Restrictions on freedom of movement of parliamentarians, a moralistic trend in international law

The illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and its intervention resulting in a military conflict in eastern Ukraine have generated a climate of distrust against a background of a “war of sanctions”, the Committee on Rules of Procedure said, expressing dismay that the reciprocal direct sanctions and the resulting restrictions on travel by parliamentarians are particularly harmful to parliamentary diplomacy.

In adopting a report on sanctions against parliamentarians by Arcadio Díaz Tejera (Spain, SOC), the Committee on Rules of Procedure stated that the restrictive measures targeting parliamentarians are incompatible with the very nature of parliamentarianism. The committee is afraid that “that the spread of individual sanctions involving the sharing of responsibility between states and individuals supporting the objectives of states is leading to an excessively moralistic trend in international law, whereby, in the absence of any criminal liability, individual sanctions are supplementing the traditional sanctions targeting states.”

The committee also condemns the existence of national “blacklists” of parliamentarians whom the states which have drawn them up can refuse visas or entry. “Freedom of movement as a corollary of freedom of expression must not be subject to restrictions or used in punishments for peacefully expressing political opinions”, said the committee.

“Any sanction targeting individuals must meet the requirements of legal certainty and be accompanied by appropriate procedural guarantees. In the case of parliamentarians, additional safeguards should be afforded,” it said.

The committee also unreservedly condemned the restrictions or travel bans which certain member states have imposed on PACE members performing their duties, in particular in the case of election observation exercises or visits by rapporteurs duly appointed by the PACE, as a flagrant violation of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe and the Protocol thereto and a breach of the undertaking to co-operate with the PACE.

The committee believes that the internationalisation of parliamentary work is highlighting the inadequacy of the international legal framework in which parliamentarians perform their duties outside their own countries. It therefore urges national parliaments to support any initiatives aimed at promoting the recognition of an international status for parliamentarians and the related rights and obligations and recommends that the Committee of Ministers consider the possibilities for establishing such a status.