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Accueil arrow newsitems arrow CoE Rule of Law Criteria include Eurofora idea on Dialogue with Citizens before important Decisions

CoE Rule of Law Criteria include Eurofora idea on Dialogue with Citizens before important Decisions

Ecrit par ACM
jeudi, 12 octobre 2017
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*Strasbourg/CoE/Angelo Marcopolo/- The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) of the PanEuropean Organisation for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights, CoE, has just decided to Start Implementing, in real life, vis a vis all States and other Public Authorities, a List of Legal "Criteria" for "Rule of Law", which includes a Core part of "Eurofora"'s project on Dialogue with Citizens before Public Decisions affecting their Lives and/or Society at large (Comp. also : http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/news/eucoeabdcitizensinpublicdecisionmaking.html , etc) :


This is contained in a relevant "Check-List", drafted between 2012 - 2016, and re-Published on 2017, by the Prestigious PanEuropean CoE's Top Legal Experts' body known as "Venice Commission" for "Democracy + Human Rights through Law",  currently Chaired by experienced former Long-Time CoE's Senior Officer, Jean-Claude Buqicchio, who actively participated in PACE's Debate.


PACE had invited (already from 2007) the Venice Commission's Top Legal Experts to Study the concept of "Rule of Law" (alias : "Rechts-Staat"/"Etat de Droit", etc) in Depth, and the latter Found that, despite some more or less differences, nevertheless, un "Consensus" seemed to Exist, among 47 CoE's Member States, Observers a.o., as far as it concerns its "Core Elements" :


They include not only "Legality" and "Certainty", as well as "Non-Discrimination and Equality", but also "Access to Justice", and, in particular, "Prohibition of Arbitrariness".


The latter, aiming to "Prevent Abuse (or Misuse) of Power", (aka : "Detournement de Pouvoir"), by "Public Authorities", concerns "Legal Restrictions to Discretionary Power", when "exerciced by the Executive in Administrative Action", (a Frequent Phenomenon in Modern Societies). It consists in "Mechanisms to Prevent, Correct and Sanction" any "Abuse of Discretionary Power", including the "Judicial Review of the Exercice of such Power" when it's "given to Officials".


In particular, "Public Authorities" must be "Required to Provide Adequate Reasons for their Decisions", especially "when they they Affect the Rights of Individuals". So that "the Failure to state (such) Reasons", should be "a Valid Ground for Challenging such Decisions in Courts".


This is contained in CoE's "Venice Commission" Top Legal Experts' "Rule of Law CheckList" ("Critères de l'Etat de Droit") Booklet, which was Endorsed by the Highest Political body of the PanEuropean Organisation : its Committee of Ministers and Printed 3 Times on 2016, the Use of which was, Yesterday Evening, strongly advised by CoE's Parliamentary Assembly's Legal/Human Rights Committee's new President, Ms Olena Sotnyk, (See relevant "Eurofora" Photo).


As it was clearly explained, during PACE's Plenary Debates Yesterday Evening, this concerns a set of Principles, more or less Common to All concerned Countries, but in Each of which, the Concrete Ways to Implement them, might appear to be quite Diversified, in real Practice.


In Substance, what is really Common, is that all this concerns the use of Discretionary Powers by Public Authorities (and/or "Private Actors in charge of Public Tasks"), when the take Decisions which Affect Citizens' Rights and/or Society at large. And the Scope on which Bears the Monitoring by independent Courts, is Not the concrete Content, the Conditions, and/or the Aim of a Decision, as such, But, rather, the Decision-Making Process :


- I.e., particularly its Internal, Logical aspects, as far as it concerns an "Obligation to Give Reasons", and the Reality, Legality, Pertinence or Sufficiency of such a Motivation, (including, f.ex., if it Replies Adequately, or Not, to eventual legitimate Objections with Arguments that the Affected Citizens might have raised, etc). No "Detournement de Pouvoir" or "Abuse of Power", i.e. No Misusing a Power given by the Law only for a concrete Aim, in fact, for slyly seeking to obtain another, illegitimate aim, etc.


+ At the same time, it includes relevant Key aspects of the External Procedure of a monitored decision taken by a Public Administration in order to Regulate one or another area, such as, f.ex. : To be "Debated Publicly" and "Adequately Justified", with, previously, "the Public having Access to the Draft", and "a Meaningful Opportunity to Provide Input", (as CoE's above mentioned Booklet stresses, Referring, f.ex., to relevant Official Documents of UNO's Human Rights Committee, of the OSCE, etc), i.e. at least an elementary "Procedure Contradictoire" (according also to French Administrative Law, etc), sometimes going as far as to speak also of "Citizens' participation in the conduct of Public Affairs, by exerting Influence through Public Debate" (UNHRC, 1996).


++ But also the Absence of Excessive Dis-Proportionality between the Measure taken by a Public Authority, compared to its Legal Aim, and the way it Affects the Citizens. An Estimation of the Impact of a planed Measure to Citizens' Rights, Compared to the General Interest Benefits expected from it, in order to "allow to strike a Fair Balance, between the various conflicting Interests at stake", (ECHR). At least, withOut any "Erreur Manifeste d' Appreciation" about that, (in French Administrative Courts' case-law),  according to the usual denominations of relevant Judicial Monitoring on Public Administration's Decisions, in the real practice of several CoE's Member States, even of ECHR itself (on 2 out of those 3 points).


(Such Legal points have been extensively Analyzed by "Eurofora" Co-Founder's original Comparative Law University Research, already Started as Early as since 1980 -with a 1.000 pages-long Report, presented² by Strasbourg's Faculty of Law for a Prize awarded to PhD. Thesis, after written proposal by Paris II Universiy Professor Paul Amselek. But also more Recently, Since an active Participation in a landmark 2012 Scientific Colloquy at Strasbourg University, in cooperation with those of Rennes, Paris II, including a Report on a relevant Environmental Impact Committee's Public Debates with Citizens, set up by Michel Barnier when he was Minister, etc).


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    + The Fact that such a Legal Structure of Relations between Citizens and Public Administrations is considered by the CoE as corresponding widely to a certain Level of Development in Modern Democratic Societies in general, throughout the whole World, and Not Only in Europe, became Obvious, inter alia, also by the inclusion, among the 9 Top Legal Experts on the basis of whose "Comments" CoE's Venice Commission adopted this "Rule of Law CheckList", also of a Member from the USA. While, in Addition, Yesterday's PACE's relevant Debate in Strasbourg included also Representatives from Morocco up to Canada and Other Non-European Countries. Moreover, in a Resolution Voted and Adopted at the Conclusion of Yesterday's Debate, PACE clearly Asks all Venice Commission's "Member and (even) Observer States", (several among which, notoriously are located also in Other Continents accross the World), to "actively ...Defend and Promote" this "Rule of Law Checklist", them too.


    >>> However, the Most Important Decision taken Now by CoE's 47Member States-strong, PanEuropean Parliamentary Assembly , obviously is that this adopted 2017 Resolution, not only "Endorses" the "Rule of Law CheckList", but, Moreover, it also goes on to Add even its intention, for the 1st Time, to Start "Us(ing) it Systematically" , "particularly" ... in order to accurately Identify any structural and systemic (Legal) Problems in CoE's Member-States", whenever the Situations existing in them are checked by PACE's competent "Committees" on "Legal/Human Rights" affairs and/or its "Monitoring Committee", "on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States".


    => I.e., in other words, it's as if PACE clearly and explicitly Decided, Now, in real Practice, to Start Using, at least from October 2017 onwards, that Venice Commission's "Rule of Law CheckList", (including the Above-Mentioned Key Legal Points), as if it had become a Legally Binding set of Rules nowadays !


    + For that purpose, PACE's Resolution also "invite(s)", Now, All "the National Parliaments and Government bodies", as well as "CoE's Secretary General", to "Systematically" "Refer" to, and/or "take into Account" that same "Rule of Law CheckList"'s Criteria, whenever the First have to work on various National "Reforms", or the Latter to make his "Annual Report on the Situation of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe", (as he Already Started to do so, from 2017).


    >>> And, since, now, that "Rule of Law CheckList"'s "Criteria" have been Officially Adopted, Both by CoE's Parliamentary Assembly, and Secretary General, from 2017, (Comp. Supra), as they were Also Endorsed, from 2016, by CoE's inter-Governemental Committee of Ministers, following "Venice Committee"'s Independent Top Legal Experts on Constitutional Law, and Joined even by CoE's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, etc, then, it concerns, practically, All Levels of Government : Local, Regional and National.


    ++ Furthermore, Advancing even anOher, Important Step towards "Eurofora"s Project, for Dialogue between Citizens and EU Institutions (including EU Parliament, etc) Before important Decisions are taken which seriously Affect their Lives and/or Society at large, CoE's PanEuropean Organisation for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law's Parliamentary Assembly, (PACE), also Decided Now, to "invite" even "International and Regional Organisations, including ...the EU, to refer regularly to the Rule of Law Checklist" in their "work", as that Adopted Resolution adds.


    Already, Experienced former Twice EU Ombudsman/Citizens' Defendor, Headquartered in Strasbourg, Professor Diamantouros had told "Eurofora" in the recent Past, that, After the Entry into Force of EU's Lisbon Treaty (2010+), his Intention to Start Using its General Clause (contained in EU's "Charter of Fundamental Rights") about "Good Administration", in order to Check EU Decisions' legality also from the Precise point of view highighted by "Eurofora" above, (Comp. f.ex.: ...).


    And, Nowadays, even the Booklet with CoE's "Venice Commission"'s "Rule of Law CheckList", Published on 2016, (Comp. Supra), explicitly Refers to relevant "selected Standards", contained, f.ex., as far as "Hard Law" is concerned, also to "EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights (2009)", UNO's International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (1966), etc., and, as far as "Soft Law" is concerned, also to "EU Commission's Communication to EU Parliament and Council on "a New EU Framework, to Strengthen the Rule of Law" (2014), EU Council's Conclusions "on Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law, and on Commission's 2012 Report on the Application of EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights (2013)", as well as to the "EU Accession Criteria" ("Copenhagen Criteria"), etc. But also to OSCE's Copenhagen Conference "on the Human Dimension" (1989), as well as its Follow-up with a Similar "Moscow meeting Document" (1991), and OSCE's "Decision No. 7/08" about "Further Strengthening the Rule of Law in the OSCE Area (2008)". Concerning, particularly, "Eurofora"s Specific Viewpoint (Comp. Supra), CoE's "Rule of Law Checklist" refers, about "Preventioon of Abuse of Power", also to the "UN International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights' (1966) Article 17, about "Interference with Freedoms", as well as in Thematic UNO's Texts about "Migrants and their Families (1990)", "the Rights of the Child (1989)", etc., and even to "CoE's Committee of Ministers : "The CoE and the Rule of Law" (2008), UNO's "Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Articles 9, 12, 17", etc.


    Naturally, such Texts could also Inspire, in the foreseeable Future, EU's Court of Justice, at nearby Luxemburg, in parallel with ECHR in Strasbourg, at their respective Case-Law.

 

    => Therefore, PACE's Resolution, adopted Yesterday Evening, significantly Concludes by "Encourag(ing) Civil Society to Use the <<Rule of Law CheckList>>", in order to "objectively Assess Respect for the Rule of Law" in real, Everyday Practice.  

 
    >>>  - "It's one of the Most Important Pieces of Work we have Ever done !", stressed with Emphasis, Yesterday Evening, the experienced President of the PanEuropean Commission for Democracy through Law, (alias CoE's "Venice Commission")


    - Indeed, "the Rule of Law is Not Abstract, any more : We have just a Small Book", which, "in Reality, it's very Precious !", echoed further PACE's new Chair of its Legal/Human Rights Committee, MEP Olena  Sotnyk, concluding a long Debate.   

 

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     She was proudly Brandishing a Copy of that Booklet as if it was, mutatis-mutandis, somehing like the World-Famous ...Mao's little "Red-Book", notoriously used by Millions of People, during China's "Cultural Revolution", back in the 1960ies ...

 
    => Could, indeed, CoE be Launching, now, its own, Legal, and brand New, peaceful "Cultural Revolution" ?

 

mao__people_on_1966_at_tien_an_men_square_photo_in_german_exhibition_of_2017__eurofora_screenshot_400

Mao + People brandishing the "Red Book", on 1966, at Tien an men Square, (Photo in Historic German Exhibition of 2017, covered by N-TV)

 

 

(../..)

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People in Europe and the World expect from CoE to make a succes of its "Monitoring" for Human Rights and Democracy, despite difficulties, said Finland's President Tarja Halonen to "EuroFora" at a crucial moment for the mecanism built 15 years ago by the paneuropean organization which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2009.

Halonen, known as "Mother" of CoE's "Monitoring" mecanism, a long-time MEP and former Foreign Minister before becoming Finland's President, holds a long experience in the mattter, after also serving twice as CoE and EU Chairwoman in the past. That's why she is well placed to judge how CoE's "monitoring" should deal today with some crucial issues of importance both to CoE and to the EU.

The move came just a Month before a crucial, last visit to Turkey, scheduled for June, by the President of CoE''s "Monitoring" Committee, Ukranian MEP Serge Holovaty, to finalize his Report on Ankara, the CoE Member State with the longest Monitoring procedure. From its results depends its overall credibility.

This is a Test-case, because, in fact, it's in order to avoid Sanctions threatened against Turkey by a CoE's Assembly's April 1995 Resolution for grave Human Rights violations, Democracy gaps, the continuing Military Occupation in Cyprus, the unresolved Kurdish problem, Aegean differend with Greece, etc., that MEPs decided to create, for the 1st time on April 1996, a "Monitoring" proces, allegedly destinated to check, without excluding Countries who did not fulfill all CoE's standards.

In the Past, the obliged withdrawal of Greece's Military regime and of its "Civil" cover-up out of the CoE had helped bring back Democracy in 1974. But, on the contrary, since April 1996, the idea was to "monitor" Human Rights' respect while keeping most concerned Countries inside the CoE. After Turkey's oldest example, this was extended also to several former "Eastern" European Countries, even if CoE's Assembly has imposed to some of them (fex. Ukraine, Russia, etc., after Belarus, Serbia, etc) various "Sanctions", that Ankara always avoided. Curiously more succesful even than .. USA itself, (a CoE "Observer" since 1995), which has been at least threatened with sanctions some years ago..

EU-effects of CoE's Monitoring process became obvious between 2001-2008, since the "closure" of this procedure, when CoE felt that a Country had met most of its Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law obligations, (i.e. the "Copenhagen Criteria" for the EU), helped trigger Negotiations with the EU for "Accession" or other closer relations : This occured already before the 2004 and 2007 EU Enlargements to former "Eastern" European Countries, as well as for the commencement of "accession" negotiations with Croatia, and of "open-ended" negotiations with Turkey in 2005.

    But a stricking new development are Holovaty's recent findings that on core Human Rights issues as Torture and Freedom of Expression, Turkey, even "5 Years after" CoE closed its "Monitoring", back in 2004, inciting EU to start accession Negotiations in 2005, still presents grave problems.

    His findings are of crucial importance after a 2008 CoE Resolution called, "if need be", to "seriously consider the possibility of Re-Opening the Monitoring procedure for Turkey" : A move which might affect Ankara's controversial EU bid, since EU Accession Negotiations are based on the Hypothesis that the Candidate fullfils the "Copenhagen Criteria" (See above)..
-------------------------
    Holovaty expressed his will to check  "Matters still Outstanding" and  those that he "didn't have an opportunity to discuss" at an earlier visit this year, "in order to discuss the more complex issues in greater depth", at his forthcoming New Visit to Ankara, before the December 2009 EU Summit.  This is all based on the 2004 CoE Resolution which stresses that, CoE "will continue.. post-monitoring Dialogue with the Turkish authorities,...in addition to a 12-points list,..and on any Other Matter that might arise in connection with Turkey’s Obligations as a CoE member state".

    CoE's Resolution also asks  from Turkey "to secure the proper Implementation of Judgements, particularly in the Cyprus v. Turkey InterState case", of 2001, which concerns also the plight of many Hundreds of MISSING People. It adds Turkey's obligations to "execute" ECHR's Judgements in the Loizidou case,..and in particular adopt General Measures to avoid repetition or continuation of Violations found by the Court" to the detriment of Refugees.

    Nevertheless, Holovaty said to "EuroFora" that "MISSING" persons,"might be included" and cannot be excluded, but he has yet to examine the situation "to find out  which issues will be raised" to the Turkish Government.

    Therefore, "EuroFora" asked Halonen, as the Historic "Mother" of CoE's Monitoring mecanism, if she thought that, "whenever there are grave Human Rights Violations, as fex. "MISSING" persons, attested even by ECHR's judgements, they should be always checked by a Monitoring process. Or could they be forgotten ?"
    
     - "We (CoE) must be, at the same time, Fair, Realistic, but not in the mind that "now we have Forgotten", etc., replied to "EuroFora"'s question Halonen, speaking as a matter of general principle.

    - "When we think of those People that are suffering from the lack of Democracy, of Human Rights, and of the Rule of Law", "we should find a base on how to deal with the (Monitoring) system more rapidly"', she stressed.

    - "Sometimes it's very difficult to combine Transparency and Effectivenes together, particularly in this specific case", she went on to say. But, "I have not found a (CoE Member) Country who could be insensitive in this sens", Halonen answered concerning grave Human Rights violations attested by the ECHR.

    - "I have no ready-made answer. I have the expectations that you, in the CoE, will, step by step, find the different types of the monitoring systems."

    Also "because this is a part of the UN's Post-Conflict system, (fex. when it comes to Cyprus' MISSING persons), and it's a more Global system". So that, "If we make a succes in Europe, the others will follow", throughout the World.  "But they expect that we (Europe) are this opportunity, this Opportunity to make a Succes", Halonen concluded.

    In addition, she advised to extend CoE's Monitoring to all its 47 Member States, "because, as long as we hear that, all these monitoring systems are "OK for the neighbor, but not for me", "it's very difficult" to understand. Something which could make easier to Compare...

    Finnish MEP Jaako Laakso, former CoE Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories of Cyprus and one of the 5 Signatories of the Historic CoE's call to create the "MONITORING" mecanism since 1996, was more specific :  - "We (CoE Assembly) have to find a way for the issue of Cyprus' MISSING People to be better followed", he stressed, anouncing his intention to "speak to Mr. Holovaty" about that. "There might be also other ways", added Laakso.

    - The 2008 "Year had been a very Bad one for Turkey with regard to Human Rights in general, and Freedom of Expression in particular", denounced, meanwhile, Holovaty's preliminary Post-Monitoringh Draft Report by Holovaty, published by the CoE on April 2009.

    "Amnesty International believes that freedom of expression is not guaranteed given the various articles of the Criminal Code that restrict it. .. "For example, 1,300 Websites are said to have been closed down by the (Turkish) authorities in 2008" ! While "the new Turkish Criminal Code was used to bring a total of 1,072 proceedings between June 2005 and April 2008, and led to the conviction of 192 people", for expressing views. "Representatives of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which specialises in Kurdish affairs, ..complained about Numerous Attacks on their Freedom of Expression ...as was everyone who advocated a settlement to the question by means other than the intervention of the army" "According to their figures, 19 Newspapers had been suspended 43 times between 4 August 2006 and 4 November 2008" !...

    Moreover, on 2008,  CoE's "Ministers adopted its 4rth Resolution on the execution of the judgments of the ECHR, ...and outstanding issues regarding 175 Judgements and decisions relating to Turkey delivered between 1996 and 2008...  concerning Deaths resulting from the excessive use of force by members of the Security forces, the failure to protect the right to life, the DIisappearance and/or death of individuals, Ill-Treatment and the Destruction of property". CoE's " Ministers urged the Turkish authorities ...to ensure that members of Security forces of all ranks can be prosecuted without administrative
authorisation" for "serious crimes". Holovaty reminded.

"Nonetheless", Holovaty heard anew of "Several cases of Violence committed last year (2008) by the (Turkish) security forces". Amnesty International speaks of Many Cases of ill-treatment and Torture in the prisons and by the police". "Including, fex."'the death of Engin Ceber, a young man of 29 who died on October 2008 as a result of the TORTURE allegedly inflicted on him by police officers, prison staff and members of the gendarmerie. He was part of a group of people arrested on September 2008 during a demonstration and Press Conference in Istanbul'. Proceedings against suspects are "on-going" in this case.

- " I therefore noted an Obvious Contradiction between the Government’s stated “zero tolerance” policy.... of Torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and the different testimonies given", denounced CoE's Rapporteur.  Turkish "authorities must make considerable efforts to guarantee that proper investigations are carried out into allegations of abuses by members of the security forces and that perpetrators are effectively punished" "In this respect, I have requested detailed Statistics on the number of Investigations, acquittals and convictions in cases involving allegations of abuse in order to show the positive impact of the measures taken to date", Holovaty said, repeating a permanently unsatisfied CoE's demand to Turkey since a Decade...

    - "The Political Crisis that shook the country in the spring of 2008 highlighted the Weaknesses of the (Turkish) Constitution", which comes from the Military regime of 1982, "and the Urgent Need of Reforms", stressed from the outset CoE's Rapporteur in 2009. In particular, "the ...Democratic functioning of state institutions, including the independence of the judicial system, are crucial", he observes.

    But, "the Electoral  system and the ways in which it is circumvented do not appear to give those elected complete Legitimacy, and tend to pervert the course of direct universal suffrage", denounces Holovaty, observing that, even 5 Years later, Turkey did not yet change the 10% nationwide Threshold for a party to take any seat, which is "far higher" than the "3%" maximum in Europe and already condemned as contrary to European Standards by the CoE.

    + Moreover, EU Parliament's 2009 Report on Turkey, drafted by Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten and adopted in Strasbourg on March, expresses "Concern over the Failure of the (Turkish) Judiciary to prosecute cases of Torture and Ill-treatment, the Number of which is Growing". EU also "is concerned about continuing Hostility and Violence against Minorities" in Turkey. It also "calls on the Turkish Government to launch, as a matter of Priority, a Political Initiatve favouring a lasting Settlement of the Kurdish issue, (while "condemning violence.. and terrorist groups"). EU "regrets that No progress has been made on establishing full, systematic Civilian suprevisory functions over the (Turkish) Military".

    The final results of Holovaty's 2nd and last visit to Turkley will be known later this year, and, at any case, before EU's December 2009 Summit.

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