‘The European Convention on Human Rights is our compass’

The Council of Europe’s Secretary General has asked parliamentarians to go home and be louder than ever in defending Europe’s human rights architecture.

Speaking about the many challenges facing Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland said the European Convention on Human Rights is a shared vocabulary, the set of values which everyone must respect, providing one set of liberties all in Europe must enjoy – “no ifs, no buts, no cultural relativism”, he said.

Jagland referred to current difficult issues in certain member states, saying the Convention is a basis for co-operation, even when relations are fraught, and that often the law can resolve differences and move us forward in a way that politics cannot.

However, the Secretary General chose to highlight the case of Ilgar Mammadov, in prison for two years in Azerbaijan, where he has suffered grave ill-treatment. He said Mammadov was not the only person in Europe locked up when they shouldn’t be, but his is now the only case where the European Court of Human Rights – the highest legal authority on the continent – has called for a person’s release.

Amongst his priorities for 2016, Mr Jagland spoke of the human rights mission that he has sent to Crimea, and the Special Representative on the refugee crisis that he has appointed.