Doc. 9770

2 April 2003

So-called “honour crimes”

Opinion1

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Liechtenstein, Group of the European People’s Party

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights fully supports the draft recommendation tabled by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, but would like to table some amendments aimed mainly at reinforcing the proposed legal measures, and at ensuring a more effective follow-up.

II.       Proposed amendments to the draft resolution

Amendment A:

In paragraph 1., in fine, replace “unjust cultures and traditions” by “archaic and unjust cultures and traditions”.

Amendment B:

Replace sub-paragraphs 10.A.i.- iii. by the following text:

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III.       Explanatory memorandum

by Mrs Wohlwend, Rapporteur

1.        I would like to congratulate Mrs Cryer on her very detailed and exhaustive report. Her views and recommendations generally deserve the full support of our Committee. So-called “crimes of honour” – as to the denomination, I should like to join the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, who prefers the term “crimes of shame” – are unjustifiable and inexcusable violations of the criminal laws of all countries governed by the rule of law.

2.        The horrific examples given by Mrs Cryer show that victims of this kind of crimes are often women. Of course, children (especially “illegitimate” ones) and men are also frequently victims of such “crimes of shame”. These are terrible examples for the consequences of the failure by the State to enforce the law. Whilst this issue is certainly also one of women’s rights, as the majority of victims are indeed women, it is a more general issue of the rule of law, and of the effective enforcement of the state monopoly on force. In some regions, even in long-standing member countries of the Council of Europe, unwritten codes of “honour”, cruelly enforced in the framework of archaic (and indeed mostly patriarchical) clan structures, establish zones of non-law, in which minor offences against these codes trigger blood feuds that decimate entire families, and where the weakest members of society are effectively deprived of the protection by law.

3.        The unfortunate fact that such “crimes of shame” go unpunished in many cases and that this perceived impunity encourages the perpetuation of such hideous criminal practices as described in Mrs Cryer’s memorandum must no longer be tolerated in any of our member states. I therefore believe that the proposed legal measures aimed at repression and prevention of such crimes should come first in the list of measures proposed, and that the possible creation of a new ground for asylum to cover those hard cases which the first set of measures cannot prevent should come second. I am also proposing a slight reformulation of the proposed preventive and repressive measures in order to avoid duplication as well as a possible misunderstanding regarding the independence of the judiciary.

4.        Finally, the proposal for the amendment of national asylum and immigration legislation would in my view benefit from a more cautious formulation. As it stands, it may give rise to misinterpretation in the sense that any female inhabitant of any country, world-wide, in which “crimes of shame” occur should be granted a right to emigrate to the member states of the Council of Europe on the strength of an allegation of feared “crimes of honour”. Given also that the issues of gender-based persecution and persecution by non-state agents are far from settled, a more cautious formulation may be appropriate.

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Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Doc 9166, Reference No 2644 of 25 September 2001

Opinion approved by the committee on 1 April 2003

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Coin, Mr Schirmer; Mr Cupina, Mr Milner


1 See Doc 9720 tabled by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.