Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (AS/Jur) (February 2013)

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Right promotes the rule of law and defends human rights. It is also responsible for a whole variety of activities that make it, de facto, the Assembly's legal adviser.

The Committee (AS/Jur) comprises 84 members and their alternates. It deals with a wide range of legal and human rights topics, appointing parliamentary rapporteurs mandated to prepare reports based on in situ research, hearings and exchanges of views with experts. This work culminates in resolutions and recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) addressed to member states and other Council of Europe bodies.

The Committee has four sub-committees: on human rights, on crime problems and the fight against terrorism, on the rule of law, and on the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Committee and its relevant sub-committees participate in the election, by the Assembly, of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as in the election, by the Committee of Ministers, of the members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

When requested by the Committee of Ministers, the Assembly gives its opinion – usually based on a text prepared by AS/Jur – on draft conventions prior to their final adoption (as, for instance on the draft Protocol 14 bis to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms).

The Committee sends representatives to meetings of relevant Council of Europe bodies, including the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

After playing a key role in the Organisation's enlargement after the fall of the Berlin Wall (through its opinions on any new applications for Council membership, insisting on legal reforms and a moratorium on executions, in particular), much of the Committee's more recent and ongoing work has focused on

-
reinforcing the system of human rights protection in Europe
- respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism
- combating impunity
- upholding human rights standards and the rule of law

For more details, see the Committee's work programme.

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Reinforcing the system of human rights protection in Europe

The Committee strongly supports the European human rights protection system, whose jewel in the crown is undeniably the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The application of the ECHR in all member states is supervised by the European Court of Human Rights, which is presently struggling to cope with the high number of applications.

The Committee is committed to guaranteeing the long-term effectiveness of the Convention system. It has considered the issue of the effectiveness of the ECHR at national level and regularly examines the implementation of judgments of the Court.

• Ensuring the viability of the Strasbourg Court: structural deficiencies in States Parties (01/2013); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 13087), Resolution 1914 (2013) and Recommendation 2007 (2013).

• Reinforcing the selection processes of experts of key Council of Europe human rights monitoring mechanisms (12/2012); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 13133)

• Human rights and family courts (11/2012); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 13060) and Resolution 1908 (2012).


• Guaranteeing the authority and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights (01/2012);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12811); Resolution 1856 (2012) and Recommendation 1991 (2012)

• Ad hoc judges at the European Court of Human Rights (11/2011): an overview; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12827)

• National parliaments: guarantors of human rights in Europe (06/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12636) and Resolution 1823 (2011)

• PACE’s contribution to the speedy and effective implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (since 10/2006); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12455 + Addendum), Resolution 1787 (2011) and Recommendation 1955 (2011)

• AS/Jur request for submission of comments before the Strasbourg Court in the form of a third-party intervention in case on the compatibility of UN Security Council [terrorist] Black Lists with the ECHR (12/2010);
AS/Jur/Inf (2010) 05

• Interpretative authority (“Res interpretata”) and the principle of subsidiarity under the ECHR (11/2010);
AS/Jur/Inf (2010) 04

• National procedures for the selection of candidates for the European Court of Human Rights (10/2010);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12391) and Resolution 1764 (2010); see also the Report on nomination of candidates and election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights (11/2008) (Doc. 11767) and Resolution 1646 (2009); the Report on candidates for the European Court of Human Rights (Doc. 11682), Resolution 1627 (2008) and AS/Jur/Inf (2013) 02 information document

• States should introduce laws to protect individuals from corporate abuses of human rights enshrined in the ECHR (10/2010);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12361), Resolution 1757 (2010) and Recommendation 1936 (2010)

• The need to avoid duplication of the work of the Council of Europe by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (05/2010);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12272), Resolution 1756 (2010), Recommendation 1935 (2010) and AS/Jur/Inf (2010) 02 information document

• Effective implementation of the ECHR: the Interlaken process (04/2010);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12221) and Resolution 1726 (2010)

• Accession of the European Union to the ECHR should guarantee a coherent Europe-wide system of human rights protection (04/2008);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11533), Resolution 1610 (2008) and Recommendation 1834 (2008)

• Matters relating to the ‘Death Penalty’ – the Assembly’s General Rapporteur is nominated by the AS/Jur

Work in progress: The Committee is currently preparing reports on, inter alia, EU accession to the ECHR, the election of judges in the context of EU accession, European institutions and human rights, the accession of non-member states to Council of Europe conventions, the training of judges, law enforcement officials and lawyers on the ECHR, reinforcing the effectiveness of the ECHR following the Brighton Declaration, and the independence of ECHR, The Committee also has a brief to present a report on the implementation of the Strasbourg Court's judgments.

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Respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism

The Committee has always condemned all forms of terrorism. In its reports, the Committee has insisted that terrorism can and must be combated effectively by means that fully respect human rights and the rule of law.

• State Secrecy and National Security must not prevent parliamentary and judicial scrutiny of human rights violations (10/11); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12714), Resolution 1838 (2011) and Recommendation 1983 (2011)

• PACE recalls essential human rights standards to be respected in the fight against terrorism (10/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12712) and Resolution 1840 (2011)

• Proposed 42-day pre-charge detention in the United Kingdom: PACE voices "grave doubts" (10/2008); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11725) and Resolution 1634 (2008)

• PACE questions the fairness of blacklisting by the United Nations Security Council and the European Union (01/2008)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11454 and Addendum), Resolution 1597 (2008) and Recommendation 1824 (2008)

• PACE: detainees have been imprisoned in secret detention centres operated by the CIA in Europe (06/2007)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11302 rev and Addendum), Resolution 1562 (2007) and Recommendation 1801 (2007)

• PACE reveals a global “spider’s web” of detention and transfers operated by the United States, and points to the active involvement of certain Council of Europe member states (06/2006)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 10957 and Addendum), Resolution 1507 (2006) and Recommendation 1754 (2006); timeline of the Council of Europe's investigation

• An overview of work of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on issues relating to human rights and terrorism; see AS/Jur/Inf (2011) 03 information document

Work in progress: The Committee is currently preparing reports on, inter alia, national security and access to information, and witness protection in combatting organized crime and terrorism in Europe.

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Combating impunity

Impunity for grave human rights violations has been condemned in a number of reports adopted or being prepared by the Committee.


• The definition of political prisoner (10/2012),
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 13011) and Resolution 1900 (2012)

The situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States (06/2012), see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12957) and Resolution 1891 (2012)

• AS/Jur encourages reflections about a future European Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances (03/2012); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12880) and Resolution 1868 (2012) and Recommendation 1995 (2012).

• Strengthening torture prevention mechanisms in Europe (04/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12551); Resolution 1808 (2011) and Recommendation 1968 (2011)

• PACE demands investigations into organ-trafficking and disappearances in Kosovo1 and Albania (01/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12462) and Resolution 1782 (2011)

• The protection of witnesses is a cornerstone for justice and reconciliation in the Balkans (01/2011);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12440), Resolution 1784 (2011) and Recommendation 1952 (2011)

• Council of Europe member states must co-operate in the prosecution of war crimes committed on the territory of the states of former Yugoslavia for regional reconciliation to occur (01/2011);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12454), Resolution 1785 (2011) and Recommendation 1953 (2011)

• The rise of extremism and terrorism in the North-Caucasus region can only be defeated if impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations is eradicated (06/2010)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12276), Resolution 1738 (2010) and Recommendation 1922 (2010)

• Judicial corruption undermines the rule of law and allows impunity to flourish (01/2010)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12058), Resolution 1703 (2010) and Recommendation 1896 (2010)

• “Whistle-blowers” make democracies stronger (04/2010):
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12006), Resolution 1729 (2010) and Recommendation 1916 (2010)

• The independence of the judicial system is the principal line of defence against political interference in the law, according to PACE (09/2009)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11993) and Resolution 1685 (2009)

• Fight against impunity: a priority for PACE (06/2009)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11934), Resolution 1675 (2009) and Recommendation 1876 (2009)

• PACE reminds European governments of their obligation to protect human rights defenders (04/2009)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11841), Resolution 1660 (2009) and Recommendation 1866 (2009)

• A state of emergency should be ‘a last resort’, parliamentarians warn (04/2009);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11858), Resolution 1659 (2009) and Recommendation 1865 (2009)

• The Assembly reiterates its firm commitment to the ICC in the fight against impunity (01/2009)
;see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11722) and Resolution 1644 (2009)

• PACE wants action to bring to justice those who ordered murder of Georgy Gongadze
(01/2009); see AS/JurReport (Doc. 11686), Resolution 1645 (2009) and Recommendation 1856 (2009)

Work in progress: The Committee is currently preparing reports inter alia on threats to the Rule of Law in Council of Europe member states, on corruption as a threat the rule of law, on keeping political and criminal responsibility separate, on promoting alternatives to imprisonment, on the abuse of pre-trial detention and on the impunity of the killers of Sergei Magnitsky in Russia. Moreover, the Committee presents reports, on a regular basis, on the situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states.

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Upholding human rights standards and the rule of law and promoting respect for diversity

The Committee reiterates in its work the need for member states to respect human rights standards in all fields of action.

• The inadmissibility of restrictions on freedom of movement as punishment for political positions (06/2012), see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12943) and Resolution 1894 (2012)

• AS/Jur calls for additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights including minimum standards for national minorities (03/2012); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12879), Resolution 1866 (2012) and Recommendation 1994 (2012).

• The situation of the Greek citizens of Turkish descent in Rhodes and Kos (03/2012), see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12526) and Resolution 1867 (2012)

• Enforced population transfer as a human rights violation (01/2012); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12819) and Resolution 1863 (2012)

• Combatting all forms of discrimination based on religion (11/2011), see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12788); Resolution 1846 (2011) and Recommendation 1987 (2011)

• The declaration of principles of equality and activities of the Council of Europe (11/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12778); Resolution 1844 (2011) and Recommendation 1986 (2011)

• PACE stresses a need for clarification in the definition of national sovereignty and statehood in contemporary international law (10/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12689) and Resolution 1832 (2011)

• PACE reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances (04/2011); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12456) and Resolution 1807 (2011)

• States must ratify and properly implement the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (10/2010); see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12422), Resolution 1770 (2010) and Recommendation 1944 (2010)

• PACE calls on member states to tackle discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (03/2010)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12185), Resolution 1728 (2010) and Recommendation 1915 (2010)

• The situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities of the Council of Europe (01/2010)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12174), Resolution 1740 (2010) and Recommendation 1924 (2010)

• Greece and Turkey should treat all their religious minorities according to European standards, says PACE (01/2010);
see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 11860) and Resolution 1704 (2010)

• All member states should sign up to the Council of Europe’s standards in the field of minority protection in Europe, says PACE (12/2009)
; see AS/Jur Report (Doc. 12109), Resolution 1713 (2010) and Recommendation 1904 (2010)

Work in progress: The Committee is currently preparing reports on strengthening the institution of ombudsman in Europe, protecting minors against sectarian influence, access to nationality, the revision of the European Convention on transfrontier television, accountability of international institutions for human rights, measures to prevent abusive use of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, administrative detention, promoting alternatives to imprisonment, and on promoting the human rights of prisoners .


1 All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.