14 January 2002
Progress of the Assembly's monitoring procedure
Recommendation 1536 (2001)
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 779th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (9 January 2002)
1. The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined the Assembly’s Recommendation 1536 (2001) on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (2000-2001). It recalls that the main issues raised in this recommendation have already been discussed in the Joint Committee
(27 September 2001) and in a joint working group on monitoring between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly (7 November 2001), the latter convened at the initiative of the Liechtenstein Chair of the Committee of Ministers.
2. The Committee of Ministers’ monitoring mechanism was established on the basis of its 1994 Declaration on compliance with commitments accepted by member states a year after the Assembly set up its own first monitoring procedure. This procedure has significantly evolved since then, as has that of the Assembly. Along with the enlargement of the Organisation, there appeared to be an increased need for monitoring by both the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.
3. Thematic monitoring was set up in 1995 in order to facilitate the implementation of the 1994 Declaration on compliance with member states commitments and has been carried out by the Committee of Ministers since 1996. Since this procedure was introduced, eight themes have been placed on the Ministers’ Deputies agenda. Until now conclusions have been taken with respect to the following themes: freedom of expression and information, functioning and protection of democratic institutions, functioning of the judicial system, local democracy, policy and security forces.
On the theme “capital punishment” the Committee of Ministers adopted at its 107th Ministerial Session (9 November 2000) a Declaration “For a European Death Penalty-Free Area” and is currently discussing the proposal for a new draft Protocol N° 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, which has been transmitted to the Parliamentary Assembly for opinion.
Recently a new theme, namely “effectiveness of judicial remedies” was discussed. The theme “non-discrimination, with emphasis on the fight against intolerance and racism” will be discussed by the Ministers’ Deputies in 2002.
All of them are treated in accordance with understanding reached by the Second Summit of Heads of States and governments of the Council of Europe member countries in 1997.
4. A new impetus has been given to the Committee of Ministers’ thematic monitoring procedure as, in respect of the theme of freedom of expression and information, the Committee of Ministers has undertaken specific action: experts appointed by the Secretary General visited four member states (Albania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) and, at the request of the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General will pursue his contacts to collect information on this theme in all member states, including through additional expert missions. In this respect, the Committee of Ministers will pursue co-operation with the Assembly, since freedom of expression and information in the media is also a subject dealt with by the Assembly, for which a General Rapporteur on the Media has been appointed. It furthermore recalls that following a proposal by the Assembly in its Recommendation 1506 (2001) on the freedom of the media in Europe (paragraph 16. viii.), an exchange of views with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on the theme freedom of expression and information took place on 28 September 2001.
5. Furthermore, it is also to be noted that the Committee of Ministers has, over the last few years, gradually reviewed the status of its thematic monitoring documents: the national contributions sent by member states are made public and forwarded to the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly simultaneously; the general comments drawn up by the Secretariat become automatically public one year after being issued, if not earlier; the country-by-country secretariat comments are classified and treated as “confidential” and no longer “secret” as had been the case in the past. The Committee of Ministers is further reflecting on improving its thematic monitoring inter alia to develop the trends mentioned above.
6. The Committee of Ministers, at the proposal made by the Secretary General in the context of the 1994 Declaration, has sent a Secretariat assistance and information mission to Ukraine to facilitate this country in fulfilling her remaining commitments, in direct response to Assembly Recommendation 1513 (2001) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Ukraine. The report of the Secretariat mission to Ukraine was immediately transmitted to the Assembly and its results were reflected in the subsequent Assembly monitoring report in respect of this member state (Doc. 9226). The results of the Secretariat mission have also been reflected in co-operation programmes with Ukraine, in particular the Action Plan for the media and a new Joint Programme with the European Commission.
7. The Committee of Ministers has recently decided to follow the same procedure in order to thoroughly prepare its reply to Assembly Recommendation 1533 (2001) on honouring of obligations and commitments by Georgia. The results of the Secretariat mission to Georgia will no doubt be reflected in future co-operation activities with Georgia, including the new Joint Programme agreed with the European Commission. The Committee of Ministers is convinced that these exercises demonstrate the complementarity between the Assembly’s and the Committee of Ministers’ monitoring procedures.
8. In this context, it is to be noted that, as requested in the past by the Assembly1, the Committee of Ministers has recently significantly improved its record as regards the timing and substance of its replies to Assembly recommendations on monitoring: these replies provide a good opportunity for constructive dialogue between the two organs.
9. As regards ad hoc monitoring for Armenia and Azerbaijan, carried out by the Committee of Ministers itself through its monitoring group, the GT-SUIVI.AGO, the Committee wishes to stress that the setting up of this group was due to special circumstances and the condition for both countries to become members. The Committee of Ministers considers that until now this procedure has given good results and has led to a synergy of effort between its own work and that of the Assembly. Both the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers check the implementation of the same commitments (identified by the Assembly in its Opinions and confirmed by the Committee of Ministers in the resolutions inviting the states to accede to the Council of Europe), with different means. The Committee of Ministers draws on the expertise of the Organisation as regards legislative reform and assistance programmes in the countries concerned. The GT-SUIVI.AGO is ready to share its information with the Assembly and has forwarded to it all its reports and working documents. It would welcome a reciprocal arrangement on behalf of the Assembly. It considers that exchange of information on this question is the best way to avoid both duplication of effort and divergent evaluations.
10. In response to concerns expressed both in the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General appointed independent experts to inquire into the specific issue of alleged political prisoners in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The experts’ report was forwarded to the Committee of Ministers which, at the proposal of the monitoring group, GT-SUIVI.AGO, adopted a declaration on this matter. The Committee also instructed its monitoring Group “to continue the dialogue with the Azerbaijan authorities on this question in order to give full implementation to this commitment undertaken by Azerbaijan and to aim for the settlement of this question in the near future”. The experts’ report has since been made public and forwarded to the Assembly. The Assembly is being kept informed by the Secretary General of any new developments pertaining to the matter.
11. On 26 June 2000, by letter addressed to the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies, the Secretary General considered it his duty in respect of the situation in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, “in particular in the light of the findings of the experts, to seize the Committee of Ministers of this matter by virtue of paragraph 1, second indent, of the 1994 Declaration on compliance with commitments accepted by member states of the Council of Europe”. This question was discussed by the Ministers’ Deputies.
12. In conformity with the Ministers’ Deputies’ decision of 10 October 2000 (725th meeting, 10 October 2000, item 1.7), the Secretary General regularly submits to the Committee of Ministers, in addition to his monthly reports on the work of the Council of Europe experts in Mr Kalamanov’s Office, additional information regarding the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. These reports are transmitted to the Assembly for information.
13. At their 725th meeting (10 October 2000, point 1.7), the Ministers’ Deputies “without prejudice to the continued validity of the 1994 Declaration on Compliance with Commitments accepted by member states” reiterated their previous decision to continue “consideration of the contribution of the Council of Europe towards restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy in Chechnya on the basis of a periodic report by the Secretary General” and “noted that the Secretary General would, in the context of such discussions, provide the Deputies with additional relevant information” (CM/Del/Dec(2000)725, item 1.7).
14. There is a will in the Committee of Ministers to improve the dialogue with the Assembly on monitoring issues:
i. Joint Committee meetings are devoted to monitoring at least once per year.
ii. A number of informal meetings have been held in the past between the Chair of the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee and the Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies.
iii. A Joint Working Group on Monitoring between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly met on 7 November 2001, upon the initiative of the (then) Liechtenstein Chair of the Committee of Ministers, and exchanged views on how to improve dialogue between the two Statutory Organs of the Council of Europe on monitoring issues. The Group, composed of the President and Group Leaders of the Assembly, on the one hand, and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, as well as the Chairman of the GR-EDS, on the other, could meet regularly and offer a forum to exchange information both on the timetables and on substance.
iv. The Committee of Ministers welcomes any further proposal to improve dialogue and co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly with due regard to the specificities of their respective monitoring procedures.
15. As regards the Assembly specific proposals mentioned in sub-paragraphs 11 ii-iv of the Recommendation 1536 (2001) regarding dissemination of information to states being monitored, the Committee of Ministers has already brought them to the attention of member states. It has further decided to bring them to the attention of the Secretariat Offices and Information Centres of the Council of Europe in the various member states for possible follow-up.
16. As regards sub-paragraph 11 v of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that the Council of Europe is closely co-operating with the European Commission on the organisation and observation of the population census to be carried out in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in Spring 2002, as has been done previously.
1 Recommendation 1366 (1998) on progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedures (April 1997-April 1998).