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Home arrow newsitems arrow Venice Commission's President, Prof. Helgesen to EuroFora : Human Rights Defenders need protection

Venice Commission's President, Prof. Helgesen to EuroFora : Human Rights Defenders need protection

Written by ACM
Thursday, 28 May 2009

-"Human Rights Defenders need protection even in Democracies", stressed
Venice Commission's President, Professor Jan Helgelsen from Norway, replying to "EuroFora"'s questions.

Therefore, CoE's prestigious Legal Experts' body might undertake to make a Study on this issue covering all its 47 MemberStates, including on the implementation of ECHR's case-law on States' obligation to protect Journalists working on Human Rights' issues and/or fully investigate their murders in order to prevent similar cases in Future, Helgelsen accepted responding positively to "EuroFora"s query.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             - "I wouldn't exclude that", "because it's still an on-going issue", replied Helgelsen, who has a unique long-standing experience on the matter, as former Head of UNO's Working Group on "the Right and responsibility of Individuals, Groups and organs of Society to promote and protect universally recognized Human Rights and fundamental Freedoms", which drafted the "Declaration on Human Rights' Defenders" adopted at nearby Geneva by UNO's Human Rights' Commission, and later by UNO's General Assembly at New York in 1998.

    A decade later, the issue was recently taken up in Europe by CoE's Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, strongly supported by a 2009 Resolution adopted by CoE's Assembly on a Report by German ChristianDemocrat MEP, Holger Haibach.

    - "As a Human Rights Professor, I think that even today, after a Decade, it's important : You can see that Human Rights Defenders' rights are violated in several parts of the World, so it's still  an on-going issue, that I wouldn't exclude to Study in Future on the relations of Governments to Human Rights Defenders"

    - Because "it's not only in Totalitarian regimes that you can find that. You can find it also in Democracies" : "There is an interesting conflict between Democracy and rule of Law : More and more Governments, even in Democracies, are really treating Human Rights Defenders harshly, because they claim that Human Rights Defenders tarnish Democracy".
    But, "Venice Commission is based on 2 Pillars : Democracy and Rule of Law. And we (CoE) always say that both pillars are equally important. We (CoE) cannot accept that a Democracy violates Human Rights or Minorities' rights".

    - "Human Rights' Defenders are close to my Heart... I was, indeed drafting this Declaration at the UN for years", and, even if Venice Commission has not yet specifically done anything in this field, I wouldn't exclude to take this issue on the Agenda for a Report", Helgelsen concluded.

    Venice Commission's readiness to extend such studies to all CoE Member States and not only to former "Eastern" European Countries, as in the past, was confirmed also by the experienced Director of its Secretariat, Gianni Buquicchio of Italy :

    - "When Venice Commission started, back in 1989, it was conceived to serve all European Countries. But soon Berlin wall fell down, and a huge area opened to help Eastern European Countries' constitutional reforms. However, its competence covers not only Constitutions, but also Elections, Constitutional Justice, Solutions to conflicts, Human Rights, etc", Often "at the invitation of the EU or UNO", whenever needed; fex. in frozen conflicts, we intervene on the sidelines of political negotiations. And recently we dealt also with old democracies such as Finland, the UK, Belgium, etc. but also Turkey.

    - Thus, "we (CoE) could do a Study on such kind of issues too", replied Buquicchio to another "EuroFora" Question on the need to ensure efficient investigations on a series of murders of Journalists working on Human Rights, particularly when ECHR has already issued judgements condemning certain States, as f.ex. on Gongadze's case in Ukraine, on  Newspaper "Ozger Ozgur"'s staff in Turkey, and on dissident Turkish Cypriot Adali's case in the Turkish-Occupied Territories of Cyprus.

    But while in Gongadge's case CoE's Committee of Ministers still keeps a pressure on Ukranian Authorities to find and punish also those who had asked for the murder, well beyond the condemnation of 2 executors to 10 Years of Jail, on the contrary, on Adali's case, sheduled for June, it reportedly has proposed to ... "postpone" anew its examination, from March to June, and now from June to September 2009, surprisingly without giving even the slightesst information on what is going on...

     Adali's murder case, in the Past, had been "stuck" also previously, pending
for a too long time inside ECHR's secretariat, but was "unblocked"  also after "EuroFora" informed New York based "Committee to Protect Journalists" (CPJ)  who called upon ECHR to really examine the case, despite obstacles and harassment denounced by the Victims' Wife, Ilkay, who visited twice Strasbourg.



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    The incoming Swedish EU Presidency (July-December 2009) may still remain in favour of Turkey's controversial EU bid, despite June 2009 EU Elections' results, but it has "very strong demands on Turkey"'s obligation to respect EU Rules, said the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, to "EuroFora", reacting to critical Press reports.

    - "I know (that) the link is often made also to Sweden's position on Turkey"'s controversial EU bid. Indeed, "we (Swedish EU Presidency) are very much engaged in the future membership of Turkey, but not without fullfiling all the Criteria".

    - "It's very clear that we (Swedish EU Presidecny) have very Strong Demands on Turkey, in a sort of concept for Future membership of the Union, ...which will be a Long Process...", she stressed.

    This means, in particular, "the Copenhagen Criteria (on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law), and also the adaptation to the Acquis of the European Union".

     - "If you listen to what Mr. Bildt (the Swedish Foreign Minister) says on Turkey at different occasions, it's very clear : We want Turkey to become part of the Union, in the Future. But we want it to fullfil all the Criteria : The Acquis of the European Union. That's very clear", she concluded.

    The Senior Official of the Swedish Foreign Ministry was reacting to critical Press Reports, from Brussels' Journalists invited by EU Commission's secretariat to Stockholm, who claimed that Bildt was abusing of a ..."Whip" (sic !) against Cyprus, by "threatening" the presence of UNO's Peace-keeping force at the "Green line" which separates the island's Government-controlled areas from the territories occupied by Ankara's army, if Nicosia didn't accept any political solution, regardless of Turkey's demands, before the end of 2009.

        Governing AKEL Party's new Secretary General, Andros Kyprianou, reacted by declaring that no-one can threat the People of Cyprus : -"We shall decide for our Future, and nobody else",  he reportedly said, asking to "keep calm". "In order to find a Solution soon, certain basic Principles must be respected", he stressed, calling those who feel an urgency to use their influence on Turkey. Other Political Parties were more critical.

    This was a reference to recently reported statements by Turkish Minister Bagis, Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan and Turkey's National Security Council (a Military-Political body), accused to push towards a partitionist "2 States" solution, contrary to UNO SC Resolutions for Cyprus' reunification.

    December 2009 is a crucial moment for EU's appraisal of Turkey's controversial EU bid, because EU Council has decided to review then Ankara's compliance with the European position on the recognition of Cyprus' Government, which was clearly set out by an EU reply of 21 September 2005 to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan's claims, refusing to recognize even the existence of EU Member Cyprus, in controversial statements he made to London (former EU chair) on July 29, 2005.

    EU Parliament's latest Resolution on Turkey, adopted on March 2009 in Strasbourg, warned Ankara that "the non-fulfillment of Turkey's commitments... by December 2009, may further seriously affect the process of Negotiations" with the EU.

    In practice, the issue boils down to Ankara's "embargo" against Ships and Airplanes using Cyprus' seaports or airports at the strategic EU island, which traditionaly hosts one of the World's biggest Shipping flags. EU has already "freezed" 6 relevant Chapters in EU - Turkey Negotiations since December 2006, after Ankara refused to fullfil a commitment it had undertaken when EU had decided to open controversial "accession" negotiations with Turkey, back on December 2005.

    - "As far as EU - Turkey relations are concerned, it's clear that Turkey needs to fullfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional Protocol (to "EC-Turkey Association Agreement"),  This is an important issue....and should be addresseed as soon as possible as it clearly affects the pace of the accession negotiations.Issues covered by the Declaration of September 2005 will continue to be followed up, and progress is urgently awaited", warned earlier in Strasbourg the out-going Czech EU Presidency (former vice-Prime Minister Alexander Vodra).

    But the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, dismissed "interpretations" by "some" that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was reportedly "threatening" Cyprus with consequences on the UNFICYP, if it doesn't accept any solution until December 2009, while Turkey is reportedly delaying in an attempt to impose a partitionist "2 States" solution.

    On the contrary, Julin, stressed that "Sweden has strong demands on Turkey'"s respect of "Copenhagen Criteria and EU Acquis".

    Meanwhile, Sweden  is "concerned" about the risk of "Stalemate" in Cyprus' Talks, but is well aware that "the main responsibilities lie with the two leaders and the UNO", Europe playing only a role of "facilitator".

    After carefully verifying, the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, stressed to "EuroFora" that Bildt's reference to UNFICYP "was not linked to a Threat", and dismissed those who "interpreted" it so.

    On the contrary, the Swedish EU Presidency acknowledged the fact that Peace Talks are mainly for the UN and the leaders of the Cypriot communities, EU's role being limited into that of a "facilitator".

    As for Turkey's reported attempts to impose a "2 States' solution", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service sharply replied by stressing that Turkey must respect the "EU Acquis" rules.

    In particular :

    - "Basically he (Bildt) underlined that it's the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and the UN that have the main responsibilities for solving the problem", started to say the Swedish Senior Official to "EuroFora", referring to the above-mentioned "briefing".

    - "But the EU had a role in sort of pointing out the benefits and facilitating a little bit the outcome for the settlement of the whole Cyprus' issue", she added.

    - "And he did state the Fact, that the rest of the World (i.e. USA, etc) will, of course, look at the differend issues which are at the table, and the future of the UN Peace keeping force is part of what is at the table", she admitted.

    - "I understand that some have interpreted that as a Threat, by the Swedish Minister" "But", in reality, "it's a statement of a Fact, that, when we'll look at the differend issues, one of the issues on which we shall have to take a stand on, is the future of the UN Peace keeping force in Cyprus".

    Indeed, one of the questions usually raised for a Solution of Cyprus' issue is what International and/or European or other Guarantees, by a Peace-keeping force, might be needed afterwards, eventually for a transitory period.

    Questioned anew by "EuroFora" whether (according to critical Press Reports) this could be taken as a veiled warning that, if Cyprus didn't accept any Turkish demand for any solution whatever, it might be left alone to face Ankara's Military Invasion/Occupation, she denied :

    - "He (Bildt) didn't say it in that way"... "It was not linked to a threat, or anything like that", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service stressed.

    On the contrary, "he (Bildt) underlined that the main responsibility lies with the parties concerned on the island". "The EU can try to facilitate and show the benefits of reaching a settlement. But also, when the EU and the rest of the World (i.e. USA) will have to look at it, they will look at all the Facts on the table, and the presence of the UN Peace-keeping force is one".

    And "he (Bildt) didn't speak about that at all", she replied to "EuroFora" question on Turkey's reported attemps to impose, in one way of another, a partitionist "2 States solution".

    Asked whether Bildt's aim was to incite both parties to move forward efficiently, she agreed :

    - In fact, "the EU is really very concerned with the Stalemate in the situation. Yes !", the Head of Sweden's Foreign Ministry's Press Service anounced. That's why Bildt "was hoping for the two parties (i.e. for Turkey's also) to engage and break, a little-bit, the present stalemate, come to a solution of the issue" of Cyprus.

    But, replying  to a "EuroFora"s question on the risk, denounced by several politicians in case of strict Time Deadlines, for Turkey to provoke a stalemate and wait for the time to come to impose a partitionist "2 States' solution", she reacted by pointing at Turkey's obligation to respect "EU Acquis" :

    - "Turkey must fullfil the EU Acquis : That's clear !", the Swedish Senior Official stressed.

    More details are expected when Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt will debate his Programme with new MEPs at EU Parliament's plenary mid-July in Strasbourg, that he has visited already in 2008.

    Foreign Minister Carl Bildt became familiar with Strasbourg's CoE last year, when Sweden chaired the PanEuropean organization of Human Rights. As EU chairman-in-office, he will also chair the 27-member States strong EU Group inside the 47-member States strong CoE.

    Minister for EU affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom is well known at EU Parliament, where she has been an active MEP of the Liberal Group for many years, following also Press Freedom issues.

    Both have already made various statements at "EuroFora", on differend topical matters.



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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