Observation of elections plays an important role in enhancing
the democratic electoral process. It is an effective instrument
for identifying shortcomings of the electoral process, for deterring
fraud and for increasing the confidence of the electorate in the
electoral process. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the large number
of international organisations (both governmental and non-governmental)
involved in this activity, there is a growing risk of forum shopping
among election observers.
There are many international instruments governing the status
of election observers, such as the Declaration of Principles for
International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International
Observers, as well as the relevant guidelines adopted by the Organization
for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the Commonwealth of Independent States,
the European Union and the Council of Europe. However, most of these
are fragmentary, soft-law instruments.
Furthermore, in most member states, election observer status
is often not covered, or only partially covered, in national electoral
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights therefore
considers that more uniform rules should be introduced at both international
and national level. The Council of Europe should consider giving
legal recognition, in particular through a recommendation, to the
“Guidelines on an internationally recognised status of election
observers”, published by the Venice Commission in December 2009.
This document sets out the rights and duties of election observers;
it also recommends that member states should avoid duplication with the
Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation
and the Code of Conduct for International Observers, which should
also be implemented in the national electoral systems.