Council of Europe: Outcome of the Parliamentary Assembly session on 10-13 October 2017

October 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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PACE, 10-13 October 2017, Strasbourg

Amongst others, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concluded as follows at its session:

New threats to the rule of law in Council of Europe member States: selected examples: Resolution 2188 (2017) of the Parliamentary Assembly

“The Assembly has thoroughly examined the situation in five member States: Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Turkey. Although the list of problems found in those States does not include all of those to be found in Council of Europe member States, the Assembly is concerned about some recent developments which put at risk respect for the rule of law, and, in particular, the independence of the judiciary and the principle of the separation of powers. This is mainly due to tendencies to limit the independence of the judiciary made though attempts to politicise the judicial councils and the courts (mainly in Bulgaria, Poland and Turkey), massive revocation of judges and prosecutors (Turkey) or attempts to do so (Poland) and tendencies to limit the legislative power of the parliament (the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Turkey). Moreover, corruption, which is a major challenge to the rule of law, remains a widespread phenomenon in Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova and Romania.” (To read the entire Resolution, click here.)

Venice Commission’s “Rule of Law Checklist”

The Assembly decides to:

6.1. endorse the Venice Commission’s Rule of Law Checklist;
6.2. use it systematically in its work, particularly in the preparation of reports of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), in order to accurately identify any structural and systemic problems in the Council of Europe’s member States;
6.3. invite the national parliaments and government bodies, including the relevant ministries, when assessing the need for and the content of legislative reform, to refer systematically to the Rule of Law Checklist;
6.4. invite international and regional organisations, including the Council of Europe as a whole and the European Union, to refer regularly to the Rule of Law Checklist in their relevant work. In this connection, the Assembly congratulates the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on having taken the Rule of Law Checklist into account in his 2017 annual report on the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, and urges him to do so systematically in all his future annual reports;
6.5. encourage civil society to use the Rule of Law Checklist to objectively assess respect for the rule of law.
(To read the entire document, click here.)
Please click here for more information on the results of the PACE session.

Council of Europe: PACE session, 10-13 October 2017, Strasbourg

September 29th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session will discuss, inter alia:

Wednesday 11 October

The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan

The draft resolution includes (amongst others) a call to “ensure also that no pressure is exerted on lawyers defending NGO representatives, political activists, human rights defenders and journalists”; read more about the situation of lawyers in the explanatory memorandum attached to the resolution;

Venice Commission’s “Rule of Law Checklist”

The Assembly is expected to endorse the Venice Commission’s Rule of Law Checklist;

New threats to the rule of law in Council of Europe member States: selected examples

The committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights proposes specific recommendations addressed to these five countries [Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey] and expresses particular concern regarding the situation in Turkey following the measures taken under the state of emergency and the recent amendments to the Constitution.

The explanatory memorandum specifically refers (amongst others) to lawyers/Moldova: “The Moldovan judiciary is affected by negative public perception and “perceived political interference in the judiciary and law enforcement is a systemic impediment to social and economic development”. Some judges have been prosecuted for their decisions (for example, judge Domnica Manole, who annulled the decision of the Central Election Commission rejecting the holding of a referendum on amending the Constitution requested by a political party) and the same has happened to lawyers engaged in high-profile cases (see cases of Ana Ursachi, Veaceslav Turcan and Maxim Belinschi).”

The session programme can be downloaded here. The session is streamed live on PACE’s website.

Human Rights Commissioner comments on the situation in Turkey

June 1st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Third party intervention of the Commissioner before the Court of Human Rights – On 25 April 2017, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, published his written observations concerning 34 cases related to events which have occurred since August 2015 in the context of counter-terrorism operations and curfews in South-Eastern Turkey. In his conclusions, the Commissioner notes: ‘there are clear indications that human rights defenders working on the human rights situation in South-Eastern Turkey during the curfews and counter-terrorism operations and assisting alleged victims in seeking justice have been subjected to various forms of reprisals and intimidation in retaliation for their legitimate activities’.

Turkey: CCBE Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Turkish lawyers

December 8th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The CCBE has granted the Human Rights Award for 2016 to four Turkish lawyers, who have been particularly active in the defence of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, read more here.

Turkey: Memorandum of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights; Press release of the ICJ

December 8th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a memorandum on the 2 December urging Turkey to take measures for investigating all allegations of human rights violations during imposed curfews and anti-terrorism operations. The Commissioner expressed, inter alia, “deep concern about attempts by the authorities to vilify the activities of human rights NGOs and lawyers bringing to attention allegations of human rights violations which occurred in zones cut from the rest of the world where there were no independent observers”.

On the 6 of December The International Commission of Jurists also stated its concerns on the situation in Turkey after the attempted coup, and “calls on the Turkish government to take urgent steps to guarantee the independence of the legal profession, protect lawyers from arbitrary detention or arrest and provide procedural safeguards to ensure the right to fair trial of lawyers under criminal investigation”.

Turkey: continued concerns of the CCBE

August 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 19 August 2016, the CCBE wrote a letter to President Erdoğan to express its concerns regarding the situation of lawyers in the country following the coup attempt of 15 July.

On 26 July, the Adana Bar Association reportedly released a statement referring to the “fear” and “concern” about possible reprisals felt by lawyers in Adana, the decision made by some not to provide legal assistance to people detained in relation to the failed coup, and the negative treatment they faced from the police and prosecutors if they represented the detainees. On 28 July, the CCBE was informed that about 50 lawyers were held incommunicado in Istanbul, with no access to legal representation. The CCBE was also made aware of the cases of lawyers Deniz Sürgüt and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, respectively tortured in detention and banned from travelling.

Furthermore, the CCBE expressed concerns about a government decree of 27 July allowing prosecutors to bar detainees from meeting with a lawyer during the first five days of police custody. A decree published on 23 July had already placed restrictions on the right to private communications with lawyers for suspects in cases of terrorism and organised crime, and reserved the authorities’ right to appoint another lawyer to represent the detainee.

A copy of the letter can be acessed here.

See also ‘International Organisations Issue Statement of Concern Regarding Turkey’s Post-coup Crackdown’ and ‘The CCBE voiced its concerns over the dismissal of judges in Turkey‘.

International Organisations Issue Statement of Concern Regarding Turkey’s Post-coup Crackdown

August 1st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 26 July 2016, together with the European Bars Federation (FBE) and the International Association of Lawyers (UIA), the CCBE has issued a joint statement expressing concerns over the disregard for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey, in the aftermath of the failed coup and the state of emergency which was recently declared.

The organisations are extremely alarmed by the ongoing purge within the judiciary. They recalled that there can be no derogation from the following articles: Article 2 (Right to life), Article 3 (Prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment), Article 4 para. 1 (Prohibition of slavery), Article 7 (No punishment without law).

The CCBE, FBE and UIA underline that any statement by President Erdoğan that he would allow for a reinstatement of the death penalty is contrary to Turkey’s obligations under international law and its membership in the Council of Europe.

The CCBE voiced its concerns over the dismissal of judges in Turkey

July 25th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The CCBE has been following the alarming developments that have recently taken place in Turkey. In the light of this, it has written a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express its serious concern over the events of Friday 15 July 2016 which led to a significant number of deaths, and more than 1,000 people being wounded. In addition, the CCBE stressed that the dismissal of 2,745 judges will seriously undermine the independence of judiciary. In this context, the CCBE calls for effective steps to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in Turkey.

Threat to the independence of the Turkish judiciary

July 8th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 30 June 2016, the Turkish Parliament passed the draft “Law on the Amendment of the Codes of the Supreme Court and the Council of the State and other Codes”. As a result, all members of the Supreme Court and of the Council of the State will be shortly dismissed and replaced. The new law will also introduce changes into the system of appointment. New magistrates will have to be appointed by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is reportedly made up of government-backed members. Furthermore, 24 members of the Council of State will be directly appointed by the President.

The CCBE is concerned with the impact that this new legislation will have on the independence of the judiciary at all levels, thereby undermining the separation of powers, the right to a fair trial and, more broadly, the rule of law.

For further information, please see the letter written by the CCBE on its concerns related to the recently adopted law.

The CCBE has been following closely the situation of members of the Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (ÖHD) in Turkey

May 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

In March 2016, nine Turkish lawyers belonging to the ÖHD were arrested after the police raided their homes. The lawyers were detained for three days, and could not attend the trial of one of their client, Abdullah Öcalan, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Shortly after their release, Hüseyin Bogatekin was detained again for a few days, along with Ayse Gösterişlioğlu. On 6 April, the police arrested Ramazan Demir and Ayşe Acinikli, who remain in detention. As the investigation files have been classified as confidential, no information is yet available concerning the charges against the two lawyers.

The CCBE has written letters to President Tayyip Erdoğan in March and May 2016 to express its concerns.