is the evacuation of foreign fighters who waged war with ISIS.
In the last few days, it has become clear that a military solution is not a real option. A political solution that involves all the countries of the region, plus the Russian Federation and the legitimate government of Syria, is the only possible option. We appreciate the efforts by the United Nations special envoy, who held talks with the major representatives even when the Geneva talks were stopped owing to the fact that people wanted to do away with Assad.
In its bilateral meeting with Ms Mogherini, Europe needs to emphasise its support. Unfortunately, it has been very absent from the political scene, despite providing a great deal of humanitarian aid. It has given a lot to this population, but it has been absent from the political scene. This is not only the case for Syria, but for the problems of migration. We hope that, in the future, Europe will be in a better position to play an effective role so that we can come to a sustainable peace that will bring stability to the region and to the whole world.
Mr BEREZA (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party)* – The European media regularly reports the killing of civilians in Syria. Despite serious concerns, there is no end in sight to the war. Indeed, the war is becoming global in nature. We must, however, recognise that we are partly to blame for what is happening in Syria because Europe has been extremely passive in relation to this conflict. I can explain why.
Initially, President Assad was fighting against rebels. It was a civil war or an uprising against a dictator. Then, however, the conflict seriously destabilised the whole region, resulting in millions of refugees and thousands of people killed. The war in Syria also became a military operation against IS in an effort to prevent its expansion. To fight against IS, many other countries got involved in the conflict but not always for the reasons they claimed. For instance, the Russian Federation claimed that it wanted to fight against IS, but it is actually undertaking military operations on the side of Assad against the rebels. In addition, many private military companies and mercenaries are involved in the fighting in Syria today, sometimes on the side of ISIS and sometimes on the side of the Russian Federation.
Wagner is one of the private military companies recently partially destroyed close to Hisham by United States forces. Mercenaries have also tried to gain control of oil and gas infrastructure in Deir ez-Zor. The Russian Federation is using Syria, as it used Donbass, to train its own PMCs and to test its hardware. This also happened in the former Yugoslavia, Transnistria and Donbass, yet Europe has said nothing. Similarly, we said nothing when a Russian journalist, Maxim Borodin, supposedly fell out of a window just after beginning to write about the private military company Wagner. Clearly we have to recognise that the way forward has to involve pursuing and prosecuting all soldiers of fortune, whoever they are fighting for. They have to understand that what they are doing is beyond the rule of law and they have to be prosecuted, as do those who organise and fund them. Any mercenary must understand that they will not escape punishment.
One recent act of barbarity was the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against its own people. We know that this happened very recently in eastern Ghouta and that more than 40 people died. Hundreds of people, mostly women and children, ended up in hospital. A ruler who massacres his own people in this way is a mad beast, and all civilised countries have to unite against such a regime, despite the Russian Federation’s backing. We cannot remain passive in the face of what is happening. We need to find a common stance. The global community has to get together to unite against the Assad regime and its allies. We need to do everything possible – through economic and political sanctions – to isolate the regime. Otherwise, we will pay the price of more and more disasters and millions of refugees.
The only way out is to put an end to all fighting. We need to once again restart negotiations. We need to get all parties to the conflict around the same table. We must also recognise that allowing Shiites and Sunnis to have an equal share in the governing of the country would be the way forward, ensuring them equal representation in government and in parliament. Following the example of Lebanon could be a way forward. Europe can provide a venue for such negotiations and can moderate them.
Mr LACROIX (Belgium, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group)* – Colleagues, I think that we are all profoundly shocked by the images that we have seen from Syria, particularly following the allegations of the use by the Syrian regime of chemical weapons against its own people – an attack against children, women and men, an attack against mankind, a shameful attack. Every day since 2011, the war in Syria seems to have been redefining what we thought of as the limits of horror. In this quagmire that has a regional and international dimension, all the red lines have been crossed in the use of chemical weapons.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has to be able to do its work straightaway, without any obstacles placed in its path. Impunity for the regime is not an option. I say that as someone who comes from Belgium, a country which has several times in the past been affected by the use of chemical weapons.
As a result of the vetoes used in the United Nations Security Council and the various regional and geopolitical interests at stake, the international community has been totally incapable of coming forward with a long-term solution. I think that it is a rather painful avowal of powerlessness. Any military operation has, of course, to take place in the context of the United Nations and in full respect of international law. Recourse to force is always the last resort, and always represents a failure to find any political or diplomatic solution, which is, after all, the key to any lasting solution. Military operations should always be guided by the so-called 3D or global approach – in other words, a mixture of not only defence but, above all, diplomacy and development – if it is to have any assurance of lasting peace.
Like other members, I recently took note of the recent targeted strikes undertaken by the United States, France and Great Britain in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on 7 April in Douma. These raids targeted military sites linked to chemical weapons held by the Syrian regime. The time has come, more than ever, for diplomatic initiatives and political negotiations involving all stakeholders so that we can provide a humanitarian response and avoid escalation. We talk about the 3D approach but no one seems to have come forward with a longer-term initiative, and we tend to forget the longer-term interest or issues involved.
No military strike, however surgical, has provided a lasting solution to the conflict. I am not saying that recourse to force is never justified, particularly when unacceptable red lines have been crossed. However, in this context, and above and beyond the Syrian situation, I believe that the Council of Europe has expertise to provide to countries in the region, certainly when it comes to building a state based on the rule of law and consolidation of democracy.
Sir Roger GALE (Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Mr President, chemical warfare is not acceptable. It is not acceptable on the streets of Salisbury in the United Kingdom, where agents of the Russian Federation sought to murder a British citizen, and neither is it acceptable on the streets of Syria, where, as we have seen, the puppet dictator Assad sought to murder men, women and children of his own country through the use of chlorine gas and other chemicals.
I understand the desire for negotiation and dialogue, but that dialogue has been vetoed, not once but six times, in the United Nations. That is why the United Kingdom, France and the United States had to resort to the use of missiles to degrade, in very carefully targeted strikes, Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and his production facilities. To do nothing was not an option. We cannot permit the use of chemical weapons, outlawed for 100 years, since the end of the First World War, to become acceptable again, ever. Those who seek the use of such weapons have to be regarded as pariah States, and no amount of talking or pressure will persuade me that they have any right to a voice either directly or by proxy in this Parliamentary Assembly.
Through the use of chemical weapons the Russian Federation has diminished its own moral credibility and the right to the respect of civilised nations. Mr Slutsky, Putin’s mouthpiece at the ad hoc committee, said in this building about an hour ago that the Russians had only obligations, no rights. Under the Convention, they have no right to hold political prisoners; they have no right to interfere in the affairs of other member States; they have no right to annex the land of other member States; and most particularly, they have no right whatsoever in a civilised world to use chemical weapons.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – Disaster, humanitarian catastrophe, war, migration crisis, internally displaced persons, murder, chemical weapons – those are the words associated with the war in Syria. However, there is another word that is associated with the war in Syria: impunity. I have a simple question. Do we, in this Assembly, think that the Russian Federation would have behaved as it has in Syria if the Russian Federation had to answer adequately in the Republic of Moldova, when it annexed part of that country’s territory; in Georgia, when it started a war; in Ukraine, my own country, when it annexed Crimea; in Donbass, when it started a war; or in Salisbury? If it had had to answer, it would not be participating in the war in Syria.
Europe – the European Union and the Council of Europe – should speak with one voice against such behaviour. We in this Assembly reacted when three of our members, from different political groups, spontaneously visited Syria and supported Assad. It had an effect. I think that we should react in the same way, using all our authority and powers, to stop the war in Syria and put an absolutely necessary stop to impunity.
Do we really think that the Russians believe in the values of the Council of Europe either here in Strasbourg or in Damascus or Aleppo? Do we really think that they want dialogue – a real dialogue, not the Russian type of dialogue that they usually propose? I do not think so. I think that the only way of resolving the situation in Syria is to have a very wide dialogue, with the participation of all the parties to the conflict. I agree with the previous speaker, who said that such a solution has been artificially blocked by one country. We should use all the strength of our Assembly to push it to fulfil all our resolutions.
Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – Dear colleagues, a terrible war has been waged in Syria for more than seven years. Within this horrible time, children have been born, and have grown and matured to an age at which they should be safely and happily finishing their first year of school. Yet we know that there is no safety or happiness for children in Syria. We know that no one is truly safe in Syria, yet the international community has failed Syria and its people. The Security Council has revealed itself to be completely incompetent to fulfil its role as guardian of international peace and security. Furthermore, it has been unwilling to bring about solutions capable of bringing to justice in the near future the perpetrators of the worst atrocities committed in Syria.
The international community as a whole has failed to bring adequate humanitarian relief to Syria, and there seems to be no end or solution in sight to this terrible conflict. What is our role – Europe’s role – in times such as these? How do we contribute to a peaceful solution in Syria? It is my conviction that Europe will not stop violence by perpetrating further violence. We will not stop war with war. It is my conviction that should we wish to use the awful military might of Europe’s armies, we should use them to bring food to the hungry and medical assistance to those who are hurt. It is my conviction that should Europe wish to bring peace to the people of Syria, we should welcome them to our peaceful and prosperous homes, and it is my conviction that should this Assembly call on its member States to do anything, it should be to set up an international court that would allow us to bring the perpetrators of the worst atrocities in Syria to justice for their crimes. We could start at home by providing for universal jurisdiction over crimes covered by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, where that is not already the case. We could support the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic financially and politically.
Irrespective of whether you believe that an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal will be set up in the medium or long term, or, like me, that the universal jurisdiction of national courts is currently the only real possibility for bringing justice to the war criminals of Syria, it should be borne in mind that the fundamental difficulty for the courts will be proving that crimes were committed. That is why the United Nations independent international commission of inquiry is so important. Giving the commission the backing and funding that a previous member of the commission, Ms Carla Del Ponte, strongly called for could be a step in the right direction for Syria.
Ms GERASHCHENKO (Ukraine)* – Thank you. Colleagues, the Syrian massacre, the chemical attacks of the regime of Bashar al-Assad against the civilian population, the extermination of peaceful villages and the deaths of hundreds of children have created indignation and compassion. The Russian Federation was supposed to help destroy chemical weapons – instead, the Russian military has continued to support the regime – and prevent forbidden chemical weapons being used against Syria’s citizens. All the United Nations resolutions have been trampled. Europe is witnessing a migratory crisis. A growing number of Syrian refugees are fleeing the war. The Russian Federation is trying to weaken the European Union and is creating new economic security problems.
Ukraine has great sympathy with the civilian population of Syria and understands that this catastrophic war has wrought humanitarian tragedy. For four years, Ukraine and its citizens have been victims of a hybrid war. The Ukrainian villages that were recently freed are dotted with anti-tank mines, which were forbidden by the Ottawa Convention. This type of mine, which had been recycled by Ukraine, is used by the Russians in Donbass. In Syria, the Russian Federation is using chemical weapons. In Salisbury, it used the chemical substance Novichok, and in Ukraine, anti-personnel mines are used, as well as heavy weapons, which are forbidden under the Minsk Agreement.
We are not able to put a stop to the massacre of civilians. We should not reach out to the Russian Federation. We have to harden our sanctions against the Russians; otherwise, we will have to shoulder the responsibility, and say that we are incapable of protecting Ukrainian and Syrian children from murder and injury. Thank you.
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – Thank you. Colleagues, in reality, what do we see in Syria? An awful catastrophe. Why could the world not stop it? Because of a patron of the Assad regime: Putin, President of the Russian Federation. I just returned from a meeting of the ad hoc committee. Some of you were there. Mr Slutsky was there, head of the international affairs committee of the Russian Federation’s Duma. As Sir Roger Gale said, Mr Slutsky talked about the Russian Federation not being here, and about its unhappiness at having only obligations, no rights. Mr Slutsky’s presence here showed what Putin really thinks of all of us, because who is Mr Slutsky? A person accused of sexual harassment in his country by four women journalists, including a BBC journalist. Mr Slutsky is one of the first seven Russian officials put under sanctions after the annexation of Crimea. He is now under sanctions by the European Union, the United States of America and Canada. Mr Slutsky –
The PRESIDENT – Mr Goncharenko, could we keep to Syria?
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – I will come back to it; don’t worry about that.
Mr Slutsky was mentioned six times in the corruption report; he proposed use of his private jet to Mr Walter, the head of a monitoring mission, when Mr Walter was organising a meeting with President Aliyev. His civil servant received a medal from the administration of occupied Crimea, and Kadyrov received a medal in Chechnya.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Goncharenko, you are departing from the subject of the debate, so under Rule 35.4 –
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – I am finishing. I need 20 seconds to finish.
The PRESIDENT – No. The next speaker is Ms De Sutter.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – Thank you. The recent gas attacks in Douma were absolutely unacceptable. They did not change the situation at all; they have not ended, and will not end, the civil war. On the contrary, they are a horrible violation of international law, and brought a lot of misery. They also brought down the shaky international legal order. In retaliation, the United States of America, France and Great Britain took a very great risk and acted single-handedly. It was dangerous, because there was a high risk of military escalation between two nuclear powers – the Russian Federation and the United States – and even a risk of war with Iran. It also undermined the rules-based international order, which is more fragile than ever.
This risky machist strategy is not the kind of strategy that I would choose as a European citizen and representative. I believe Europe must develop a smarter political strategy to protect the human rights of civilians. Of course, I strongly condemn the repeated use of chemical weapons – not only this time, but on the 85 previous occasions they were used in the Syrian conflict. In the vast majority of those cases, they were used by the Assad regime, as non-governmental organisations have testified. The repeated use of these weapons of mass destruction is totally unacceptable, as is the export of chemical products to make these weapons. The accounts of those responsible for the production and use of toxic gases must be frozen.
Let us face it: the international community has failed collectively to prevent this latest criminal act in Douma, and more broadly to stop the Syrian tragedy. Stopping the war in Syria is the only effective means of stopping these chemical attacks. Moreover, further non-military coercive measures must not be taboo. Let me give some examples. Inspectors need a comprehensive international mandate to assess and investigate the use of chemical weapons. Economic sanctions against those countries responsible for chemical attacks can be effective. Allies should be accountable and take responsibility for their acts, as should the Russian Federation and Iran, which train, equip and assist Assad’s army and air force. Why not revive the idea of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction? Europe must wake up. Our heads of States and governments, particularly Mrs May and Mr Macron, but also Ms Mogherini, must engage actively and develop a common European response. Only diplomacy can make things move in the right direction in a sustainable way.
We need a political solution. The only way to achieve that is to redouble the efforts to help the United Nations to find a political solution to the conflict. Our only hope of stopping the war in Syria is a smarter European strategy.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Sotnyk is not here, so I call Mr Pisco.
Mr PISCO (Portugal) – The European Union can and should have a much more influential and assertive role in bringing peace and stability to Syria, working on the reconstruction of the country and the reconciliation of the people. So far, the soft power of the European Union has not been enough to stop one of the most barbaric wars, which the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, described as “hell”.
It has been seven years since this insane civil war started. The result is more than half a million dead, a ruined country in extreme poverty and a huge humanitarian crisis, with 11 million displaced people, 5 million refugees, and 6 million children hit. However, after the last alleged attacks using chemical weapons in Douma, the situation seems a bit calmer and Assad still rules.
Nevertheless the European Union spent more than €10 billion responding to the need created by the dramatic humanitarian crisis. Imagine how much bigger the disaster would be if an institution such as the European Union, based on values and principles, did not exist. We should support the European Union’s position of starting the reconstruction process only after political stabilisation and confirmation of the good will and good faith of all parties – armed groups and regional powers such as the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Iran, Turkey and others.
Meanwhile, there is an urgent need to respond to the humanitarian crisis – to save lives and give food, shelter and human comfort. However, Europe must not pass a sponge over the repeated crimes against humanity using chemical weapons. If we forget them, we will not prevent other similar crimes in future. During six years of war, there is evidence of more than 200 attacks with chemical weapons. That is intolerable.
The use of chemical weapons perverts all the rules of war and respect for human beings. Pope Francis affirms that the use of chemical weapons is an “instrument of the extermination of innocents”. The use of such weapons with impunity seriously damages the global order and discredits international conventions and institutions. They should be totally prohibited and anyone who uses them should be subject to heavy sanctions. Those responsible for those crimes must be identified and condemned without mercy. The European Union should play a decisive and assertive role in that.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – Yesterday evening, we discussed the situation in Libya, and several speakers in the debate said that what happened there was certainly not what we had hoped for from the Arab Spring. It was also said that the intervention of the West and NATO did not get us very far.
Syria seems to be another case in point. There were demonstrations in Syria against a dictatorial regime under Bashar al-Assad, but protests on the part of civil society were quickly militarised. People were oppressed by the Assad regime, but they were quickly militarised from outside Syria, with arms and support being supplied by terrorist jihadi groups, and with political support from larger sections of the international community. Turkey, the Gulf monarchies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States of America, supplied arms, and the West provided political backing.
That shows that the West was not idle, and the United Nations decided on an embargo in 2012. It cannot therefore be said that we turned away from Syria, but there was an attempt to bring about regime change militarily and it was hoped that the situation would be better after that. However, events show that that approach does not work. It must be understood that trying to bring about democracy, the rule of law and human rights militarily gets us nowhere. Then came the Russian Federation’s intervention, of which we have been most critical, but it happened at a point when the numbers of people killed had reached six figures.
Today, I think we need to stand back. We have heard about the airstrikes that the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France conducted. They were a clear violation of international law, which undermines and weakens our credibility in other areas.
We must put an end to the war in Syria and kick-start a political process, but it must be borne along by the people in Syria. We must have self-determination – only the people of Syria can decide their future.
Mr Espen Barth EIDE (Norway) – First, I commend Ms Brynjólfsdóttir for putting the subject on the agenda. It is important that we have this discussion because developments in and around Syria affect us all. In many ways, it is probably the most dangerous situation in the world, not only for the poor people of Syria but because of the risk of global escalation. It is very serious.
As Mr Hunko just said, the conflict seemed to start like another manifestation of the Arab Spring, but it quickly became a battlefield for many other conflicts. For years, the main one was the battle against Daesh, or self-proclaimed Islamic State. At that time, several great powers that intervened were “frenemies” – a friend and an enemy at the same time – which were allied in the battle against Daesh but had different long-term visions for Syria. Success in the battle against Daesh, which of course is to be cherished, has also opened the way for a regional great war.
In this regional great war, the key players are not the Syrians, but Iran, Saudi Arabia with a number of Arab friends, Turkey and, increasingly, the Russian Federation and the United States. That is different from the Cold War, when the Russian Federation and the United States were never directly engaged on the same battlefield because they always worked through proxies: one was present, the other had a proxy. Now the two powers are on the same battlefield. They try to avoid hitting each other, but that will last as long as it lasts.
The situation is very serious because of the dire humanitarian consequences that the Syrians and their neighbours have already suffered, but it could escalate into something much bigger. Given that, the least helpful thing we can do is try to identify this as the big struggle between good and evil. I have many candidates for evil, but I struggle to find the good side in this battle. As long as that is the case, that approach is not helpful. Many global and regional great powers are using the situation for only one purpose: to enhance their power projection into the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. That must stop, but we cannot just declare it away.
I fundamentally agree that plan No. 1 must be to avoid escalation and further spread, but we also support one effort: Staffan de Mistura’s attempt to mediate on behalf of the United Nations. He is in deep trouble, because it is very difficult. I know him well – I used to be his colleague when we worked on another conflict that, although different, was in the same neighbourhood – and I follow the situation closely. His attempt to mediate is the only thing we have. We have to be prepared to accept that the only workable solution is an accommodation that nobody will think is very good. It has to be an accommodation between different players with different goals, but we have to find some kind of political settlement. This “good against evil” approach will not help us or take us far.
Mr GOUTTEFARDE (France)* – I am happy that our Assembly is having this debate.
Let me explain why, on 13 and 14 April, France became militarily involved in an intervention in Syria. On 7 April, there were several chemical attacks on medical and other infrastructure in Douma. More than 45 people died. Information gathered by France and other countries with reliable intelligence sources gave us enough evidence to suspect that the Syrian regime was responsible for these chemical weapons attacks. Syria had flouted international humanitarian law and flagrantly and repeatedly violated decisions taken by the United Nations Security Council in accordance with Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, particularly in Resolutions 2118, 2209 and 2235, all of which describe the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a threat to peace and international security.
Since 2002, non-governmental organisations and independent international investigations have noted hundreds of cases of the use of banned substances. In the light of that, the Security Council committed to undertaking coercive measures in accordance with the aforementioned Chapter 7. Unfortunately, 12 Russian vetoes on issues relating to Syria, six of which related to chemical weapons, prevented the international community from speaking with one voice. We must recognise that chemical weapons are not the same as conventional weapons. They target not soldiers, but civilians. By using such weapons of terror repeatedly, the Syrian regime is violating a fundamental prohibition that the international community has imposed upon itself for more than a century. When it comes to the use of such weapons, there are consequences for the whole region, and beyond it there are threats to our collective security. We must recognise that at stake is our credibility in working against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Had we not responded or reacted, we would have told others that they can have or seek to have such weapons and not be punished.
I repeat: our collective security is at risk. We must be more mobilised than ever so that we can put an end to this tragedy. I agree that there can be no purely military solution. France is committed to effective multilateralism – that has been a constant feature of our foreign policy – but being on the side of what is right does not mean that we must be on the side of what is weak. A regime that is convinced that it can win militarily because it can use weapons of mass destruction with impunity has no reason to come to the negotiating table, so France, the United Kingdom and the United States decided that they had to intervene to sanction and deter the Syrian regime.
Ms KAVVADIA (Greece) – The prospect of yet another military intervention in a troubled Middle East country – this time Syria – has come dangerously close to being realised in recent weeks. This time, that prospect brings with it the threat of a new Cold War, with unforeseen consequences for Europe’s security. Meanwhile, the merciless civil war in Syria has not ended, and, as long as the weapons are not silenced, no one can know what the future holds in store.
It should be obvious that the only sensible course of action is a comprehensive, peaceful solution to the Syrian tragedy. For Europe, this should have been a unifying goal. Indeed, a great number of the main challenges for Europe in this historical context seem to converge in Syria, including renewed tensions between the West and the Russian Federation; the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism linked to Daesh; and, above all, the worst humanitarian and refugee crisis that Europe has faced since the end of the Second World War. All are linked to the Syrian war.
How has Europe responded to this challenge? Can we honestly say that it has come up with a successful policy? Can we honestly say that Europe has succeeded in its ambition to become a pillar of stability and peace in its wider geographical area? Obviously, the answer has to be no. In fact, Europe has failed to produce and present to the international community a credible peace plan for Syria – one that would bring all those involved, including the Russian Federation and the United States, to the negotiating table.
Europe has failed to undertake dynamic diplomatic initiatives to bring peace to a country that, ultimately, belongs to Europe’s geopolitical neighbourhood. Europe has once again not been able to adopt a truly common position on the Syrian crisis, much less a common diplomatic strategy to resolve it. In this regard, Europe has already suffered a heavy diplomatic defeat and is now suffering the consequences. The only question is whether Europe will allow the plan for the day after in Syria to be the product of a geopolitical game between the truly great players, with Europe totally and humiliatingly absent. Is it too late for Europe to show that her proclamations on the role she aspires to play as a force for peace, democracy, human rights and international law in the modern global environment are more than just empty words? Let us sincerely hope not. But time is running out.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much. Ms Muflih from Jordan is not here, so I call Mr Oehme.
Mr OEHME (Germany)* – I am pleased that the Council of Europe is discussing Europe’s role in peacemaking initiatives in Syria, but perhaps we can also look back at history. The war against Saddam Hussein started In March 2003. We were looking for chemical weapons laboratories that did not exist, and we are now launching bombs in Syria under the pretext of a chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad, although those involved have not been apprehended and there is no incontrovertible proof.
To get a view of the situation for myself, I travelled to the region to see the situation in the refugee camps and the fate of the Christians and Yazidis. Since the Iraq War, the number of Christians has fallen from 2 million under Saddam to only 400 000 today. The situation is similar in Syria. I met religious leaders and minorities in the region and asked them what they thought of Assad. The rather curious response was that, although Assad is certainly a dictator, under him the economy had grown and most people lived satisfactorily. The Christians and Yazidis said that they were able to practise their faith freely.
We have failed to introduce what we understand as democracy in the region. Are we talking about democracy or geopolitical power? We have seen what has happened in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. It seems to me that we have achieved either no measurable success or chaos. When I asked how issues in the Middle East could be resolved, one Catholic bishop said, “Stop giving money to the military.”
What do people in the orient want? I think that they ardently aspire to nothing more than to be able to return to lead their normal lives at home. For that to happen, we have to de-mine former battlefields, and Europe has a role to play in that. We must also provide some kind of rescue facility for women and children who have been taken into slavery by ISIS. We have to speak with the Syrian people rather than about them. Members of the Assembly are called on to act as brokers and to try to do something about this conflict.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Loucaides and Mr Zayadin are not here, so that concludes the list of speakers. I thank everyone who contributed and especially Ms Brynjólfsdóttir, who started the debate.
I remind you that at the end of a current affairs debate, the Assembly is not asked to decide upon a text, but the matter may be referred by the Bureau to the responsible committee for a report.
(Mr Nicoletti, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Jonas Gunnarsson.)
2. Urgent debate: Copenhagen Declaration, appreciation and follow-up
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is a debate under the urgent procedure on the Copenhagen Declaration, appreciation and follow-up, Document 14539, presented by Ms Ævarsdóttir on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
I remind you that there is a three-minute speech limit in the debate.
I call Ms Ævarsdóttir, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate. You have the floor.
Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – Another day, another declaration on the reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights. After Interlaken in 2010, Izmir in 2011, Brighton in 2012 and Brussels in 2015, the Copenhagen Declaration was adopted on 13 April 2018 at a ministerial conference organised by the Danish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
Yesterday, the Danish Foreign Minister, Mr Samuelsen, told us that the Copenhagen Declaration has "strengthened the commitment of all member States to respect basic human rights", and he made it clear that the primary responsibility for guaranteeing rights rests with national governments, parliaments and courts. Both of those things are true, and they are to be welcomed.
In recent times, the commitment of some member States to the Convention system has become questionable, so it is good to see that commitment reaffirmed and even strengthened. The real test, of course, is whether such fine words are followed by solid deeds. Words are cheap, even in the form of high-level political declarations – non-binding, high-level declarations. Action is usually more difficult, but it is also more important.
Mr Samuelsen then said that the intention was "to improve the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to do its work in a more effective and balanced way." He also said that the declaration "underlined the need for increased dialogue between all stakeholders on our respective roles and on the development of human rights." That is where we get into some of the problems with the Copenhagen Declaration, but, before going further, it is worth looking back to see how the declaration was negotiated and what came before it.
The 2010 Interlaken Conference came at a very difficult time for the Court. Its caseload was becoming unmanageable. Protocol 14, adopted in 2004 to help reduce the backlog, had not come into force because the Russian Federation had still not ratified it. Interlaken was crisis talks. By the time of the Brighton Conference in 2012, the crisis had been averted: Protocol 14 had come into force and produced spectacular effects. The most radical new proposals for dealing with the caseload were no longer needed and were taken off the table. Instead, the British Government produced a draft declaration that would have drastically limited the Court’s jurisdiction, making it subordinate to national courts. We all know the domestic background to that: in particular, the whole prisoner voting saga. The proposal was roundly rejected, however, by the States parties as a whole. Only a trace of it remained in what is now Article 1 of Protocol 15.
The Brussels Conference marked a welcome return to constructive realism. The emphasis was clearly placed on one of the most serious problems: namely, inadequate execution of the Court’s judgments by States. Shortly after that, the Interlaken process began to wind down, with an expert report on the longer-term future of the Convention system to add to the two protocols various non-binding instruments and numerous other expert reports produced since 2010. The next stage should have been a stock-taking exercise in 2019. The Danish Government had other ideas.
Some people in Denmark – including in government – are upset because a domestic court relying on the European Convention on Human Rights intervened to prevent a deportation. Now, authoritative sources believe that the domestic court misinterpreted the European Court of Human Rights case law on the issue and probably could, quite properly, have allowed the deportation. However, that is beside the point. The point is that the Convention and the Court became unpopular in some Danish quarters, so, for what are basically domestic political reasons, the Danish Government decided to do something about it.
The Danish Government convened the Copenhagen Declaration and, on 5 February, published a first draft declaration. Regrettably, the Assembly was not consulted, even though our predecessors were instrumental in the creation of the Convention, we elect its judges and we have worked for many years to improve national implementation and execution of judgments and the role of national parliaments. We did, however, make a contribution when on 16 March the Standing Committee adopted a statement on the draft Copenhagen Declaration. The Standing Committee recalled that the effectiveness of the Convention system depends on the proper functioning of each of its constituent parts, which in turn depend primarily on the attitude and conduct of the States parties.
The Convention system is a complex, subtle and delicately balanced mechanism. If one element becomes dysfunctional – if, for example, States fail to meet their obligations or do not respect the independence of the Court – the system as a whole becomes unbalanced, and does not and cannot produce the expected results. The Standing Committee drew attention to four thematic areas in which the draft Copenhagen Declaration called into question certain crucial fundamental principles of the Convention system: first, the universality of Convention rights, according to a common interpretation and coherent application across the States parties; secondly, the independence of the Court from improper, especially political, pressure applied outside the context of judicial proceedings; thirdly, the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction over all matters concerning the interpretation and application of Convention rights, without which there would be legal chaos; and fourthly, the absolute nature of the States parties’ obligation to execute the Court’s judgments.
We were not the only ones to voice these concerns. The Council of Europe Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations, the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions and a group of leading international NGOs, along with numerous academic commentators and practitioners, have all expressed similar misgivings.
Unfortunately, the second and third drafts of the Copenhagen Declaration were not made public, so we cannot know what happened during the negotiations behind closed doors. It is clear, however, that a majority of States did not agree with the Danish Government. Their collective wisdom had produced a result that we can, broadly speaking, welcome. Most of the provisions that combined to produce the concerns I have mentioned were deleted or heavily modified. The declaration’s reaffirmation of the States parties’ commitment to the Convention, to their fulfilment of their obligations and to the right of individual petition became clear, prominent and strong. The main challenges facing the system were correctly identified as ineffective national implementation, inadequate execution of the Court’s judgments and the Court’s caseload, which is of course a consequence of the first two problems.
There are still some concerns, however. We already knew what the main challenges were. We now need not more words, but more action by the States parties. Yet the Copenhagen Declaration does not contain any clear proposals or an action plan to address the challenges. In fact, many proposals exist in the numerous reports prepared by intergovernmental expert committees, as well as by this Assembly. Some of these proposals have been implemented by the Committee of Ministers, but there has always been a lack of political will at Committee of Ministers level to take concerted and effective action in the face of resistance. The use of Article 46(4) infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan is a welcome development, but it is not yet clear whether it represents a general trend towards stronger action.
Another problem is the remaining reference to dialogue. Dialogue with the Court is not necessarily a problem, depending on the form and the forum, but vague proposals involving ill-defined actors seeking to apply political pressure to the Court are entirely inappropriate. If the Court seems to be open to improper influence by one, some or all of the States, its judicial credibility will be weakened and its authority undermined. If the States want the Convention system to be supervised by a Court, they must respect its judicial independence scrupulously. The Court discusses questions about the interpretation and application of the Convention with States during judicial proceedings. A respondent State will always have a chance to persuade the Court of its views; sometimes, it will even have a second chance to do so before the Grand Chamber. If a State has an interest in the issues in a case against another State, it can ask to intervene as a third party. These ways of addressing the Court on legal issues are proper, and they are more than enough.
Finally, the Copenhagen Declaration does not adequately appreciate and recognise the role of other actors. The Convention system is more than just the States and a Court. What about the applicants and those who represent their interests, both in individual cases and in the development of the system as a whole? What about civil society, and the NGOs that make third-party interventions and provide invaluable information to the Committee of Ministers on the execution of judgments? What about the Commissioner for Human Rights? The Assembly has been invited “to give full effect” to the Copenhagen Declaration, even though it was not formally consulted during its preparation. Why should we feel ownership of a declaration that we had no hand in drafting? That is of course a rhetorical question. We will continue to follow the Convention reform process, to improve our procedures for electing the judges, to reinforce the role of national parliaments and to hold the States to account for the fulfilment of their obligations. In that spirit, I hope that you can all support our committee’s draft recommendation.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Ævarsdóttir. You have one minute and 12 seconds remaining.
We now come to the debate, in which the first speaker is Mr Kox.
Mr KOX (Netherlands, Spokesman for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I thank the rapporteur for her excellent report and recommendation, which has she prepared at such short notice, on the Copenhagen Declaration on the functioning of the European Court of Human Rights. I also pass on my compliments to the staff of the committee.
In his address to the Assembly earlier this week, the Foreign Minister of Denmark, who is the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, told us that 47 member States have supported the declaration, prepared under his chairmanship, on the functioning of the European Court of Human Rights. He rightly took pride in this achievement for the Danish chairmanship of our Organisation for the past six months. He did not, however, make it clear that there was quite a difference between the adopted text and the original draft, which provoked a lot of criticism among our member States. Several national parliaments held special debates about the draft declaration, which often echoed the criticisms made in this Assembly.
In Paris, first our Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and then the Standing Committee adopted a strong statement on the tone of the draft declaration and the dangers it posed to the system of human rights protection in Europe. We often complain that our work is not used enough at home, but this time there was most effective co-operation on how to improve the draft declaration. Thanks partly to our clear comments, the Ministers who participated in the final conference in Copenhagen were better prepared, and they had received concrete suggestions about how to make the final declaration quite a lot better than the proposals the Danish chairmanship had in mind. The original proposal tended to weaken the position of the Court and to strengthen the influence of national governments on future decisions of the Court. Thanks to interventions by this Assembly, several national parliaments and many NGOs and legal organisations – and, in the end, our governments – we now have a final Copenhagen Declaration that has a better tone and less dangerous contents, and in the end it received the support of the governments of all member States.
The question remains: why did the Danish chairmanship originally propose to weaken the position of the Court at a time when – we only need to look at what is happening in Turkey, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Hungary and many other countries – human rights are overall under severe pressure? The citizens of those countries have every interest in the Court being strong, and weakening the Court would in the end weaken their protection and be a gift to governments that are not fond of the unique European system of human rights protection. Many think that Denmark proposed to weaken the Court to meet the political demands of certain political parties at home. My group thinks that a country granted the right to chair the Committee of Ministers should first and foremost look not to its own interests, but to the general interests of European citizens.
I want to end on a positive note. The final declaration calls on national governments to provide additional funds to help to reduce the Court’s caseload. The Foreign Minister did not say whether the Danish Government would respond to his call, but I hope that Denmark will now take the lead and come up with extra financial support, because that may stimulate other governments to do the same to the benefit of the cause as a whole. In the end, this could still be a good story.
Mr KANDELAKI (Georgia, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – As has been mentioned, the final version of the Copenhagen Declaration is indeed acceptable, whereas the first draft of the document, which the Assembly commented on in March, had worrisome elements. An assertion that the Court is not meant for large-scale human rights violations was especially problematic and hard to agree with. In cases of systemic and large violations of human rights, the Court must step in, as it has in the past in interstate cases, such as those between my country and the Russian Federation, or Ukraine and the Russian Federation; in the cases of political prisoners in various countries, particularly those in relation to whom breach of Article 18 of the Convention was recognised; and in finding a quicker way to make the Court accessible for the thousands of citizens in a member State who have recently been arrested or otherwise sanctioned on the basis of a state of emergency.
The Assembly has already stated its opinion about the outstanding issues. The draft recommendation states that, “The Declaration still contains vaguely defined and conceptually problematic ideas about ‘dialogue’ between the States Parties and the Court, including on the interpretation of Convention rights, which could be developed in ways that would threaten the Court’s independence”. We must make it clear that States can legitimately influence the Court’s decisions only by pleading in concrete individual cases according to the normal procedure. That includes the use of third party intervention.
The Assembly therefore called on the Committee of Ministers to, “Take concerted and effective action to address the problems of ineffective national implementation of the Convention,” and referred to specific resolutions that address that problem. It also called on the Committee of Ministers to, “Avoid any statements or actions that might undermine the independence of the Court when exercising its jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Convention, and call on States Parties to seek to influence the Court’s interpretation of the Convention only in the course of judicial proceedings, including through third-party interventions”. The importance of engaging the Assembly in those deliberations has already been stressed.
I should also address the so-called pockets of resistance against the execution of specific judgments that have been mentioned. One example is the 2011 and 2014 Yukos judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. In January 2017, based on the controversial law allowing the Russian constitutional court to override decisions of the Court, the Russian constitutional court essentially annulled the Court’s decision on the need to compensate Yukos shareholders. Another example is the prisoner voting judgment in the United Kingdom, but we have heard that there has been progress and that a compromise might be found soon. There are a few, nevertheless important, cases of political prisoners—that is, if a State party refuses to release a person against whom breach of Article 18 is established. Right now there are two such member States, including my own country. It holds a former Prime Minister in jail, despite an Article 18 judgment from the Grand Chamber.
The Committee of Ministers must take real action. The real question is: is it prepared to do so? So far there have been a number of steps, but do we go all the way? Those problems must be solved at a political level because it is very serious when the execution of judgments is refused by State parties on political grounds. Allowing any member to get away with such an attitude will endanger the entire system.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group) – I congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Ævarsdóttir, and fully support her assessments and conclusions.
Our Assembly consistently stresses that the Convention system and the Court are at the heart of the Council of Europe. That unique system of transnational justice has become the last resort for many thousands of Europeans. It has helped to restore their rights and, perhaps more importantly, to prevent many more violations thanks to general measures. The unequivocal and unconditional commitment of all member States to the full and timely execution of judgments is the major precondition for ensuring the Court’s effectiveness. I appreciate that the Copenhagen Declaration once again reaffirmed that commitment. At the same time, we ought to say openly that the declaration gives rise to serious concerns. In particular, the report rightly points to the vague idea of a “dialogue” with the Court. A judgment must be implemented, not discussed.
I am from Latvia, and we have a special attitude towards Denmark, which not only consistently helped to restore our independence, but taught us a lot about how to rebuild democracy, the rule of law and the prevalence of human rights. For us, Denmark is like an elder brother on whose friendly hand you can always rely. While taking due account of political sensitivities related to some of the Strasbourg Court’s judgments, I find it highly disappointing that, under the auspices of the Danish presidency, some initiatives may emerge that could water down and question the Court’s authority and independence. I strongly believe that Denmark is a well-established, exemplary democracy. As such, in its capacity as the Council of Europe Chair, Denmark is able and obliged to take the lead in upholding the Council of Europe’s values, and to oppose strongly any populist attempts to undermine the Court’s authority.
On behalf of the Socialist Group, I again express full support for the report and call on members of this Assembly to vote in favour of the draft recommendation.
Dame Cheryl GILLAN (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I thank the rapporteur for her report and speech, and say on behalf of my group that we support the draft report.
As a point of information for previous speakers, I will also say that last year the issue of prisoner voting rights in the United Kingdom was settled and accepted by the Council of Europe. On 18 April we held a debate in the United Kingdom Parliament on the work of the Council of Europe, and our Minister for Europe and the Americas put on record our commitment and respect for this institution, the Court and the Assembly. He declared that, as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, the Council of Europe will be even more important to us, since our membership provides the platform to pursue common values and aspirations on helping to advance human rights and democracy alongside our many and continuing friends.
As a founding member, the United Kingdom helped to draft and shape the initial statute, the Treaty of London, and was at the centre of efforts to draft the European Convention on Human Rights. However, as we know, such documents need to be constantly updated. Therefore, the European Conservatives Group and the United Kingdom welcome this latest iteration, the Copenhagen Declaration, as part of the continuing efforts of the 47 countries to strengthen the Court and the Convention system. It builds particularly on our own Brighton Declaration of 2012.
Producing a document that all 47 countries can sign up to is not an easy task, as was alluded to by the rapporteur, and the final form is naturally subject to critical negotiation. Notwithstanding that, there are certain principles that, in the current context, I believe need proper recognition. The first principle is subsidiarity. The role of the Court must be balanced with our national judicial systems, as without that acknowledgment, unnecessary tensions will reduce the efficacy of its valuable role. Secondly, there is the margin of appreciation. We want member States to comply with the Court’s judgments, but they must have the latitude to propose the precise manner of their implementation as responsible signatories to the Court and the Convention.
We must ensure that we are clear as to the expectations that are placed on member States by this latest series of declarations. It is not sufficient to ask members to give full effect to the declaration: we must ask them unequivocally to implement the declaration. We place great store on the use of language in this Assembly, and the Danish Justice Minister has publicly referred to implementation, so I hope that it is the term that will be applied to the declaration, so that the action called for does in fact take place.
The Copenhagen Declaration is but another step along the way, and there will be serious opportunities ahead to continue to develop our Convention system, which has been the bedrock of the Council of Europe and the Court. We must always be vigilant about our democracies and human rights, and the Copenhagen Declaration helps to continue our shared, honourable objectives: freedom under the law, and laws that benefit all our citizens fairly and honestly without fear or favour.
Mr DAEMS (Belgium, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Dear colleagues, the Copenhagen Declaration, which deals with the reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights, was adopted at a ministerial conference organised by the Danish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 12 and 13 April 2018. The initial draft declaration gave the impression that the Court’s role could be deferential or even subordinate to that of a national authority. That touches on the essence of the protection of universal human rights and the pivotal role that the European Court of Human Rights fulfils within the Convention.
Let me be crystal clear: ALDE insists on the primary constitutional role played by the European Court of Human Rights. That implies that States accept the general standard-setting by the Court and that they agree that they have to implement these standards and interpretations in their own national legislation without room for any national flexibility. The following elements are at the core of the effective protection of human rights and the European Court of Human Rights: the universality of the rights protected by the Convention; the independence of the European Court of Human Rights, free from political influence; the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction over all matters concerning interpretation and application of the Convention; and the States’ unconditional obligation to implement the Court’s judgments.
Despite the progress made in the Copenhagen Declaration, ALDE still has certain concerns with regard to it, as duly enumerated in the recommendation of this Assembly today. The recommendation rightly calls on the Committee of Ministers to avoid any statements that might undermine the independence of the Court. Another issue with the Declaration is the lack of engagement towards all stakeholders of the Convention, including this Assembly. The objectives of reform should be the promotion and protection of the independent, supportive role of the European Court of Human Rights, as specified in the Convention preamble and as developed historically – and that is only too necessary today. For that reason, ALDE fully supports the recommendations to the Committee of Ministers and I congratulate the team who drafted them.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Ævarsdóttir will respond at the end of the debate.
I call Ms De Sutter.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – Ladies and gentlemen, first I would like to emphasise that it is very important for the Parliamentary Assembly to take a critical stance whenever the role of the European Court of Human Rights is concerned, as we need to recognise that the Court is extremely successful in defending human rights. But that success also has a reverse side: the Court’s position will always be vulnerable to political resistance and dissent from a number of governments.
What we have experienced with the Copenhagen Declaration is nothing new. Happily, the collective outrage that followed the release of the draft Copenhagen Declaration has had its effect. The draft version has obviously been refined and all the unacceptable parts have been removed, or at least weakened. But that does not mean that I do not still have some remarks to make about the updated version. I still find two points problematic. The first is that the Danish Government still defends the position that it is more appropriate to deal with human rights violations at the national level. Especially in paragraph 10, the text says that the most effective means of dealing with human rights violations is at the national level. That may seem logical to some, but it is also problematic as, I remind you, human rights are universal and their application cannot be restricted by boundaries. Further, in paragraph 28(b), you can read that “national authorities are in principle better placed than an international court to evaluate local needs and conditions”. But that idea totally clashes with the spirit of the Convention, which is based on the principle of universality, which leaves no room for varying standards in the protection of the Convention rights.
The second remark that I would like to make, which relates to the first, is the emphasis in the text on the principles of subsidiarity and margin of appreciation. These principles are the consequence of previous declarations, which have also put the role and the position of the Court in question. But I totally agree with Róisín Pillay, the Director of the International Commission of Jurists Europe Programme, who says that the real root of the Convention system’s struggle lies in the failings in effective national implementation of the Convention rights, which leave victims of human rights violations with no other recourse than to take their case to Strasbourg. Of course, I respect the principles of subsidiarity and margin of appreciation, as they can lead to a more effective exercise of human rights standards. But the principle of margin of appreciation cannot be a “safe conduct” for national authorities to narrow the interpretation of the Convention. It is always up to the Court to evaluate such implementation. I congratulate the rapporteur on an excellent report.
Ms LOUHELAINEN (Finland) – The human rights protection system created by the Council of Europe is unique in the world. It has features that were unique 70 years ago, and those features are still unique today. Since its adoption in 1950, the original European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms has been complemented with several additional protocols. The European human rights protection mechanism has not only been a success with regard to the thematic scope and mechanisms, but also as regards the geographical scope of application. Today all 47 Council of Europe member States have ratified the Convention and are committed to its implementation. This Assembly has on numerous occasions expressed its strong support for the defence of the human rights protection mechanisms, as well as for initiatives that aim at strengthening the system.
A few weeks ago, on 13 April 2018, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on the reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights for the future Europe. In anticipation of this Copenhagen Declaration, the Standing Committee of our Assembly approved, a few weeks earlier, on 16 March, a declaration on the reform process. In its declaration, the Assembly stressed that the Committee of Ministers should continue to focus on the main challenges to the Convention system – namely the Court’s caseload and its principal cause: inadequate national implementation of the Convention and the judgments of the Court in many States.
In the report that we are debating today, it is stated that certain aspects of the declaration are problematic. The declaration of the Committee of Ministers fails to propose concrete solutions to the system’s problems and contains ideas about dialogue that may be incompatible with the Court’s independence. As a member of the Finnish delegation, I am proud to say that Finland has taken an active part in efforts that aim to strengthen the European system of the protection of human rights. Finland supports the ongoing long-term reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Finnish Government has adopted the Copenhagen Declaration.
However, in the reform process, Finland strongly emphasises the need to respect, preserve and defend the independence and authority of the European Court of Human Rights, so that the Court can perform its duties with integrity and efficiency. The independence of the judiciary is one of the most important components in a democracy and a cornerstone of the rule of law. Constructive dialogue is necessary, but the role of each party must be respected.
Mr Michael Aastrup JENSEN (Denmark) – An effective human rights system is a benefit for all of Europe, having a direct effect on more than 800 million people every day. It is one of the major achievements of the co-operation between our member States. However, it is an achievement that we need to take care of: if we miss the opportunity to make the necessary reforms, we might not have an effective and credible human rights system in Europe in the future.
The Danish presidency embarked on an ambitious agenda: we wanted to secure the future of human rights. If we succeed, the history books will tell that we did our best to address the shortcomings we are experiencing today. The result is the Copenhagen Declaration, which has been adopted by all 47 member countries. Our aim is to strengthen the human rights system regarding basic rights for European citizens.
The Court is facing a massive overload of cases. Thousands of Europeans are waiting for the Court to look into their particular human rights case. We would like to use this time and the necessary funds to secure basic rights. Therefore, we need to prioritise the work of the Court. The Court needs to be strengthened in order to address important and major human rights violations. I hope we can all agree on that, because unfortunately we have witnessed some cases where the judgments do not make any sense for ordinary Europeans. For instance, the rulings of the Strasbourg Court have made it difficult to expel criminal migrants back to their home country, not because they will face political persecution, but because of family-related circumstances.
It is impossible to explain why the decisions of the Court protect criminals in that way. We must change that in order to secure support from ordinary citizens. We must protect citizens who experience unfair or brutal treatment from the authorities, not convicted criminals. If we do not raise our hand when the system protects the wrong people, we put human rights at risk.
The Copenhagen Declaration is a step in the right direction. The declaration continues the process that began with the Brighton Declaration back in 2012. Nevertheless, good intentions are never enough; we need to continue the process initiated by the Brighton Declaration, and which has been reaffirmed during the Danish presidency. So, dear colleagues, I hope that we will all, on behalf of the European citizens, take part in this important work.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you.
The last speaker is Mr Özsoy.
Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey) – We also agree that the European Court of Human Rights should be supported in all ways possible in terms of funding and staffing so that it can address its caseload. The ECHR has played a crucial role in the institutionalisation of the fundamental principles on which the Council of Europe was established: democracy, human rights and the rule of law. But for various reasons the Court has not had sufficient staff and resources to deliver a speedy resolution to many petitions from Turkey.
In that context, I shall read a letter written by our co-chair who has been in prison since November 2016 and who will be our candidate for the presidential elections. He is still in Edirne F Type Prison, and he wrote this letter regarding the situation of the European Court of Human Rights: “Thousands of dissidents including members of the parliament…Kurdish mayors, journalists, academics, and university students have filled up the prisons solely for expressing their political opinions. Also due to the political pressure exerted on the judiciary, the conditions for the exercise of the right to fair trial have completely vanished in Turkey. The courts, including the Constitutional Court, are not adhering to the basic principles of justice in handling the cases of political dissidents for fear of persecution by the government.
These difficult conditions will certainly not deter us from the pursuit of justice in our country. At the same time, I strongly believe that the Council of Europe and its institutions have an important mission to encourage and support the struggle for justice in Turkey, and to do their utmost to ensure the respect for human rights in this country.
In this respect, the applications we had filed one and a half years ago with the European Court of Human Rights (ECoHR) concerning our unjust pre-trial detention and the lifting of our parliamentary immunities are vitally important. The importance of the ECoHR petitions filed by members of the parliament, mayors and journalists goes beyond their potential consequences for the implicated individuals; the outcome of these cases will have wider impacts for democracy in Turkey. And yet, the ECoHR has unfortunately not met our expectations for the speedy resolution of these critical petitions.
While we deem it inappropriate to directly address the ECoHR out of our respect for the independence of courts, I have no doubt that, like other European politicians and diplomats who are worried about the destruction of democracy in Turkey, you will extend your support for the creation of public opinion on our cases at the ECoHR. I would also like to thank you for the support and solidarity you have extended to us and other democratic forces in Turkey until now and wish to meet you in a free future.”
That letter is from Selahattin Demirtaş in Edirne F Type Prison.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much.
That concludes the list of speakers, but does anyone wish to make a spontaneous contribution?
That is not the case, so I call Ms Ævarsdóttir, the rapporteur, to reply.
Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – I thank all the speakers for their contributions, and all of you for your kind attention. In particular I thank the great staff of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for their excellent assistance in this matter.
To conclude, let me say that I share Mr Cilevičs’s disappointment at the actions and motivations of the Danish Government in proceeding with the Copenhagen Declaration. It would also have been a welcome change to see the Foreign Minister’s commitment to further finance the Court’s work by stating that already, right at the get-go; that would have been nice.
Finally, I must express my disappointment at Mr Jensen’s apparent confirmation of the erroneous and regrettable motivation behind the first draft of the Copenhagen Declaration. Mr Jensen, our Court is not to be tampered with just because you are having trouble deporting a prisoner from your home country; it is much more important than that.
I thank you all for your kind attention, and I hope you support our recommendation.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you.
Does the chairperson of the committee wish to speak?
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – I support what our rapporteur has just said. We are talking about international law, and that is the whole point of this. When we have a national case, even if it is bothersome, that is not what the yardstick should be; international law has to prevail in such circumstances, even when confronted with a rather irksome case at a national level where it is difficult to get the message across to Danish public opinion, which I understood to be the situation, having had talks with the Danish ambassador in Germany.
This organisation should do all it can to back the work of the European Court of Human Rights and through that the hundreds and thousands of people who turn to it. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights at a very early stage took up the issue of the Copenhagen Declaration; we made our position clear on the first draft of the Danish presidency declaration, and that position was endorsed by the Standing Committee, but then we found that the declaration was not as bad as we had thought; our efforts clearly paid off.
We need to remain vigilant, however. People want still to weaken the Court, such as by imposing some kind of dialogue on it and proposing ill-conceived understandings of subjects such as the interpretation of the principle of subsidiarity. It is therefore only right that we have taken up the issue. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights was right to appoint Ms Ævarsdóttir as our rapporteur and I think there is a clear consensus in support of her report. Once again, I thank the rapporteur.
The PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft recommendation in Document 14539 to which no amendments have been tabled.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation. A two thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 14539 is adopted, with 45 votes for, 0 votes against and 3 abstentions.
(Sir Roger Gale, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Nicoletti.)
The PRESIDENT – I call Dame Cheryl Gillan on a point of order.
Dame Cheryl GILLAN (United Kingdom) – I have given Mr Hunko notice of this point of order. Mr Hunko said that the United Kingdom broke international law with its intervention in Syria. I thought the Assembly should know that we published the legal basis for our intervention in Syria and that the criteria applied, to reduce humanitarian distress, were the same as those applied when we went into Kosovo under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, has also said that the NATO allies fully back this action. How can I put the record straight?
The PRESIDENT – I have to say that I do not think that is a point of order for the Chair. I was not in the Chair during the previous debate so I did not actually hear the remarks, but you have made your statement. It is now a matter of record and will be recorded in the Official Report. Others may choose to raise other matters.
3. Legal challenges related to hybrid war and human rights obligations
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the debate on the report titled “Legal challenges related to hybrid war and human rights obligations”, Document 14523, presented by Mr Cilevičs on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
I call Mr Cilevičs, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – Nowadays, States are more and more often confronted with the phenomenon of hybrid war, which poses a new type of threat based on a combination of military and non-military means, such as cyber-attacks; mass disinformation campaigns, in particular via social media; disruption of communications and other networks; and many others. When preparing this report, I had to take into account two motions for a resolution: “Restricting rights to protect national security – how far can States go?” and “Legal challenges arising from hybrid war”. I have tried to address two mutually related and complementary issues: on the one hand, to identify legal gaps related to the notion of hybrid war and the measures that a State may properly take to defend itself against such actions; and, on the other hand, I have reflected on how to protect human rights when a State seeks to limit them with the aim of defending itself against hybrid war measures used against it by another State.
One of the main obstacles in dealing with this issue was terminology. Different sources use very different terms, such as hybrid war, hybrid conflict and hybrid threat. In the report, I used the term hybrid war if a military conflict was at stake. Otherwise, I referred to hybrid threats. There is no universally agreed definition of hybrid war and there is no law of hybrid war. However, it is commonly agreed that the main feature of this phenomenon is legal asymmetry. Hybrid adversaries, as a rule, deny their responsibility for hybrid operations and try to escape the legal consequences of their actions. However, they do not operate in a legal vacuum. Relevant domestic and international law norms, including international human rights law, apply to their actions. If, in the framework of hybrid war, a State resorts to the use of force against another State, the attacked State is allowed to invoke the right to self-defence on the basis of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Provisions of international humanitarian law will also apply.
If a hybrid adversary refrains from the use of military means, its actions should be examined in the light of domestic criminal law, and, if necessary and depending on the situation, relevant international legal instruments covering specific policy areas, such as the law of the sea or norms on combating cyber-crime, terrorism, hate speech or money laundering.
When countering hybrid war, States are bound to respect human rights. Some member States of the Council of Europe have already taken measures, such as criminal convictions for online statements, surveillance measures, blocking websites, or the expulsion of foreigners, including journalists, which raise questions concerning respect for human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, including the right to information, the right to respect for one’s privacy and the right to freedom of movement. States can derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 15. They can also restrict certain rights, such as freedom of expression, association and assembly and the right to privacy, in order to protect “national security”. However, any restriction of the rights enshrined in the Convention must fulfil the criteria set out within it, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.
In the draft resolution and draft recommendation I propose a number of measures that member States of the Council of Europe could take to better combat hybrid threats, while fully respecting human rights. In particular, States could refer to the experience they gained when fighting terrorism, which is an issue that our Assembly has considered on many occasions. Thank you, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Cilevičs. You have eight minutes and four seconds remaining.
The report is accompanied by an opinion from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, Document 14536, for which the rapporteur was Mr Volodymyr Ariev. Mr Ariev is not available, but Mr Raphaël Comte will present the opinion. Mr Comte, you have three minutes.
Mr COMTE (Switzerland)* – Mr President, colleagues, we have to give Caesar his due, and certainly we have to give Mr Ariev his due, given that he is the person who has prepared this opinion, and he should have been here to present it to you. All I can do is to tell you what he would have liked to tell you himself.
The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has looked at this report from Mr Cilevičs and we support it. We fully share the main idea of the report: that hybrid war and human rights obligations is an extremely topical issue for us all today. As the report rightly points out, those involved in hybrid warfare are acting beyond any kind of legal borders and in under-regulated areas. They are often ready to exploit legal thresholds that limit the power of others to respond to them. In many cases, they are ready to commit serious violations of law and human rights by using the ambiguity of law. These people are systematically trying to avoid their legal responsibilities.
There can be no doubt whatever that a broad swathe of hybrid means are available to fight wars today. The only way in which States can attempt to counter these emerging threats is by using their domestic criminal law. The problem is that some of the domestic measures taken may, in their turn, endanger fundamental rights. That being so, we must ensure that we mitigate that threat by taking the same kind of approach as has been taken to anti-terrorist measures; in other words, the response to hybrid warfare has to be legal and proportionate.
The rapporteur for the opinion, Mr Ariev, particularly focused on the issue of freedom of expression. He agrees that some restrictions intended to control the content of information may be imposed, especially on hate speech. However, as the report rightly states, such restrictions must not be discriminatory in nature, nor must they lead to widespread censorship of any kind. The problem is particularly tricky because you cannot always identify your hybrid warfare enemy, and in many cases it is difficult to point the finger at a particular State. There is a legal grey area around the whole issue of the threat posed by hybrid warfare. Therefore, in fact, it can endanger legal and judicial co-operation based on mutual confidence and mutual understanding of rules.
We therefore believe that we, the Council of Europe, have a key role to play in bringing to bear our expertise on human rights. The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media approves the draft resolution and recommendation. We have a few amendments that are simply intended to strengthen it and I will explain those at the appropriate time.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Comte. We now move to the spokespersons for the political groups.
Ms Marković, the spokesperson for the Free Democrats Group, is not here, so I call Mr Vareikis, who will speak on behalf of the EPP.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I thank the rapporteurs not only for an interesting and important report but for the idea it reflects. War, according to the definition, is part of politics. We had our own type of war for many centuries but now, in the 21st century, we have very different and specific types of war. The Telegraph newspaper published a very funny and interesting cartoon in which soldiers were parading not with guns or missiles but with computers and equipment for making television shows. The instruments of war are changing and the warriors are as often equipped with a computer as with a gun. The disaster of war also is changing. People may be suffering less physically but they are suffering intellectually; they are losing their identities, their data and many things like that.
We clearly need new rules and regulations to deal with this type of war and its consequences. The rapporteur was right to say that we do not have regulations to protect the victims of hybrid war. How do we define the warrior and the civilians when no one wears a uniform or any type of insignia? We need new rules, new regulations and new definitions. This report does not provide all the regulations that we will need; rather, it is a first attempt to define hybrid warfare and to say how we can protect human rights in unusual situations.
The Group of the European People’s Party is very happy to see this report and recommend that the Assembly supports it.
Mr Espen Barth EIDE (Norway, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group) – My group also gives its full support to the report and we commend Mr Cilevičs for his work. The thought that has gone into the report is way ahead of the discussions that I am aware of in the United Nations and elsewhere on this issue. It says two crucially important things, both of which have to be said together. The first is that there is a real problem. Hybrid war is happening, it is a real challenge, and it is getting worse. This is not the first time in history that it has happened but the toolbox has been expanded so much that we have to address it now as the reality. The second and equally important thing is that we have to respond to it in the right way and not the wrong way. We have to respond in such a way that we maintain what we hold dear. A democracy cannot defend itself in a way that makes it no longer a democracy. That is the crucial issue.
In our legal thinking, we have for centuries separated the legal realm of peacetime from the legal realm of war. In peacetime, there is rule of law and human rights; when real war occurs, there is a state of exception, and international humanitarian law applies. That distinction remains important, and we must not confuse the two. The problem is that some of the challenges, and responses to them, that we are living through start to challenge that fundamental division. I totally agree with the thrust of the report, which is that we have to make our open, tolerant and democratic societies more robust, but not less open, tolerant and democratic. We have to use the instruments that already exist: human rights declarations.
I remind this body that the people who wrote the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – some of them were probably the same people – did not believe that the world was an easy place. They came out of a catastrophe way beyond what anyone in our generation has seen. They knew that these principles had to be held dear, including in troubled and difficult times.
We should continue to think about how we can defend our computer and utility systems more robustly, and heighten society’s understanding of the challenge of fake news, without starting to think about prohibiting expressions of the right to free speech. We are starting something here that is important for the continent of Europe, and that may set a standard for global thinking on this issue. Thank you.
Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – First, I would like to say how out of date our whole system of regulation and legislation appears to be. This good and very timely report deals with the sort of activity that we are already seeing in States that interfere in domestic elections, in cyber-security, and in the use of social media. The report divides these activities in two. The first set of activities is of a terrorist nature; the second set is non-terrorist. We are already dealing with the former, including here at the Council; we discussed earlier this week how we can limit the finances of Daesh. The second group should itself be divided into two.
First, there is the question of cyber-attack, which is one of the most dangerous activities that we have seen, and comes very close to military action. Imagine, for example, the effect of a cyber-attack on air traffic control – it could down civil aircraft – or think of the recent attack on the United Kingdom health service. This category comes nearest to an independent attack on a separate State. I realise that there are sometimes difficulties in tracing such attacks and ascribing blame. The way of tackling this is, at the moment, largely defensive. It is difficult to see how the situation could be improved technologically; this is not a race for better technology. One of the objectives for United Kingdom cyber-activity is to shape an open, vibrant and stable cyber-space that citizens can use, and that supports open societies, but the human rights situation that applies in this respect should be exactly the same as it is when there is military action.
That is an important point, because it highlights the futility that is described in the report and was seen in one country, where people were arrested for supporting websites advocating unity with the Russian Federation, and for advocating unity with the United States of America. The report highlights the need to ensure the application of all Council of Europe principles in these circumstances. One principle that applies throughout the report is proportionality in approaching this and putting in place a framework, but the concentration on cyber strongly needs to be maintained. Thank you.
Mr Michael Aastrup JENSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – I thank the rapporteurs for this excellent report; the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe firmly supports it all. Let us be frank: we are talking about the Russian Federation – a member country of this Organisation that is very active in hybrid war against our member countries. We in Denmark experienced that just a couple of days ago. A Russian state television company, NTV, visited the island of Bornholm, which is out in the Baltic, and made numerous television stories about how the Danish intelligence services are building a radar installation, which was false, of course; about how every Dane on Bornholm still speaks Russian, which is also false; and about how they are all afraid that the Russians will bomb them, so they are building air raid shelters in their basements, which is also false; and so it went on. This has gone so far that approximately a year ago another Russian state television programme had the story that the Danes are such unusual people that they have animal sex clinics in Copenhagen that everyone can visit. Thankfully, that is also false, of course.
Destabilisation attempts are being made against us by a member country. Right now, some members of this Organisation are trying to see whether we can weaken our rules on sanctions against the Russian delegation, so that it can be let in without sanctions, even though it is doing all this to us. I really do not understand it at all. We should be standing firm on our principles, especially the principle of freedom of expression, and should be saying no to this hybrid warfare. We cannot say, “Well, let’s talk about it. Let’s lessen our principles, so that the Russians can be let in.”
We are about to adopt this very good report. Let us also stand firm on our principles in the other debate that we are having right now and say no to this behaviour from a very big member country. It would be shameful if we did not stand firm to our principles. Thank you.
Mr HUNKO (Germany, Spokesperson for the Unified European Left)* – Thank you. This is a topical and important debate. The concept of hybrid war is not new. As has been said in the Assembly – this dates back to the First World War – truth is very often the first casualty of war. In the 21st century, there can be lies about war; remember what happened with the incursion in Iraq, Colin Powell, and the things said at the time. Here, we are talking about military action being supported by fake news or propaganda – they are closely linked. This is not new in any way. What is new is the Internet, which affords so many opportunities for this.
This debate is also about cyber-attacks, which need to be seen in connection with the presidential elections in the United States. The categories of media reporting are very different in nature, but they are all blended together and very often then brought into connection with the Russian Federation. What are cyber-attacks? They are very serious terrorist attacks on domestic infrastructure, such as a power plant, airport, military installation or official building. We need to make sure that we act against that. There are other variants. For instance, consider information, what happened in the United States elections, WikiLeaks, what happened with the Democratic Party, and reporting on practices that were not democratic. That, too, may have had an impact on the elections. That is not a cyber-attack as such; that is in another category. Then there is the issue of propaganda and fake news.
I caution colleagues against mixing this all up and treating it as though it were one and the same thing, and linking it always to the Russian Federation. This has been going on for two years. I myself have seen this in Germany. During the campaign before the elections to the Bundestag, the secret services in Germany told us that there were cyber-attack threats coming from the Russian Federation. I questioned that. I asked for evidence, but I was told, “No, we don’t have evidence.” Such news appeared again, and again I chased it up and asked questions, and again there was no further information forthcoming.
Paragraph 9 of the report refers to NATO as an example. I do not think that that is right for an Organisation that should be neutral. We have a lot of neutral, non-aligned States in Europe and I therefore fear that I cannot support that reference, bearing in mind that NATO has said that a cyber-attack would be sufficient reason for intervening under the clause according to which it must protect fellow NATO member States.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Hunko.
Mr Cilevičs, you have the opportunity to reply now if you wish. The floor is yours.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – I thank colleagues for their support for the report and my proposals, and for their valuable points. I agree with almost everything that the representatives of the political groups said. I have a few comments to make.
I cannot agree with Mr Vareikis on the point that the suffering is different. Unfortunately, the suffering is the same – victims are the same and blood is the same. At the end of the day, people really lose their lives, their wealth and their health because of hybrid warfare. Not only cartridges, but words can kill. That is what we are seeing, so the victims and the damage are very real.
I agree with Mr Eide – the problem is exactly as he described. At the moment, we have two bodies of international law – one for peace and the other for war – but international humanitarian law does not currently cover hybrid warfare. Member States apply humanitarian law in practice and that might entail serious problems from the point of view of human rights. It is also true that the strict border between peace and war is becoming looser and fading. We need to update our legal framework and standards.
Again, I agree with Mr Howell. He singled out the cyber aspect of hybrid warfare. The problem is that cyber is a general environment, which is used to attack different targets. Can we apply the same standards and the same methods when an Asian country is targeted, elections are targeted or fake news is produced? We need different methods, which depend on not only the means, but the targets of hybrid warfare.
I agree with Mr Jensen about destabilisation attempts. Being from Latvia, I know that very well. The problem is that freedom of expression is still a fundamental human right, and we usually have a very high threshold for any restrictions. For example, a call for violence would justify a restriction on freedom of expression. Unfortunately, the right to say stupid and some harmful things is part of freedom of expression. We must therefore be cautious when suggesting the imposition of lower thresholds or standards when restricting freedom of expression. We must work on that together.
Mr Hunko is right that the problem is not new, but technology makes it much more dangerous. Who is guilty? Perhaps the Russian Federation is always blamed without reason. Indeed, as I mention in the report, one of the problems with hybrid warfare is that it is difficult to identify a perpetrator or an adversary. That is basically a matter of confidence and trust. Unfortunately, we can mention so many cases when some member States of the Council of Europe simply lied that it is difficult to develop confidence in the future.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Cilevičs. Before we proceed, let me say that this is an important debate and a lot of hard work has gone into the report. It is slightly undersubscribed, so I will not be overly vicious with the timing bell. That is not an invitation for people to speak for half an hour, but I will not be too fierce. If any members present would like to contribute, we may be able to accommodate a couple of speakers at the end of the list. I mention that now in case anybody wishes to marshal thoughts.
I call Mr Lupu.
Mr LUPU (Republic of Moldova) – I congratulate the rapporteurs, Mr Cilevičs and Mr Ariev, on a good and timely report.
As a young democracy striving to rise above its Soviet legacy, the Republic of Moldova today faces all the elements of a hybrid war conducted to divide and weaken our society: separatism, political interference, sabotage of our financial system and trade relations, and highly penetrating propaganda efforts. The Republic of Moldova’s democratic history has been subverted by Moscow’s pursuit of influence. The goal is maintain a state of uncertainty, limiting perspectives on development and increased solidarity among our people.
As a result, the Republic of Moldova has remained a theatre for separatism and social conflict, in which the breakaway region of Transnistria, which emerged in the early 1990s – in the same scenario as happened in Georgia and more recently in Ukraine – has been instrumental. One cannot split separatism and social conflict from the anti-European propaganda that feeds them.
Nowadays, the Russian Federation refuses to withdraw its troops and munitions from Transnistria, despite its commitments at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe summit in Istanbul in 1999 and the continued diplomatic efforts of the pro-European governing coalition.
One of the main enablers of the foreign influence in the Republic of Moldova has been the rebroadcast of media programmes on sensitive issues of security and politics. The amendments to the Republic of Moldova’s broadcast code, which were proposed by the Democratic Party last June and adopted in January, provide an opportunity to stop anti-European propaganda. Moldovan legislation restricts the broadcasting of radio and television channels that promote State-sponsored military and political propaganda, and similar programming created in States that have not ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Immediately after adopting that legislation, we were criticised by some for a politically selective approach. I reject those criticisms because our decision is based on a document that was signed and approved here in Strasbourg, and ratified by the biggest majority of countries, including the Republic of Moldova.
The battle of declarations will not prevent the Moldovan authorities from applying the law and being efficient in fighting anti-European propaganda. We remain firm believers in a European Union that stands up to attempts to undermine its credibility and instigate hate and division in our society.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – I thank the rapporteur for an excellent job. The subject of hybrid war is very important. I can say that from the bottom of my heart as a person who lives in a country that is the victim of hybrid war. We feel it every day, every minute and every second.
Hybrid war is a new phenomenon. It appeared a few years ago, and we have not talked about it. This is the first attempt to discuss that important phenomenon seriously. It consists of non-military activity, combined with cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, fake news and interference in elections, and it also takes other forms. I think that those forms will appear every year, and there will be new ones, too, so as an Assembly we should keep our eye on the problem and deal with it at least every year. We should look into the developments and take strict action on what happens in this sphere.
We should divide hybrid war into two different types of activity. First, there is hybrid war in which one country makes a military intervention in another, and at the same time attacks that country with all the means that I mentioned. Secondly, there is a combination of other activities, with no direct military attacks on a member State – sometimes, we can call that hybrid war, too.
We should go into this issue in more depth and find some answers. How do we react to the challenges that accompany the appearance of the hybrid war phenomenon? There are some answers in the report and the draft resolution, which I hope will be adopted with an overwhelming majority, or even unanimously.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I thank the rapporteur, Mr Cilevičs, for presenting this report on the increase in hybrid threats and warfare.
If we asked experts, as well as the general public, for their opinions on the state of things in the world today, I have a feeling that the general consensus would be that we live in one of the most uncertain, confused and chaotic international environments ever. Despite that, evidence shows that inter-State wars and civil conflicts have been steadily falling in the past 70 years. The discrepancy between the data and the dominant perception of the state of things is a collateral consequence of hybrid wars.
I am grateful that the Assembly decided to hold this debate now, because we can observe various powers exercising aggression and coercion, but do not have the possibility of punishing them for it. If we analyse cases of Russian hybrid operations in eastern Ukraine, Georgia or the Republic of Moldova, we can observe that if hybrid warfare is pursued slowly and steadily, it can achieve profound and long-lasting changes.
In 1946, George Kennan wrote in his famous long telegram from Moscow that Russia was ready to “undermine general political and strategic potential of major western powers…to disrupt national self confidence…to increase social and industrial unrest, to stimulate all forms of disunity.” He went on: “Anti-British talk will be plugged among Americans, anti-American talk among British…Where suspicions exist, they will be fanned; where not, ignited.” It seems that, after more than 70 years, the situation today is rather similar. As King Solomon would say, there is nothing new under the sun.
The report rightfully mentions the growing Russian multi-level threat to security. I am glad that we are discussing this issue, because it is important to send a strong message that the countries of the Council of Europe will not sit on the sidelines and take no proper measures to reduce hybrid threats. One of the main difficulties in taking measures to protect against perceived hybrid warfare is the fact that most attacks are disguised and rather ambiguous; thus, victims hesitate to determine the proper level of response.
In that context, I fully support the recommendation to conduct a study on hybrid war threats, with a special focus on non-military means, in order to identify legal gaps and develop appropriate legal standards, including the consideration of a new Council of Europe convention on this subject. I believe that that might represent an important step in the design of a legal framework that would facilitate the better countering of hybrid war threats by target countries. I particularly support the idea in the report that the response to hybrid threats should come in various forms, including legal, counterintelligence and diplomatic responses. The diversification of tools and means to answer threats will increase the chances of reducing the negative impacts of hybrid warfare.
Last but not least, we must invest more in strengthening education among those States most exposed to the dangers of hybrid wars. A common thread in those countries is low levels of education among the population, which makes people more likely to fall for the propaganda that results from hybrid wars. One of the most useful tools that can enable countries to withstand non-military attacks on their sovereignty is the empowerment of people to think critically, and that can be accomplished through better investment in education. The report should be supported.
Mr WHITFIELD (United Kingdom) – I thank the rapporteur and the team for their work on the report.
Hybrid war is an animal more easily identified than defined. We live in a time when the number of players around the world who seek to attack, interfere in, influence and disrupt other States and groups within nations through disinformation, cyber-attacks and other non-traditional means is increasing. It is a daily challenge, with organised fake news on social media and attacks on nations’ infrastructure through malware and cyber-virus attacks. All are intended to disrupt and economically disadvantage nations, and some are clearly intended to cause injury to citizens.
I wish to highlight a few aspects of the report. First, there is the challenge of defining hybrid war and, indeed, of crafting a law on hybrid war. As was so eloquently described in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights this morning, one person’s hybrid war is another’s reasonable actions. The challenge of definition will not go away; however, the report’s recommendations will allow us to move closer to a definition, particularly through the identification of the legal gaps and creation of a legal standard, including a possible convention.
One characteristic of hybrid war is that responsible parties deny their involvement and there is a legal asymmetry in the balance between perpetrator and victim. When one nation undertakes hybrid war on another, when is it that the injured party can invoke the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter?
Events in our own countries highlight the increasing danger of hybrid war. We have seen poisoning on the streets of Salisbury; jets probing others’ airspace; and the barrage of disinformation targeting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France and Germany. Hybrid war uses politics, diplomacy, the media and cyber-space to destabilise opponents, without the aggressor necessarily having to resort to guns, tanks and soldiers.
Finally, I wish to highlight the request that member States refrain from resorting to hybrid war in international relations. It should not need saying, but by saying it, we strengthen the difference in moral responsibility and respectability between those nations that respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and those that choose not to.
Mr KOPŘIVA (Czech Republic) – I very much welcome the resolution and thank Mr Cilevičs for taking a reasonable approach to this problem. We cannot afford to underestimate the threat of hybrid warfare. When we face hybrid threats, the line between peace and a state of war becomes blurred – a grey area. We must be ready for everything that comes our way. It is clear that the adversaries use innovative, unconventional and insidious methods for their malicious intent.
Nevertheless, when we oppose hybrid threats we should not resort to censorship, communication tracking and automatic content deletion. Such steps only add up to the perception that the State is silencing political opposition, and spreading doubt will only become easier. The key to dismantling hybrid threats is a good defence against cyber-attacks, promoting critical thinking and teaching how to recognise misinformation and foreign attempts to destabilise the system.
The possible outcomes of a hybrid conflict can be severe, yet I hope that together we can overcome those threats without having to burn down the bridges we have built. I will support all the amendments – if the rapporteur agrees, of course.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Is Mr Sabella here? No. I can accommodate a speech or so from the floor, if anyone wishes to contribute. It is the best offer you are going to get this week. No? Okay.
That concludes the list of speakers.
I call Mr Cilevičs. You have four minutes remaining.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – Colleagues, thank you for your points. I expected that the most active members in the debate would be those who live under conditions of hybrid war. I fully sympathise with our colleagues from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, because they feel all too well the destructive consequences of the hybrid threat. I will not comment on each speech, but I would like to highlight in particular what Mr Kopřiva said. Indeed, we may be greatly tempted to apply remedies that may appear more dangerous than the disease. We should not allow those who use hybrid methods to provoke us to reintroduce censorship and step back from the level of human rights and democracy that we have achieved as a result of European development. It is not easy to strike a balance, so that is why I suggest we work on this together. Co-operation, permanent dialogue and collaboration with relevant international organisations are necessary in that regard.
This is the beginning of our work, and I look forward to our joint efforts to find legal solutions to this important issue. I express my sincere gratitude to the secretariat of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. When working on this report, once again our secretariat consisted of high-class professionals. Thank you, colleagues, for your support. I call on you to support the report and the draft recommendation.
The PRESIDENT – Does the Chairman of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – From the report and the debate it has become clear that a series of types of hybrid war have been causing concern in public opinion for some time. We have had the appearance of soldiers without insignia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the use of fake news, whole armies of trolls in the media and hackers’ attacks on party organisations and government institutions – we have had that in Germany – and on essential infrastructure. In some cases, people have an idea of who might be behind it or who would benefit from such attacks and understand who they are trying to intimidate, but it is always difficult to provide evidence of what is going on. That opens up a whole series of questions.
It is still very early days in this debate, but many answers are needed. Moreover, the debate obliges us to address a series of complicated legal issues. I support Mr Cilevičs in the serene and well-informed way he has addressed these issues. I also thank the committee members for the excellent debate we have had over several months in the course of the report being drafted. I assure Mr Cilevičs that he has the committee’s full support for the report, which will be made clear as we consider the amendments. I commend the report and hope that the rapporteur has a broad majority for it.
The PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled and a draft recommendation to which three amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 3, 5, 1, 2 and 4 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Amendment 6 was also agreed to unanimously by the Committee but must be taken individually because a sub-amendment has been proposed to it.
Is that so Mr Schwabe?
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – Yes.
The PRESIDENT – Does anybody object? That is not the case.
Amendments 3, 5, 1, 2 and 4 are adopted.
We come to Amendment 6, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.1, after the words “fully respect the provisions of international law,”, insert the following words: “in particular sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers,”.
I call Mr Vlasenko to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – The amendment mentions sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of territories as the main goals of hybrid war. We want them to be mentioned additionally and specifically.
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which proposes that, after the words, “in particular”, we insert the following words: “the principles of”.
I call Mr Cilevičs to support the sub-amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – The sub-amendment is of a technical nature and would make the language of the amendment more appropriate and legally correct.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of Mr Vlasenko?
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – I am in favour.
The PRESIDENT – The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is clearly in favour. I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
The sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended? That is not the case.
The committee is clearly in favour. I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 6, as amended, is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 14523, as amended. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution contained in Document 14523, as amended, is adopted, with 35 votes for, 1 vote against and 0 abstentions.
We must now consider the draft recommendation, to which three amendments have been tabled.
Amendment 7 was agreed to unanimously by the committee but must be considered because a sub-amendment has been proposed to it.
We come to Amendment 7, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 2.1, after the words “in order”, insert the following words: “to identify key vulnerabilities and specific hybrid-related indicators, potentially affecting national and European structures and networks and”.
I call Mr Vlasenko to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – As the authors of the amendment, we think that we should identify key vulnerabilities and specific hybrid-related indicators, potentially affecting national and European structures and networks. Those words should be added.
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which proposes replacing the word “structures” with the word “infrastructures”. I call Mr Cilevičs to support the sub-amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – The sub-amendment is for editorial clarity.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of Mr Vlasenko?
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – In favour. I thank Mr Cilevičs for the sub-amendment.
The PRESIDENT – The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is clearly in favour. I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
The sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended? That is not the case.
The committee is clearly in favour. I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 7, as amended, is adopted.
I call Mr Vlasenko to support Amendment 8.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – We want the Assembly to ask the Committee of Ministers not only to develop principles in relation to social media, but “to prevent their use for hybrid war purposes”. We want to add those words to provide such a goal.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – I see the point and I understand the concerns of our Ukrainian friends, but in my view this is very dangerous. As has already been said, we should be very careful when it comes to freedom of expression, and we are already witnessing a crackdown on social media in several Council of Europe member States on exactly the same pretext of the need to combat any attacks against the State. The paragraph is worded particularly carefully to say that we should develop principles first, but we should not limit the general freedom of social media.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – The committee rejected the amendment by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment 8 is rejected.
I call Mr Vlasenko to support Amendment 9.
Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – We want to add a paragraph stating that the Committee of Ministers should “address the issue of countering external interference in national election processes by the hybrid warfare toolbox”. We think it is very important to focus on that.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – Again, I agree on the substance, but that issue is so important that the committee has decided to prepare a separate report on possible interference with national elections. The committee approved the relevant motion on Tuesday, so I hope that the report will be prepared soon. As usual, we will make a recommendation to the Committee of Ministers once we have dealt with the issue ourselves. The amendment is correct in substance, but it is a bit premature.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – The committee rejected the amendment by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment 9 is rejected.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 14523, as amended. A two thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 14523, as amended, is adopted, with 35 votes for, 1 vote against and 0 abstentions.
(Mr Jonas Gunnarsson, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Sir Roger Gale.)
4. Fighting organised crime by facilitating the confiscation of illegal assets
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled “Fighting organised crime by facilitating the confiscation of illegal assets”, Document 14516, presented by the rapporteur Mr Mart van de Ven, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
I call Mr van de Ven. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between your presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands) – The draft report deals with how to prevent organised crime, and I include high-level corruption in that notion, from subverting democracy and the rule of law as we know it. It is an issue whose importance cannot be overstated. The enormous profits generated by crime – several thousands of billions of dollars year after year, according to World Bank statistics – give criminals immense power: to bribe and to put pressure on politicians, law enforcement officials and witnesses; to destroy entire markets; or to eliminate honest competitors by undercutting their prices with dirty money.
The financial power of organised criminals threatens the very foundations of the social contract on which our societies are based. Aggressively confiscating such ill-gotten gains therefore attacks organised crime at its root, sapping its financial fire power. To put it more bluntly, preventing criminals from enjoying the luxury lifestyle that comes with organised crime and high-level corruption takes most of the fun out of being a criminal. The robust confiscation of criminal assets also deprives criminals of the seed money that they need for their next criminal endeavours, and it generates valuable resources to compensate victims and repair the damage that crime does to local communities.
However, the existing legal framework for confiscation is clearly still too weak. Europol estimates that in 2016 about €2.4 billion, a scant 2.2% of the total criminal profits in Europe, was seized by the authorities, and only half those assets were finally confiscated. Even what was celebrated by the media last year as a success story – the joint coup of the Italian and German police against the ‘Ndrangheta – was really quite modest. The authorities arrested more than 160 mafiosi and froze assets worth €50 million; however, the ‘Ndrangheta’s annual turnover is estimated at €50 billion. Just calculate for yourselves how modest that is in terms of taxation – it is 0.1 %, for the non-mathematicians. We can and must do better than that.
One promising way to achieve that is to lighten the burden of proof borne by authorities regarding the criminal origins of suspect assets. That is in line with the Irish model, which I had the privilege of studying in depth during a visit to Dublin and the highly regarded Irish Criminal Assets Bureau. In simple terms, if a person’s lifestyle clearly exceeds his or her known legal sources of income, it is up to that person to explain the legal origin of their assets – villas, luxury cars, yachts, bank accounts – or else they will simply be confiscated, independent of a criminal conviction of that person or the need for the authorities to prove a link between a particular crime and a particular asset, as is still the case in many countries.
The draft resolution was formulated in the light of expert advice obtained during our committee hearings with practitioners who are actively involved in international co-operation in this field. I have also obtained advice from the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental anti-corruption and anti-organised crime bodies. As befits a text originating in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, it takes into account relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights, as described in the explanatory memorandum.
Our proposal ensures that sufficient safeguards are built in to protect honest citizens from abusive confiscation. The Strasbourg Court has accepted that the presumption of innocence and the right to protection of private property do not stand in the way of non-conviction based civil forfeiture of criminal assets. That is a good example showing that human rights are not tools to protect criminals, as some populist critics of the Convention and the Strasbourg Court keep repeating. The Convention allows, and in my view requires, democratic, law-based societies to defend their members against criminals, if need be by using robust means. When you look at the numbers I just quoted, you see that necessity in a democratic society and proportionality, the Court’s key litmus tests for assessing restrictions of fundamental rights, are not a problem.
The lesson from Ireland is that a solid institutional and legal framework, combined with the strong professionalism and ethics of the people entrusted with implementation, are the best guarantees of success. We have learned from our experts that many problems must still be overcome to react efficiently to criminals’ ever evolving tactics. Such tactics mean they often escape confiscation mechanisms in their own countries by moving assets to a country where the authorities are bound by more burdensome confiscation rules. That is why I put a strong emphasis on the need to strengthen international co-operation. As a first step, we must ensure that those countries that have adopted non-conviction based confiscation regimes are not put at a disadvantage in international co-operation for the benefit of the criminals.
I trust that by adopting this resolution, and by taking it home to our own parliaments, the Assembly and its members can make a useful contribution to the fight against organised crime by ensuring that crime really does not pay. Thank you for your attention; I look forward to the debate.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much. You have six minutes and 42 seconds remaining for your response.
I call Mr Mullen.
Mr MULLEN (Ireland, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I congratulate Mr van de Ven on this excellent report.
In recent times, we have all had cause to ruminate on the powerful lure of potential personal gain and how it has the capacity to undermine the common good, corrupt people’s decision making and weaken the systems of governance, administration, justice, investigation and scrutiny on which we all depend for a just and harmonious common life.
If that is true for the small-scale weakness and grubbiness of people who are generally law-abiding, how much more true it is for those who have no respect for law and order or the physical or mental health or safety of others – those whose only gods are money and power. We see the endless creativity of wrongdoers to acquire wealth unjustly and to shield themselves from detection. We have only to think of the Internet and the Darknet to see how much our systems of regulation struggle to keep ahead of the latest technological advances. It can sometimes seem that the devil has all the best tunes; that may partly be because the angels do not stand to gain so immediately from policing things properly as the devil does from escaping the bounds of legality and morality.
A key take-home point from Mr van de Ven’s important report is that there is no human rights obstacle to the establishment of national and international structures and procedures that permit the targeting of criminal assets even in the absence of successful prosecution of the offences to which the money or property relate. In fact, it is essential for the common good that there is such a power. The report has a sense of realism, because it is clear how far behind we are in our efforts to deprive criminals of the enjoyment of their property. The United Nations estimates annual total criminal profits of $2.1 trillion. Even with the best of systems, we are in a 1% situation in terms of our capacity to target those profits.
I would like to mention a few key principles that must be borne in mind as one rightly pursues non-conviction based confiscation systems. Judicial oversight is important: systems must always be amenable to the courts for the making of orders, including those for compensation when property is erroneously appropriated. It is important that there is never policing for profit and no profit motive. It is never appropriate for agencies involved in the targeting and confiscation of criminal assets to take a direct or indirect benefit in any way. It is important that such agencies are separate from policing and prosecuting authorities because, in the end, they are investigating in the absence of the requirement to have successful prosecution for criminal activity. It is also vital to have a multi-disciplinary approach. You need people not just from police services but from social welfare and revenue arms so that information is properly shared.
Finally, to emphasise what Mr van de Ven just said, an international approach is important. We are in the foothills of a mountain that has to be climbed to deprive criminals of the enjoyment of their gains. It is depressing that 98.9% of estimated criminal profits are not confiscated. If we are to have any chance of scaling the mountain, it is important that our member States move to non-conviction based confiscation systems of their own. The existing international instruments must be built on, so that the trains of one member State can run on the tracks of another as far as possible.
I thank and congratulate Mr Van de Ven on his important report. I hope this sees a raft of legislation in various member States and increasing co-operation and harmonisation among us all.
Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I join others in congratulating Mr van de Ven on his excellent report, which all our States are fortunate to have and to be guided by. I will briefly emphasise and connect three of its central themes: first, the compatibility of non-conviction confiscation with the European Convention on Human Rights; secondly, at national level, how to develop good practices; and thirdly, at international level, how to make cross-border co-operation more effective.
Non-conviction confiscation might well have been inoperable, or at least ruled out as incompatible with justice and legal procedure. Fortunately, that is not the case. That is to be welcomed, and not only in view of the background. For, as the rapporteur observes, the background is that 98.9% of criminal profits are not confiscated at all, remaining at the disposal of criminals. It is also welcome because the European Court of Human Rights has evolved checks and balances so that the small minority of people subsequently discovered to have been falsely accused can have their reputations and assets restored to them.
At national level, we learn of the good example set by a number of countries, including Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. This is to facilitate the confiscation of illegal assets, in particular by reducing the authorities’ burden of proof regarding the criminal origin of unexplained wealth, through the use of factual presumptions or even, under certain conditions, a de facto reversal of the burden of proof. Within those countries and following the adoption of these procedures, there have been much better results. The inference, therefore, is quite clear: at national level, many more countries should do the same.
At international level, cross-border co-operation is clearly still not nearly good enough. Yet improved measures would be quite straightforward. The main problem, perhaps, is the number of our States who so far have paid insufficient attention to them. Necessary expedients include increased ratification of international legal instruments; more joint actions with less red tape; more focused promotion of effective detection networks, such as CARIN and ARO; greater preparedness to share information and techniques; and, among the countries concerned, better rules for handling successfully confiscated assets.
It is more than fitting that the Council of Europe should take a lead in tackling organised crime and its abuse of human rights and the rule of law. For assisting that lead, we are much indebted today to Mr van de Ven and to his report.
Mr KERN (France, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – The excellent report by our colleague Mr van de Ven focuses on one of the most effective methods, neglected for a long time, of tackling organised crime and terrorism: the confiscation of assets. Criminal syndicates are powerful and can be a real threat to stability, even in solid democracies. Many countries – particularly Ireland, as we have heard, but also Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – have made a lot of progress. France, in transposing the European Union directives, has made progress as well: in 2016 a law was passed to combat the financing of terrorism.
Traffickers are using more and more sophisticated ways to avoid handing over their ill gotten gains to the courts, so the ways of tackling organised crime also have to be more and more sophisticated. To achieve that, Ireland has set up a multi-disciplinary squad, which brings together experts from the tax and customs authorities and the police. The Ministers of Justice of the European Union had a meeting about the issue in October 2017. A draft regulation came out of that for mutual recognition of the freezing of assets, to allow for the freezing and confiscation of ill gotten gains and to stop the terrorists being able to move around so easily from one country to another. That will be a single system to allow more rapid decision making when it comes to the freezing and confiscation of assets, thanks to the harmonisation of procedures.
However, a big problem remains. Many States do not have such legislation. As the resolution points out, 98.9% of the assets are not confiscated because there is a lack of cross-border co-operation. Nevertheless, as I said, there are a whole series of tools at a European level, through various European conventions and legal assistance between States. But unfortunately, as the resolution says, not all member States of the Council of Europe have ratified all these measures. As the rapporteur said, that legal void allows organised crime to continue to escape the confiscation of its ill-gotten gains.
Colleagues, I ask you to make your parliaments aware of this issue so that they follow up on the resolution and fight organised crime in domestic law. In supporting this resolution, we can undermine the powers of crime syndicates and generate resources to reimburse the victims. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe very much supports Mr van de Ven’s report. I congratulate him and commend it to the Assembly.
Ms ŞUPAC (Republic of Moldova, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left)* – Colleagues, in 2014 the Republic of Moldova brought in a law saying that ill-gotten gains could be confiscated. The changes to the law were contested in the constitutional court, but were thereafter recognised as constitutional. Assets are now confiscated there, but the power is only being used against certain civil servants in respect of gains of enormous wealth in a short period, but we could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have been affected.
There are arguments about why the provisions have not really worked but the main question is who is in the courts and who is being brought to book. A representative of the prosecutor’s office is now the head of the anti-corruption squad and refuses to issue a declaration of her assets, while journalistic investigations have shown that Eduard Harunjen was caught taking more than $200 000 in bribes yet now he is a general prosecutor. There are hundreds of such cases in the Republic of Moldova.
Furthermore, there is the number of MPs and mayors of towns and cities who have suddenly joined the Democratic party. It has 19 seats but its grouping has now considerably increased: it has acquired 280 mayors, making its total more than 600 mayors. We should recall what Mr van de Ven said about the importance of fighting organised crime because these criminals can buy off politicians. We all heard that $1 billion was stolen from three Moldovan banks in 2012. That was an unprecedented crime and we still have not found out who did it.
Furthermore, we get the impression that part of the money is now being used by certain politicians to prepare their election campaigns for the forthcoming elections. Be careful, colleagues: if anybody from the Republic of Moldova tries to give you anything, it might involve money that should have been confiscated and brought back into the country.
Of course we should support this resolution. We need to work across borders to combat organised crime.
The PRESIDENT – The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate. I call Mr Lupu.
Mr LUPU (Republic of Moldova) – I congratulate Mr van de Ven on his excellent report, which is of particular interest to my country, the Republic of Moldova. As you may know, the Republic of Moldova was on the brink of a political, social and economic crisis in 2014 and 2015 following an unprecedented case of banking fraud. In January 2016, when a new governing coalition was formed, there was no question but that the main challenge that it would have to address was this exact issue. High-level involvement in organised crime has affected the credibility of our country, both internally and externally. Urgent measures were needed. Until recently the poor regulation of the Moldovan banking sector has been one of the most urgent vulnerabilities of the Moldovan State, but in the past two years several steps have been taken to strengthen the capacity of the regulators of the Moldovan financial market. The efforts of the governing coalition along with the successful implementation of the International Monetary Fund programme restored stability and triggered growth in the banking sector, which consequently helped open the market to foreign investors.
Along with the strengthening of banking legislation, the recovery of bank fraud funds began. As well as contracting an international company, Kroll, to investigate and determine the destination of the stolen money, Moldovan authorities launched criminal investigations to recover the stolen money that had gone into illegal assets.
There are no serious problems regarding the assets placed in the Republic of Moldova. This process is ongoing, but the problems start with the stolen money from the Moldovan bank that has been exported abroad to a number of European countries, including member States, and transformed there into legal assets. That is problematic because the co-operation between the investigation bodies in the Republic of Moldova and other countries is difficult; the process is long and bureaucratic.
This is what brought the recommendations of the report to my attention: it says that competent officials can assist each other in overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, react rapidly and waive formal reciprocity requirements as appropriate. I hope the respective bodies in all countries will follow those conclusions, because the ultimate objective of the Moldovan authorities is to bring back the stolen money, but without the assistance of the investigation bodies in other countries, this mission will be extremely difficult to fulfil. We count on such co-operation and the help of our partners.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – I join all previous speakers in commending Mr van de Ven for this report. It could not have been more timely in the week when we have discussed the topic of corruption in this Assembly.
The criminal networks that are flourishing currently are different in different regions. Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and other countries in the post-communist Russian area and the occupied socialist bloc have our own types of criminal networks. Before the break-up of the Soviet Union the KGB was very strong, and I recently read the book by Robert Kaplan explaining why crime persists in these countries and why the oligarchs appeared. Fighting against them is very difficult and it is almost impossible to rely, as the Earl of Dundee and others have said, purely on national efforts. I commend Mr van de Ven’s report in putting the key focus on the international perspective of the work that needs to be done, such as cross-border co-operation.
In Ukraine and other countries, perhaps about 90% of the reforms are instigated because of strong pressure from, and the strong engagement of, international organisations. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank should be partners to ensure that necessary legislation is put in place and to control its implementation, so that the fight against corruption and these criminal networks is effective. For example, the IMF recently withheld the next tranche of money to Ukraine as well as to other countries. It has made that conditional on Ukraine setting up the high anti-corruption court to make the fight against corruption more effective so that people are prosecuted and punished.
The international level, therefore, is very important, as well as the national level. Internationally, we should focus on States with big institutions and poor rule of law and make sure that the necessary conditions are met. Even our organisation can, through the monitoring procedure, include tests, and if a country has not ratified certain conventions and has not established effective and high-quality institutions to work against corrupt networks it should not be deemed to have passed the monitoring procedure.
I commend Mr van de Ven for this important report.
Mr GRIN (Switzerland)* – As stated in Mr van de Ven’s excellent report, the confiscation of illegal assets is necessary. It means that financial crime will become less lucrative and undermines the power that criminals enjoy because of their amassed wealth, and it will deprive them of the means to fund their next criminal actions or corruption. Moreover, this confiscation provides a way of compensating victims and society as a whole.
However, this confiscation is often made difficult because of the excessive burden of proof required of the competent national authorities and because the co-operation between authorities of different states affected by this problem is inefficient. All of that is grist to the mill of the criminals.
The efficiency of international co-operation in searching for, freezing and seizing the assets of criminal activities hinges upon there being an adequate legal framework that can guarantee sufficient harmonisation of proceedings while also allowing for different national approaches without any kind of discrimination. It is equally important to have strict rules to verify the provenance of money placed in accounts.
Switzerland has decided to take some measures in order not to condone investments in accounts that are the proceeds of crime. Banks are now obliged to supervise small, medium-sized and large amounts put into accounts, and all cash payments are limited to 100 000 Swiss francs, which some might think is too high. According to trustworthy sources, compared with the massive profits generated by these forms of crime, the illegal assets confiscated by our States are very modest indeed. We therefore must urgently take new measures in order to facilitate the confiscation of illegal assets.
As well as this excellent report, we now have a draft resolution. It talks about all the vigilance required: judicial oversight, redress for damages sustained, and promotion of international co-operation in this field. Trust companies and trustees in general must act with greater transparency, as they, too, can end up as a link in the chain leading us to money laundering, as do tax havens. We must fight against this problem.
There are possible improvements, both nationally and internationally, and all of this is mentioned in the draft resolution. However, it is up to us as national parliamentarians to take our cue from this report and promote improvements in our respective countries. Just as we would for corruption, we must all fight for the confiscation of the proceeds of organised crime, because democracy will not stand for this.
Mr DOWNE (Observer from Canada) – I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this outstanding report on this important topic. I shall discuss the international component of it and share some of the actions Canada is taking to fight this worldwide problem.
In 1993, Canada introduced the Seized Property Management Act to authorise the federal government to manage seized property and to dispose of it when ordered by the courts. In addition, the proceeds of crime branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigates money laundering and targets the proceeds of organised crime for seizure, and has seized over 243 million Canadian dollars’ worth of criminal assets since 2000.
Furthermore, like legitimate incomes, proceeds of crime are taxable in Canada. The Canada Revenue Agency audits people suspected of receiving income from organised crime, or any other criminal activity, as part of its special enforcement program. It also investigates suspected cases of tax evasion, fraud and other serious violations of tax law, as part of its criminal investigation program. Changes made in 2014 allow the Canada Revenue Agency to now share taxpayer information with law enforcement when there are reasonable grounds to believe the information contains evidence of listed serious criminal offences.
In 2000, Canada established a national financial intelligence unit, which is commonly known as FINTRAC, with the mandate to facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering, terrorist financing and other threats to the security of Canada. To fulfil that mandate, FINTRAC is empowered to report suspicious financial activity to law enforcement and security authorities. In addition, FINTRAC receives reports from a range of financial institutions, including banks, securities dealers and insurance companies. Recently, virtual currency services were also added to the list of reporting requirements.
In the most recent revision of Canada’s regime, the Financial Action Task Force concluded that Canadian authorities have a good understanding of their money laundering and terrorist financing risks, and that their regime is of good quality. Let there be no doubt, however, that there is much work to do and we look forward to working with our international partners. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Tilson is not here, so that concludes the list of speakers.
I call Mr van de Ven, the rapporteur, to reply to the debate. You have just under seven minutes.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands) – I would like to thank all the speakers for their comments. I would also like to thank the Assembly staff for the full support I enjoyed while I worked on the report. It was a pleasure to work on the issue of confiscation of illegal assets.
I have listened carefully to the comments made in the debate. I do not want to repeat them, but I will lay out the principal aspects underlying the report. First, the rule of law has to be acceptable to both national courts and the international Court here in Strasbourg. In Ireland, the Irish Supreme Court has upheld, rightly, the concept that the confiscation of assets can be based on a non-conviction based system. As has been said today, non-conviction based confiscation of criminal assets is also compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 6 on the presumption of innocence and Article 1, with protocol number one to the Convention, the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
On the legality and defensibility of a non-conviction based system, the multi-disciplinary task force working on confiscation is very important. The police work in close co-operation with tax officials and social security authorities. In Ireland, the prosecutor is also represented in the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is more effective. They need each other, so to speak, on the market. They discuss the cases and are very, very effective. They take away the fancy car from the person who is living in the street, when others are driving small cars. It is effective and it is highly regarded and respected by the citizens in the Irish community.
The Earl of Dundee said that 99% is not being confiscated. Many speakers made the point that there is a lot of money on the street which should be either confiscated or taxed. Either way, it should be taken away from the criminals to compensate society. Criminals break the social contract with the state. The State provides services for its citizens who have to pay taxes and social security premiums. Criminals, however, do not comply with the social contract – they are outside it.
Ms Şupac made the very interesting point that the Republic of Moldova has enacted legislation in this field. It is restricted to government officials; nevertheless, it is very important that such countries are joining up. Mr Kiral, a representative from Ukraine, mentioned the pressure from outside to improve Ukrainian legislation on combating corruption. That is a very important aspect of international co-operation. It is essential that the international authorities that have been created, and hopefully will be created by multidisciplinary teams, are able to combat organised crime and operate on an international level. That is the key to success, because otherwise criminals will escape the seizure of their assets. Money is like water – it always flows to the lowest level, which is, typically, a tax haven. That should be avoided.
I thank all the speakers for their comments. I really hope that the report is adopted. I heard a lot of consensus today on this subject. We should try to develop this for the sake of our societies and democracies, because there is a lot of money on the street.
The PRESIDENT – Does the Chair of the committee wish to speak?
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – President, ladies and gentlemen, sovereign States require such measures to be able to operate effectively. I have been to Latin America and have been told by experts there that organised crime has in effect taken over entire countries. Private criminal groups seem to be running the place. I look at certain European capitals, including Berlin, which is in the middle of a building boom. There is obviously an enormous amount of illegal money being channelled into such industries. World Bank reports have given us a clear indication of the extent of the problem we are talking about here. That is why I think it is justified for us to envisage adopting quite radical measures, and I think our rapporteur, Mr van de Ven, does indeed formulate such a radical proposal with the support of the committee. We have to reverse the burden of proof, and if we can do that, it will enable us to confiscate the ill-gotten gains of crime. Countries such as Italy have already gone down that road and achieved good results after the change. Our recommendation to other European States is that they take similar measures.
Such measures are not a violation of human rights because, on the contrary, they support member States’ efforts to guarantee and uphold human rights. Mr van de Ven, with the support of the secretariat and the bureau of the committee, has done an excellent job in drafting this technical report, drawing on the expertise around him. I will be delighted if members of the Assembly support the report with a large majority.
The PRESIDENT – With that, the debate is closed.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft recommendation in Document 14516 to which no amendments have been tabled.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14516 is adopted, with 29 votes for, 1 vote against and 0 abstentions.
5. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday.
The sitting is closed.
(This sitting was closed at 7.20 p.m.)
1. Europe’s role in peacemaking initiatives in Syria (current affairs debate)
Speakers: Ms Brynjólfsdóttir, Ms Daems, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Amoruso, Mr Bereza, Mr Lacroix, Sir Roger Gale, Mr Vlasenko, Ms Ævarsdóttir, Ms Gerashchenko, Mr Goncharenko, Ms De Sutter, Mr Pisco, Mr Hunko, Mr Espen Barth Eide, Mr Gouttefarde, Ms Kavvadia and Mr Oehme,
2. Urgent debate on Copenhagen Declaration, appreciation and follow-up
Presentation by Ms Ævarsdóttir of report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Document 14539
Speakers: Mr Kox, Mr Kandelaki, Mr Cilevičs, Dame Cheryl Gillan, Mr Daems, Ms De Sutter, Ms Louhelainen, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen and Mr Ӧzsoy
Replies: Ms Ævarsdóttir and Mr Schwabe
Draft recommendation in Document 14539 adopted.
3. Legal challenges related to hybrid war and human rights obligations
Presentation by Mr Cilevičs of report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Document 14523
Presentation by Mr Comte of opinion from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media in Document 14536
Speakers: Mr Vareikis, Mr Espen Barth Eide, Mr Howell, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen and Mr Hunko
Reply: Mr Cilevičs
Speakers: Mr Lupu, Mr Vlasenko, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Whitfield and Mr Kopřiva
Replies: Mr Cilevičs and Mr Schwabe
Amendments 3, 5, 1, 2, 4, and 5, and 6 as amended, adopted
Draft resolution in Document 14523, as amended, adopted
Amendment 7, as amended, adopted
Draft recommendation in Document 14523, as amended, adopted
4. Fighting organised crime by facilitating the confiscation of illegal assets
Presentation by Mr van de Ven of report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Document 14516
Speakers: Mr Mullen, Earl of Dundee, Mr Kern, Ms Şupac, Mr Lupu, Mr Kiral, Mr Grin and Mr Downe
Replies: Mr van de Ven and Mr Schwabe
Draft resolution in Document 14516 adopted
5. Next public business
Appendix / Annexe
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the register of attendance in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of members substituted follow (in brackets) the names of participating members.
Liste des représentants ou suppléants ayant signé le registre de présence, conformément à l’article 12.2 du Règlement. Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthèses.
ÅBERG, Boriana [Ms]
ÆVARSDÓTTIR, Thorhildur Sunna [Ms]
AMON, Werner [Mr]
AMORUSO, Francesco Maria [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
ARENT, Iwona [Ms]
ARNAUT, Damir [Mr]
BADEA, Viorel Riceard [M.] (BRĂILOIU, Tit-Liviu [Mr])
BAKUN, Wojciech [Mr] (JAKUBIAK, Marek [Mr])
BAYR, Petra [Ms] (ESSL, Franz Leonhard [Mr])
BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BERNHARD, Marc [Mr]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BRUIJN-WEZEMAN, Reina de [Ms] (MULDER, Anne [Mr])
BUTKEVIČIUS, Algirdas [Mr]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.])
COMTE, Raphaël [M.] (FIALA, Doris [Mme])
CZELEJ, Grzegorz [Mr] (WOJTYŁA, Andrzej [Mr])
DAEMS, Hendrik [Mr] (DESTREBECQ, Olivier [M.])
D’AMBROSIO, Vanessa [Ms]
DE PIETRO, Cristina [Ms] (CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms])
DE TEMMERMAN, Jennifer [Mme]
DUNDEE, Alexander [The Earl of] [ ]
EBERLE-STRUB, Susanne [Ms]
EIDE, Espen Barth [Mr]
ESTRELA, Edite [Mme]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FILIPOVSKI, Dubravka [Ms] (PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms])
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAILLOT, Albane [Mme]
GALE, Roger [Sir]
GATTOLIN, André [M.] (LOUIS, Alexandra [Mme])
GERASHCHENKO, Iryna [Mme]
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GILLAN, Cheryl [Dame]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GOUTTEFARDE, Fabien [M.]
GRAF, Martin [Mr]
GRIN, Jean-Pierre [M.] (HEER, Alfred [Mr])
GROZDANOVA, Dzhema [Ms]
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
HAIDER, Roman [Mr]
HEINRICH, Frank [Mr] (MARSCHALL, Matern von [Mr])
HEINRICH, Gabriela [Ms]
HOWELL, John [Mr]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
JANSSON, Eva-Lena [Ms] (KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr])
JENSEN, Michael Aastrup [Mr]
KANDELAKI, Giorgi [Mr] (BAKRADZE, David [Mr])
KASSEGGER, Axel [Mr] (BURES, Doris [Ms])
KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]
KELLEHER, Colette [Ms] (HOPKINS, Maura [Ms])
KERN, Claude [M.] (GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme])
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr])
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
KOPŘIVA, František [Mr]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LACROIX, Christophe [M.]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LEŚNIAK, Józef [M.] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms]
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.]
LOUHELAINEN, Anne [Ms] (PELKONEN, Jaana Maarit [Ms])
LUPU, Marian [Mr]
MASIULIS, Kęstutis [Mr] (ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr])
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])
MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr]
NĚMCOVÁ, Miroslava [Ms]
NICK, Andreas [Mr]
NISSINEN, Johan [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OEHME, Ulrich [Mr] (KLEINWAECHTER, Norbert [Mr])
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
ÓLASON, Bergþór [Mr]
ÖZSOY, Hişyar [Mr] (KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR, Filiz [Ms])
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms] (NAUDI ZAMORA, Víctor [M.])
PISCO, Paulo [M.]
PSYCHOGIOS, Georgios [Mr] (ANAGNOSTOPOULOU, Athanasia [Ms])
PUPPATO, Laura [Ms] (BERTUZZI, Maria Teresa [Ms])
RIBERAYGUA, Patrícia [Mme]
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
STIENEN, Petra [Ms]
ŞUPAC, Inna [Ms]
SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.])
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]
VEN, Mart van de [Mr]
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
VLASENKO, Sergiy [Mr] (LOVOCHKINA, Yuliya [Ms])
VOGEL, Volkmar [Mr]
VOVK, Viktor [Mr] (LIASHKO, Oleh [Mr])
WASERMAN, Sylvain [M.]
WENAWESER, Christoph [Mr]
WHITFIELD, Martin [Mr] (SHARMA, Virendra [Mr])
Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés à voter
AST, Marek [Mr]
COAKER, Vernon [Mr]
JANIK, Grzegorz [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
DOWNE, Percy [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
AMRAOUI, Allal [M.]
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of
the Parliamentary Assembly)/ Représentants de la communauté chypriote turque
(Conformément à la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)
SANER Hamza Ersan