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Home arrow newsitems arrow Foreign Minister Hague: ECHR reform, Internet Freedom, Non-Discrimination top British CoE presidency

Foreign Minister Hague: ECHR reform, Internet Freedom, Non-Discrimination top British CoE presidency

Written by ACM
Monday, 07 November 2011


Protection of "Freedom of Expression at the Internet", including against Cyber-Attacks and some Blocking Countries, a renewed push in ECHR's reform process, started since the landmark February 2010 Ministerial Conference at Interlaken (Switzerland : See "EuroFora"s NewsReports from the spot), as well as fight against Discrimination, figure among the incoming British CoE Presidency (11/2011-5/2012) priorities, stressed Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking to Journalists in Strasbourg, including "EuroFora" :


 It's the 1st time that the UK heads CoE's Ministerial Committee, its highest political body, "since 1993", i.e. 18 Years earlier, observed Hague, who is well known also as a friend of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

    Concerning ECHR's reform, surprisingly, it was an .. enthousiast French Permanent Representative to the CoE, Ambassador Laurent Dominati, who observed earlier to "EuroFora, that "the (incoming) Brittish Presidency of the CoE would have interesting things for you among its priorities, particularly concerning the ECHR", where, UK's main aim would probably be to focus on serious Human Rights violations, as he told us smiling, on the sidelines of Diplomatic meetings at the Presidential Palace "Elysee" in Paris, leaving the impression of a possible Franco-British "entente cordiale" on this and other topical CoE issues...



Repeatedly questioned on this matter by more than... 5 Journalists, one after the other, Hague stressed, among others, that, he hopes to obtain an "Agreement" on ECHR changes, until May 2012, (i.e. shortly after a scheduled "Ministerial meeting on ECHR's Reform" on April 2012), even if "it's part of a Long Process" of overall reform, as he admitted, apparently referring to the landmark Interlaken 2/2010 Resolution which established a Plan for work up to 2019, (See "EuroFora"s NewsReports from the spot).

    Hague stressed, among others,  that "it's important for ECHR to focus on the maink, most important issues of serious, appaling Human Rights violations", "many of whom come from certain States", and face the overload of applications, so that it will become able to "become anew in Futrure as powerful and efficient as it had been in the Past".


(NDLR : "EuroFora" intends to return back to this issue soon, with a complete analysis).
    - But,  "We also place Importance in other issues, and I think that (Internet) is important too, not to lose sight of Human Rights issues which are gaining importance throughout the modern World", such as "the Free and Responsible use of the Internet", Hague added.


    - In this regard, f.ex. "I hosted in London, last week, an International Conference on  CyberSpace, whis is also part of our Security policy, f.ex. by reducing Cyber Attacks and Internet Criminal Networks", (as he said, at  the eve of a forthcoming, new CoE International Conference on CyberCrime, scheduled in Strasbourg on November 21).

    - "But we place all that Strongly in the context of Freedom, and the immense Benefit of Economic and Political and Social imortance of Freedom of Expression : The greater Freedom of Expression and Information that the Internat has brought about", Hague stressed.

    - "There are many Governments around the World who now use the Power of CyberSpace to try to Suppress Opposition, and also Block Freedom of Expression", the incoming CoE's Chairman in office denounced.

    - "So, this is becoming an increasingly important issue, and it's right to bring attention there", concluded the key Minister from the new British Government which was elected on 2010 on the basis of an Electoral Program which included also a cystal-clear promise to "Restore Freedoms" to British People, (something which has become a target of various "Socialist" a.o. provocations, recently, in an obvious attempt to  try to make the new government deviate from its officially anounced principles).
-  "Internet Governance, including Freedom of Expression on the Internet", is, indeed, officially included among the "Priorities and Objectives" of the "UK Chairmanship of the CoE", also accordin to an Official Programme, which stresses that "the UK strongly supports an Open internet, not only in terms of access and content but also Freedom of expression"

    Moreover, UK's CoE Chairmanship "will work towards the adoption of the CoE Internet Governance strategy by (CoE's) Committee of Ministers", according also to the Conclusions of the latest, May 2011,  "G-8" Summit of Heads of State/Government at Deauville symbolically located between France and the UK at the Manche, and chaired by French President Sarkozy (See "EuroFora"s relevant NewsReports from Strasbourg, Paris and from the "G20" at Deauville)

    "We will also give impetus to the Principles that the Council of Europe has developed to uphold Freedom of expression on the internet and provide support to other Initiatives, to ensure that all member States live up to their international Obligations in this area", the Official UK's CoE chairmanship Program adds.


    + Hague, (perhaps observing the astonishing behavior of an inexperienced CoE's agent who curiously interposed himself in systematically hintering any questions from certain long-time EU/CoE/UNO+ Journalists, despite the available time and British Foreign Minister's obvious willingness to reply), added, at his own initiative, also "another UK's priority (which) is the Fight against Discrimination", as he said.


All this, (i.e. added to the "Freedom at the Internet" issue : See Supra), apparently fits well also the fact that, right in front of CoE's Press Room (the "No 4"), is located the Statute of World famous former British Prime Minister Winston Churchil, whose idea was the creation of CoE itself, and who was already actively engaged in a previous, Historic Liberal- Conservative Coalition Government : that of young Winston Churchil and David Lloyd George, between 1916 and 1922, a Victorious Government over 1st World War, and to which many Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, etc. owe much for active Help for their Liberation  from Military Invasion and Occupation by the former Ottoman-Turc empire, notoriously stoped from dissolution and transformation into several Modern, Democratic National States, at the last minute by a cynical, real-politics manouver by Stalin at the Caucasus, obviously made in order to provoke headaches for many years to the detriment of Western Europe.. This also was probably one of the last Governments in Europe to be really Autonomous, including vis a vis overseas..  

++ UK's official Program also adds that "the UK Chairmanship will work towards a more effective and efficient role for the CoE in supporting Local and Regional Democracy". CLRAE's (Congres of Local and Regional Democracy's) current President is, indeed, the experienced Liberal representative Keith Whitmore, (See various Whitmore's Statements to "EuroFora", including during the most recent CLRAE Session in Strasbourg, on October 2011).


(NDLR : "DraftNews", as already sent earlier to "EuroFora"s Subscribers/Donors. A more accurate, complete, Final version is due asap).

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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.


2009 EU Elections were won by Parties against Technocracy and Turkey's controversial EU bid, while the 1999-2004 Majority Abstention trend decelerated. What should be done in 2009-2014 ?


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