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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Human Rights Director Boillat to EuroFora on NGOs concerns and Interlaken Ministerial Conference

CoE Human Rights Director Boillat to EuroFora on NGOs concerns and Interlaken Ministerial Conference

Written by ACM
Thursday, 18 February 2010
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* Interlaken/- Speaking to "EuroFora" on CoE's expectations for ECHR's Future just before Ministers and Ambassadors from 47 Member Countries start an InterGovernemental debate behind closed doors on how to reform the PanEuropean mecanism for the protection of Human Rights in order to face big challenges of efficiency, CoEs competent Director General, Philippe Boillat did not deny that Civil Society activists and International NGO's concern about risks to restrict Citizens' right to lodge an individual application against violations of Human Rights, must be seriously taken into account :

    Boillat's reactions to "EuroFora" came shortly after joint criticism by NGO's warning and PanEuropean Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg's strong denunciation, that, in fact, if "ECHR is threatened to drown under the vast Number of Applications", it is "largely because of ..States' Failure to prevent or remedy Structural, Systemic Human Rights' Violations".

    - Mainly because "there is a serious Gap of ..Implementation by ..States of ECHR's Judgements", stressed Hammarberg at the beginning of Interlaken's Ministerial Conference, pointing to the fact that more than "50% of admissible cases are "repetitive", that is cases raising issues that have already been the subject of ECHR's Judgements in the Past, and which, normally, should have been resolved by the respondent States". Thus, "any discussion about the difficulties of ECHR must focus on the need for prevention. The main Question is ... why so many People feel the Need to go to (Strasbourg's) Court with their complaints", he critically said.

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    ECHR Judgements' execution must be dealt upon in this Conference. Both ECHR's President and CoE's Secretary General stressed that today (Thursday, 18 Feb.). ECHR Judgements must absolutely be implemented. It's necessary to give the means to really do it, Boillat reacted, speaking afterwards to "EuroFora".

    And CoE's Director General on Legal and Human Rights' affairs agreed with "EuroFora" that CoE has to find some Safeguards in order to prevent any eventual risk of abuse against the Individual Right to petition, fex. during "filtering" applications' admissibility by a "Unique Judge" instance, and/or otherwise.

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- From Interlaken, "I expect a Strong Political Declaration, in which Member States would confirm anew their commitment to the European Convention of Human Rights. 2nd point, we should underline the Subsidiarity principle, so that States set up effective remedies to attest and eventually redress violations of Human Rights, and they must commit themselves to revieww their Legislation and Practice to be sure that there are no violations in the Legislation itself. And, afterwards, participate in the dissemination of ECHR's case-law, so that all judges, attorneys, policemen, lawyers, officers, administrators, etc, can really know what they havre to do", Boillat told "EuroFora" from the outset.

    - In particular, "the Implementation of ECHR's Judgements, must be dealt with. Both ECHR's President and CoE's Secretary General  stressed that point. It's absolutely necessary (fort the CoE) to be equiped with means which will allow to execute the judgements and to accelerate this execution, since, as it is well known, the Key-stone of the System is the Implementation. Because a non-executed judgement, whatever its interest might be, it will become non-existent", Boillat warned

    - For that purpose, "CoE's Legal Experts (CDDH) made some proposals, and the Protocol 14, which will enter into force from June this year, is useful, in this regard : .. If a State persists in its refusal to implement an ECHR's judgement, then, we (CoE) shall have also this New opportuniy, for a Collective Complaint to ECHR against the recalcitrant State. But, of course, this will remain as un Ultimum Remedium for us, since the simple Threat to use such a strong measure should be sufficient" in order to produce results, he added.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Replying to an "EuroFora" Question, whether there are enough Safeguards to avoid evental risks of Abuse or Errors, in any kind of hasty designed "Filtering Mechanism', pzrticularly when it will be done only by one (1) Judge alone, to the detriment of the Individual Right of every person to lodge an application to ECHR if he/she feels that Human Rights have been violated, Boillat replied that CoE Member States' Interlaken Declaration, normally should clearly  confirm Member States' commitment to the Right of individual Application :  

    - "Yes, I really believe that this is an Essential Issue, indeed, and we (CoE) shouldn't risk to throw out also some important cases, mlixed-up among a mass of obviously ill-founded applications", Boillat agreed

    -  On the contrary, "we (CoE) must be Careful, and find the means to clearly identify those cases which raise serious problems', Because I am convinced that our objective is not to get rid of all applications without really examining them.", warned CoE's Human Rights Director General.                -

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    Boillat was reacting to "EuroFora"s questions on the crucial importance  it has for Citizens to safeguard victims" right to access the European mecanism of Human Rightsr" protection, as the President of Interntional NGOI's conference, Jean-Marie Heydt, clearly warned at Interlaken, where ECHR's President, Jean-Paul Costa, had wished, from the start, to organize both a Top Political InterGovernemental event and a kind of PanEuropean "Etats Generaux" integrating also Civil Society.

    Costa's wish and Haydt's warning have, in consequence, and obviously crucial importance for any Political project for an integrated and developed, democratic and popular Europe in the future : In fact, Interlaken Conference on ECHR's Future is much more related with the Future of Europe itself, as it resulted clearly from Haydt's critical observations ;

    - "For European Citizens, ECHR is, above all, a wonderful tool for Hope, and for many among them, the last hope", he stressed from the outset. And it's importantt to "keep a Human dimension" in ECHR's Reform, which "should remain really Accessible to individual European Citizens", without "reforming at any price", because, otherwise, i.e; if the system took its distances, far away from Citizens' concerns and victims' needs; "it would risk to become even Incompatible with the Values on which it is founded, i.e. Human Rights" Heydt warned.

    In particular, "inadmissibility of applications provoked by often incomprehensible procedural complications, "too long Time Deadlines, that Citizens can't understand, Delayed Implementation of ECHR's Judgements, or even worst : Absence of any execution of judgements", provoke Deception and Disilusion", INGO's President denounced.

    - "But it's important for European Citizens to believe into the CoE", and that's why INGO's PanEuropean Conference is opposed to Certain Proposals, that we find Unacceptable, risking to provoke Exclusions and/or Intolerable Discrimination", Heydnt warned :
    
    - In particular, "we (iNGOs) cannot accept a proposal to make applicants Pay the procedure's Cost", and/or "to impose them the obligation to be necessarily represented by a Lawyer, and/or to impose a restrictive choice of only 1 or 2 official ECHR Languages, during all the proces", he observed critically.

    However, his speech apparently accepted a possibiliy for applicants to be obliged to be represented by a Lawyer if they can benefit from Free Legal Aid in case of need, as he added, even if it's known, by some outstanding cases worldwide, that it's precisely when Violations of Human Righta are grave and Politically motivated, that Victims risk to be exposed to unwilling, unhelpful, or even negative Lawyers who mightt be imposed by a Legal Aid system if it doesn't really leave a free choice of the victim's defender..

- But, speaking later to "EuroFora", the President of INGO's PanEuropean Conference, reiterated that some competent NGO's Networks, fex. in the Legal field, could offer to help Citizens in practice to better study the prospect of lodging an appliication, both by massively disseminating crystal-clear information, and, eventually, by agreeing to help victims of violations to present correctly their grievances, "in order to prevent Discrimination" between applicants, otherwise unavoidable. It would also be a good idea if, f.ex., we had in future an EU - CoE cooperation in this field, added Heydt, who felt that certain States, as fex. Belgium (next EU Chair from July 2010), the Netherlands, etc., were quite positive on his ideas, whose materialisation might also require coopereation with experienced EU Commissioner in charge of Justice and Citizenship, Viviane Reding from Luxemboug.
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- "But we must (also) recognize the fact that more than 90% of applications are inadmissible, because they are obviously ill-founded", Boillat went on to add. . "That's why we need, at first, a kind of "Filter', which will allow the Court to focus on the most important cases.  When, from one hand, 90% of applications are inadmissible, and the others are more than 50% "Repetitive" cases, this fact means that it's on the 5% of really important cases, which concern serious violations and/or raise serious problems of interpretation that ECHR should focus", Boillat said.     

- "Naturally, the Idea behind all that is to find how ECHR could consecrate most its Time precisely, to this 3% or 5% of really important cases, and see how it could deal with the other 90% of the cases. That's one of tthe big Challenges ahead", he admitted.
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    Speaking earlier to "EuroFora", before our arrival to Interlaken from Strasbourg, the experienced President of INGO's Human Rights Committee, Gabriel Nissim, stressed that "for us (INGOS) the main poiint is to preserve the individual right to lodge a complaint to EuroCourt. Thats why we are opposed against certain proposals which could make itt more diffcult for an appliquant to reach ECHR, as, fex. to impose the obligation to have a Lawyer, and/or to pay a sum of Money, or to impose more Conditions", etc, he warned.

    - "This has been included in a Position paper prrepared drafted by Amnesty International, and signed by a long list of INGOS", Nissim noted, speaking of more than 140 PanEuropean/International Organizations until now.

    Turkey was the 1st to ask for the Payment of a Fee to be imposed to potential applicants, in addiion to other restrictions, already since a 2009 paper criticising ECHR, (See relevant "EuroFora"'s publication). But, in addition to Human Rights' INGOs, many European Countries are opposed, including Cyprus and France, whose State Secretary for Justice, Jean-Marie Bockel, strongly rejects any risk for "Discrimination by Money", as said to "EuroFora".

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    - "We (INGOs) recognize that there is, obviously, also a problem in ECHR's overload by many applications, but this is a problem that the States can and must settle, first of all, i.e. by establishing national Efficient Remedies and reviewing their Legislation and Practice to align it better with Human Rights' respect, as well as by implementing ECHR's judgements so as to avoid repetitive cases", Nissim concluded.

    - "If States complied with their .. obligations under the (PanEuropean) Convention (on Human Rights), the Number of Applications to the ECHR would be significantly reduced", stresses INGO's text, titled "Decision Time on ECHR".

     - "ECHR must be a Strong Court, Accessible to Individuals claiming Violations of their .. Rights, when they had No Effectice Redress domestically. It should be a Court which will give a Reasoned Decision on whether a case is Admissible, or a reasoned Judgement on the Merits of a case, without undue Delay", INGO's text adds.
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 Interlaken : "Consult Civil Society !"
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    NGO's and Citizens' concerns are due to play a role in Future, contributing to CoE's forthcoming debate on ECHR's reforms, because, according to well-informed sources, a Draft "Declaration" by the Ministers of Justice, would launch Tomorrow (Friday, 19 of February) a "call upon the (CoE's) Committee of Ministers and the States ..to Consult with Civil Society on effective means to implement the Action Plan" due to be decided at Interlaken.
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CoE's Secreary General Jagland : - "Mountains !"
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 - "Interlaken symbolises the Magnitude of the task ahead of us : In reforming the ECHR, we have many Mountaints to climb !", warned from the outset CoE's Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, from Norway.

- "But, as High and steep as these Mountains may be, we must and shall conquer them", because "we owe this to the People of Europe, who .. expect that we shall succeed in safeguarding the Mecanism which looks after their Human Rights", Jagland added in his introductory remarks.

However, "opposed" to the idea to "feed the Court by starving other CoE's activities in the field of Human Rights, Rule of Law and Democracy", (such as the Commissioner on Human Rights, CoE's Assembly, the Committee to prevent Torture, Constitutional Law Experts of Venice's Committee, etc. and other "various CoE's Monitoring bodies"), Jagland stressed their utility as complementary to ECHR :

- "If we want to preserve our unique Mechanism for the protection of Human Rights, we need to Safeguard the Court's capacity to deal with Individual applications on violations which already occured, as well as CoE's capacity to transfrorm the Court's case-law in General Measures preventing New Violations from taking place, Jagland concluded.
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PACE's Chair  Cavusoglu :  - "Tunnels"..
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On the contrary, PACE's Chair, Mevlut Cavusoglu, preferred to focus on .. "Tunnels through the Mountains, or roads curved on the Side of Mountains,; .. to find a way through difficulties", as he said after an excursion organized by the Swiss CoE Chairmanship around Interlaken..

 - "We should be aware of ...Realities : .Strasbourg's Court is not equiped to deal with Large-scale Abuses of Human Rights", claimed the 1st Turkish MEP to ever be apointed as PACE's Chair. Moeover, "it seems Absurd for the ECHR .. to be obliged to waste Time and efforty in dealing with "Repetitive" applications, he added.

 - "Travelling through the Tunnels", as Cavusoglu added,  he warned of a "more Difficult terrain ahead", while reiterating, for the rest, the main conclusions altready by CoE Assembly's Legal/Human Rights' Committee at the end of 2009,b n which had already pointed at the need to act vis a vis States who don't implement ECHR's judgements.  - "Many States do not give appropriate effect to their .. obligations", he said, prefering not to single out whoever bears the main responsibilities..

Warning against "a Precipitated decision to embark on .. a Major... Reform of ECHR", as he said, Cavusoglu added that "the Strasbourg's supervisory mechanism is Subsidiary", and that "National Governmentrs.. are ..Primarily responsible" on Human Rights issues.

Finally, Cavusoglou also supported the position that the necessary augmentation of "the Financing of ECHR .. must not (be done) at the expense of the rest of the CoE", criticizing a Draft "Interlaken Declaration" for not giving priority on that point.
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    - Interlaken is not the Start, and certainly not the End of developments on ECHR, but an Important moment of reflexion on the Pan European system of Human Rights' protection, which, otherwise, risks today to reach a "Dramatic" situation, stressed from the outset, CoE's Chairwoman-in-office on Justice and Home affairs, Swiss Minister, Eveline Wildmer - Schlumpf.

    Meanwhile, ECHR's President, Jean-Paul Costa, speaking to "EuroFoira", appeared Optimist, but Reserved :

    - "One Year ago, (January 2009) when I first proposed to organise a kind of "Etats Généraux" on the European mecanism for protection of Human Rigghts, nobody thought that this would become a reality now. And one year ago, who could predict that Russia would sign and ratify the Protocol 14 to the European Convention ?"', wondered ECHR's President, professor Jean-Paul Costa, in reply to "EuroFora"s question on how he feels about the way things might evolve now.

    But Costa, speaking just before 47 Member States' representatives start to express in detail the positions off each Government, carefully avoided to go so early into concrete details..

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    Even more careful, CoE preferred to keep all Journalists out of the room where Ministers and/or Ambassadors were starting an InterGovernemen-al Debate on Human Rights' future, inevitably expressing various National views. Even written copies of each State's intervention were kept out of Press' reach, (as if there was something "spicy" to cover-up)...

    Thus, at least for the moment, 47 States' debates on the Future of Citizens' Human Rights in Europe, were due to evolve behind Closed Doors, both today, (Thursday 18), and tomorrow, (Friday 19), at Interlaken's Mountain and Lake superb Swiss touristic ressort, which, by an irony of the sort, coincides also with the location of  ..Science-Fiction writer Erich von Deniken's .."Mystery park" !...

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 (NDLR : The larger, and more factual, inital text already sent earlier to Subscribers/Donors is due to be updated and selectively presented also in the Public version, according to developments).

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Former "Green-Red" German government's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's job at the controversial Turkish pipeline "Nabucco" was denounced as "not proper", "very bad", and "incompatible with Democracy", by the new President of EU Parliament's EuroLeft Group, German Lothar Bisky, replying to an "EuroFora" question.

For once, criticism of Joschka Fischer's doings with Turkey affecting Europe, didn't come only from the Center-Right of the political spectrum, but even from his Left side : The experienced Bisky, who has been chairing all over 1993-2009 the PDS - Die Linke party :  

- "Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer got involved in dealings with oil-gaz business in a foreign country, Turkey, and its controversial Nabucco pipeline. This raises questions about Democracy, also because of the well known problems of Human Rights violations in that country. Do you thing that this might be abused in order to cover up and close EU's eyes on Human Rights violations ?", "EuroFora" asked Bisky.

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- "Nabucco pipeline is (only) at the planning stage". And "there are some difficulties",  he observed from the start. But "'I don't want to get into the details of Nabucco pipeline, because I don't think that there is any point for it at the moment".
 
At any case,  "we  (EU Parliament's EuroLeft Group) strongly believe that Politicians should not get involved in the Energy Business, and all these commercial transactions", President Bisky declared on the Joschka Fiischer's affair.

- "We feel that it's something that shouldn't be done. It's not proper !"           

- "We don't think that it's compatible with Democracy either, and it gets politics into a very Bad track", Bisky went on to denounce.
                                                                                                                                                                        
- "EuroLeft  and "Die Linke" always spoke against that, saying that politicians should not get directly into the arms of private enterprises"

- "It is pretty bad if a former Minister takes a job f.ex. in a major Energy producer. So, it's an issue if a Minister who may have seen excellent opportunities, subsequently gets personally grasp of them, in very serious parts of the economy, once he has given up his (Government) job."

- "It doesn't really make politics in general look any better'", Bisky concluded.

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Earlier, this week in Strasbourg, other Journalists had also raised critical questions on former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's involvement in the conroversial Turkish Nabucco pipeline to the President of his own EuroParty : Kohn-Bendit of the "Greens", who, contrary to Bisky, tried to find excuses for Fischer, while criticizing his long-time partner, Schroeder for having done a similar move :

- "Shroeder was chancellor", and he "negociated" with "Russians", who gave him a job only "3 Months" after he resigned from the Government. While "Joschka Fischer", on the contrary, got a job with the controversial Turkish Nabucco pipeline only "4 Years after" he left the Government. "He didn't negociate Nabucco", so I have "no objection", Kohn Bendit claimed.

But, many Facts indicate the contrary :

Joschka Fischer was Foreign Minister in Germany from 1999 up to 2005 : I.e. from the year that EU took the controversial decision to give Turkey a "Candidate" status, until he year it started controversial "accession negotiations, (later declared "open-ended" after Sarkozy-Merkel's arrival from 2005-2007).

During that period was prepared the controversial so-called "Annan" Plan (in fact, drafted by others and attributed afterwards to the former UN SG) on Cyprus, which failed after a Popular Referendum said "No" on 2004 with a large Majoriy of 3/4 : 75%. Mainly because it was criticized for making too much concessions to the Turkish side :  Particularly by restricting Greek Cypriot Refugees' Human Right to return to their ancestral Land and/or get restitution of their Familiy Homes and private properties, usurpated by Ankara's Army since the 1974 militay invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. And by weakening the Central Government, leaving to 2 "constituent States" so much powers and separate interests that more conflicts appeared inevitable, provoking the danger of a break-down in the foreseable future, with more crisis, troubles, perhaps bloodshed, etc., instead of creating an harmoniously integrated, really one federal State.

The controversial Plan was finalized on March-April 2004 at Burgenstock (Switzerland), curiously in the presence of an Envoy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, then governed by Joschka Fischer, but in the absence of a French and not even an European Union's Envoy, contrary to what was usually practiced on similar occasions in Switzerland (fex. in 1997 at Montreux, in 2000 at Geneva, etc).

Turkey notoriously exploited the failure of the "Annan" Plan in order to convince the EU to decide to start accession Negotiations on December 2004. This provoked an unprecedented series of Institutional Crisis inside the EU, shortly afterwards, when French and Dutch People rejected, 2 popular EuroReferenda by a majority "'No" vote to the EU Constitutional Treaty on 2005, aggraveted in 2004 a Majority Abstention to EU Elections, etc., followed by the recent Irish "No", etc.

"Nabucco" Gas pipeline was notoriously planned since ..2002. It follows an even earlier idea, for an Oil pipeline Baku-Ceyhun, which started to be prepared on 1999-2001 and was meanwhile recently completed.  

So, facts indicate that what is now at stake is based on decisions made during Joschka Fischer's term as former Foreign Minister, closely interested in Turkey's controversial EU-bid.

To the point that he now practically ...switched jobs with a poliician from Turkey, (the State which pays today openly Joschka Fischer), Mr. Ozdemir, who came earlier in Germany, got fast the nationality, and became EiuroMP in a few years, continuing now as head of the "Greens" in Germany, i.e. in Joschka's former job !...

Such astonishing facts risk, unfotunately, to give to German politician Lothar Bisky's criticism of  representative Democracy a topical meaning :

 - "We (EuroLeft Group) think that what is really at stake is Democracy. It's not only about Gas Pipelines or Energy sources", President Lothar Bisky went on to add in his reply to "EuroFora"'s question on Joscka Fischer's personal interests in the controversial Turkish "Nabuco" pipeline.

Such facts, "make People get more distance from Politics. ...People had had enough, and they are fed up !".

- "That's why we (EuroParliament's "EuroLeft" Group) want to strengthen Direct Democracy in Europe. Citizens should be involved in the (EU) Decision-making. In the end of the day, it's not going to help anyone if Politicians are always taking decisions, without involving Citizens. We want to give a voice to the People of Europe. They've got to have their say in the decisions that are taken. That's one of our absolutely fixed and steadfast views. We want more Direct Democracy in Europe. That's how it can become more effective and stronger", he concluded.

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