European prisons charter

Doc. 10332
15 October 2004

Motion for a recommendation
presented by Mr Hunault and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.       On 27 April 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly, acting on a proposal put forward by its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, adopted Recommendation 1656 on the situation of European prisons and pre-trial detention centres. In this document the Assembly recommended in particular that the Committee of Ministers should draw up a European prisons charter in conjunction with the European Union.

2.       The Assembly believes that it is necessary to go a step further than the existing instruments – the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Recommendation no R (87) 3 of the Committee of Ministers on the European Prison Rules – and promote a general framework which would set common standards and criteria for member States of the Council of Europe allowing for the harmonisation of penalties and detention conditions and the monitoring of their application.

3.       The European prisons charter aims to ensure that the rights and the dignity of persons deprived of their liberty are respected. Its purpose is to lay down detailed and binding rules applying to everyone involved in the prison system, concerning respect for the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty, from the moment of their arrest, during police custody and their pre- and post-trial detention, and beyond, and dealing with the social rehabilitation of prisoners.

4.       In spite of this, the idea of a European prisons charter, which would effectively amount to a European law on prisons, met with a somewhat guarded reaction from the Committee of Ministers. In its reply to Recommendation 1656 (2004), adopted in June 2004, the Committee of Ministers said that it intended to stand by the existing instruments and continue updating the European Prison Rules to “avoid duplication, double standards and waste of scarce resources”. The Assembly must express its disappointment at this and reiterate its appeal to the Committee of Ministers to equip Europe with a robust, ambitious instrument designed to promote a fully-fledged European prisons policy.

5.       The European prisons charter will be a robust instrument as long as the application of the principles and rules it contains is thoroughly monitored. If we want to establish a fully binding legal framework for the contracting parties and guarantee that its provisions will be implemented effectively, the Charter will have to have its own suitable and efficient control mechanism.

6.       The European prisons charter will be an ambitious instrument in more than one respect, and in particular because it will be aimed not just at the 46 member States of the Council of Europe but at all non-member States as well. In this connection, a European prisons observatory could be set up, which would be based on institutions that already exist at the Council of Europe in the form of Enlarged Agreements, open to non-member States and other organisations.

7.       The European Union will have to be involved in the drawing up of the European prisons charter through the European Parliament and the European Commission, and will be invited to accede to it. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, it will have to be a member of the Observatory.

8.       It is crucial for the Parliamentary Assembly to follow up actively on the proposals it made in Recommendation 1656 (2004) and for it to narrow them down by outlining the precise legal framework that would be desirable and making new proposals to the Committee of Ministers on the establishment of a European prisons observatory.

9.       Consequently, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

-        begin straight away, at intergovernmental level and in conjunction with the European Union, on work to draw up a European prisons charter;

-        establish, in conjunction with the European Union, a European prisons observatory.

Signed [1]:
HUNAULT, Michel, France, EDG
BERISHA, Sali, Albania, EPP/CD
BRUCE, Malcolm, United Kingdom, LDR
CILEVICS, Boriss, Latvia, SOC
GREBENNIKOV, Valery, Russia, EDG
HAJIYEVA, Gultakin, Azerbaijan, EPP/CD
HOFFMANN, Jelena, Germany, SOC
HUSEYNOV, Rafael, Azerbaijan, LDR
LLOYD, Tony, United Kingdom, SOC
POURGOURIDES, Christos, Cyprus, EPP/CD
RUSTAMYAN, Armen, Armenia, SOC
SPINDELEGGER, Michael, Austria, EPP/CD
WOHLWEND, Renate, Liechtenstein, EPP/CD



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