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Internal displacement in Europe
Recommendation 1631 (2003)

Doc. 10247
2 July 2004

Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 890th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (30 June 2004)


1.         The Committee of Ministers welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1631 (2003) on internal displacement in Europe, which it has brought to the attention of the governments of the member states. It has received comments on the Recommendation from the Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR).

2.         The Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly’s concern about the situation of internally displaced persons. It recalls that issues relating to internally displaced persons regularly arise in the context of the Committee of Ministers’ monitoring of compliance with the obligations and commitment entered into by member states on accession.  It agrees with the Assembly that displaced persons are a particular category of persons in need of assistance, protection and development aid and are not protected by any specific international legally binding instrument.  In this respect, the Committee underlines the importance of the problems linked to education and to the social protection of internally displaced persons and is of the opinion that cooperation programmes could be developed and implemented by the Council of Europe in these fields.  In this regard, it urges the concerned states and the international community to strengthen their action in that direction.  Of special importance are the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, issued within the United Nations, which are based on international law and especially human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law.

3.         In its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1588 (2003) on “Population displacement in south-eastern Europe: trends, problems, solutions”, the Committee of Ministers underlined its awareness of the multi-faceted problem of internally displaced persons.  It drew the attention of the Assembly to the wide spectrum of intergovernmental activities being undertaken to address the issue in the region in question.

4.         The Committee of Ministers recalls its previous replies to other Assembly Recommendations relating to internally displaced persons in various parts of Europe, inter alia its replies to Recommendations 1569 (2002), 1570 (2002), 1510 (2001), 1424 (1999), 1406 (1999) and 1357 (1998).

5.         As has been reflected in some of the above-mentioned replies, not only the Council of Europe, but also other regional organisations, such as the European Union and the OSCE/ODIHR, are taking a number of measures, some of them in co-operation, to support internally displaced persons and to try to find long-lasting solutions to their problems.  However, the primary responsibility for humanitarian support to internally displaced persons lies with national authorities.  Like the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers is pleased to note that many national authorities have introduced socio-economic programmes to rebuild and develop war-torn regions with a view to facilitating the return of displaced persons.  It agrees that the support of the international community is essential for these schemes to succeed, as well as for the continuity of the humanitarian aid to displaced persons.  It goes without saying that at the same time the latter should not diminish efforts aiming at a lasting settlement of these problems.

6.         In his latest Annual Report, published in 2003, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights provided an analysis on the situation of internally displaced persons in Europe, urging greater political attention to this issue.  He has examined the issue of displaced persons in the context of a number of his country visits, including Georgia, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro (and Kosovo), Armenia, Azerbaijan, and on four separate occasions, Ingushetia and Chechnya.  This issue will continue to feature prominently in Commissioner's future visits and in his follow-up work relating to the countries previously visited.

7.         In its Recommendation, the Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers “instruct the appropriate committee to examine the situation of displaced populations in member countries concerned with a particular attention to the compliance of national legislation in force with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement” and “contribute to the promotion of the Guiding Principles on internal displacement at the European level” (paragraph 14. i. and ii.).

8.         As to the first recommendation, in its comments the CAHAR underlines the need to first ensure that similar work has not already been carried out by other bodies in order to avoid duplication of such extensive and costly activities; the Committee of Ministers nevertheless considers that it would be useful to ensure the complementarity of the action undertaken.  If information as regards to such compliance is not available, the CAHAR suggests that it gather the information in the context of the activity referred to below, but only in so far as it is useful for the proper conduct of its work in the field of internally displaced persons thus referred to.

9.         As to the second recommendation, the Committee of Ministers agrees that the Guiding Principles should be widely promoted and disseminated.  The CAHAR has already distributed them to all its members during its 54th meeting and discussed their relevance in the European context.  It appeared to its members that some of the Guiding Principles were already incorporated in existing binding instruments of the Council of Europe, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

10.       Following its discussion on this matter, the CAHAR has decided to set up a Working Party with a view to elaborating a recommendation on internally displaced persons. It has not yet been in a position to meet given the fact that other priorities were assigned to the Committee in 2003-2004.  However, at its last plenary meeting, the CAHAR decided that the work on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) should be kept on its agenda.  The final composition of the Working Party was decided. It is composed of experts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Italy and Serbia and Montenegro. The Committee of Ministers will keep the Assembly informed about the outcome of this work.

11.       With respect to the third recommendation made by the Assembly, that the Committee of Ministers support the establishment of a worldwide information system on internally displaced persons (paragraph 14. iii.), it notes that such a system has already been established within the framework of the United Nations, i.e. the Global IDP Project.  It serves as a useful source of information for governments and international organisations.

12.       With respect to the other recommendations of the Assembly (paragraphs 15 i., ii. and iv.), the Council of Europe is at the disposal of the member states concerned to provide assistance to states making requests for it, in order to help them to bring their legislation into conformity with the Guiding Principles on internal displacement as well as with the relevant norms of the Council of Europe, and to adapt their policies and programmes in favour of displaced persons.

Appendix to the reply

Comments prepared by the Bureau of the CAHAR on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1631 (2003) on internal displacement in Europe

In its decision CM/Del/Dec(2003)865/3.1, the Committee of Ministers decided to communicate the above Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly to the Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR) for information and possible comments. The CAHAR adopted the following comments by means of a written consultation procedure initiated by its Bureau on 10 December 2003.

The CAHAR shares the Assembly’s concern about the legal situation of internally displaced persons who form a particular category of persons in need of assistance, protection and development aid and who are not protected by any specific international legally binding instrument.

Particular attention was devoted by CAHAR to paragraphs 14.i. and ii. of the Recommendation in which the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers “instruct the appropriate committee to examine the situation of displaced populations in member countries concerned with a particular attention to the compliance of national legislation in force with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement” and “contribute to the promotion of the Guiding Principles on internal displacement at the European level”.

As far as the promotion of the Guiding Principles at the European level is concerned, the CAHAR points out that these principles have already been distributed to all its members during its 54th meeting and that the Committee discussed their relevance in the European context. It appeared to its members that some of the Guiding Principles are already incorporated in existing binding instruments of the Council of Europe, including the European Convention on Human Rights.  Following its discussion on this matter, the CAHAR decided to set up a Working Party with a view to elaborating a recommendation on internally displaced persons. The Working Party has not yet been in a position to meet given the fact that other priorities were assigned to the Committee in 2003-2004. However, at its last plenary meeting, the CAHAR decided that the work on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) should be kept on its agenda.  The final composition of the Working Party was decided. The working party is composed of experts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Italy and Serbia and Montenegro.

As to the “examination of the situation of displaced populations in member countries or the analysis of compliance of national legislation in force with the Guiding Principles on internal displacement”, the CAHAR deems that one should first ensure that similar work has not already been carried out by other bodies in order to avoid duplication of such extensive and costly activities.  If information as regards to such compliance is not available, the CAHAR may find it necessary to gather it; however the CAHAR is of the opinion that this work should only be conducted in so far as it is useful for the proper conduct of its work in the field of internally displaced persons as referred to in the above paragraph.