27 apr 2018

The Copenhagen Declaration: waarom de Raad van Europa kritisch moet blijven

Op woensdag 25 april 2018 kreeg ik in de Raad van Europa de kans om een vraag te stellen aan de Deense minister van buitenlandse zaken en de voorzitter van het Committee of Ministers  Samuelsen in verband met de Copenhagen Declaration. Deze is problematisch omdat de rol van het Europese Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens erdoor in het gedrang komt. Zowel het recht op familiehereniging, als het recht op vrije meningsuiting, zouden in het gedrang komen. Als dit gebeurt overschrijden we een grens, dus dat kunnen we niet laten gebeuren. Lees hier mijn vraag:

Minister, in paragraph 28 of the final Copenhagen Declaration, the principle of subsidiarity is respected as a guiding principle, which is good, but a bit further along, Articles 8 to 11 of the Convention are mentioned, and there is a suggestion that if there are strong reasons to do so, the Court could substitute its own assessment for that of the domestic courts. I believe that is not desirable, especially with regard to Article 10 about freedom of expression. Can you assure me that the Committee of Ministers will not try to weaken the protection of freedom of expression? Thank you.

Op 26 april 2018 vond er een debat plaats in de Raad van Europa over dit zelfde onderwerp. Lees hier mijn tussenkomst of bekijk  het in de video vanaf  1:41:00.

Ladies and gentlemen, first I would like to emphasise that it is very important for the Parliamentary Assembly to take a critical stance whenever the role of the European Court of Human Rights is concerned, as we need to recognise that the Court is extremely successful in defending human rights. But that success also has a reverse side: the Court’s position will always be vulnerable to political resistance and dissent from a number of governments.

      What we have experienced with the Copenhagen Declaration is nothing new. Happily, the collective outrage that followed the release of the draft Copenhagen Declaration has had its effect. The draft version has obviously been refined and all the unacceptable parts have been removed, or at least weakened. But that does not mean that I do not still have some remarks to make about the updated version. I still find two points problematic. The first is that the Danish Government still defends the position that it is more appropriate to deal with human rights violations at the national level. Especially in paragraph 10, the text says that the most effective means of dealing with human rights violations is at the national level. That may seem logical to some, but it is also problematic as, I remind you, human rights are universal and their application cannot be restricted by boundaries. Further, in paragraph 28(b), you can read that “national authorities are in principle better placed than an international court to evaluate local needs and conditions”. But that idea totally clashes with the spirit of the Convention, which is based on the principle of universality, which leaves no room for varying standards in the protection of the Convention rights.

      The second remark that I would like to make, which relates to the first, is the emphasis in the text on the principles of subsidiarity and margin of appreciation. These principles are the consequence of previous declarations, which have also put the role and the position of the Court in question. But I totally agree with Róisín Pillay, the Director of the International Commission of Jurists Europe Programme, who says that the real root of the Convention system’s struggle lies in the failings in effective national implementation of the Convention rights, which leave victims of human rights violations with no other recourse than to take their case to Strasbourg. Of course, I respect the principles of subsidiarity and margin of appreciation, as they can lead to a more effective exercise of human rights standards. But the principle of margin of appreciation cannot be a “safe conduct” for national authorities to narrow the interpretation of the Convention. It is always up to the Court to evaluate such implementation. I congratulate the rapporteur on an excellent report.


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