Parliamentary Assembly session : 10 to 13 April 2006 

Speaking notes for the press conference of Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Wednesday, 12 April at 2 PM
Room 1

I will use this opportunity to give a brief update on my inquiry under article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which I have mentioned during the “collective” press conference yesterday.

As you know, following the publication of my first interim assessment of the information provided by the governments of the Council of Europe member states on 1 March, I sent a second letter to 37 member states, and requested additional information and clarifications on a number of specific issues.

By the 7 April deadline I received replies from 36 countries, and the last one, from Azerbaijan, is expected to arrive shortly.

The information received is being analysed. A vast majority of governments provided complete, precise and substantive replies, and we now begin to have a very clear picture of the situation. A complete assessment of the replies will take another couple of weeks. The replies will eventually be made public, together with my final report which will include proposals for intergovernmental action at the Council of Europe level.

Meanwhile, we can already draw two important conclusions.

First, the second batch of replies confirmed that virtually none of our member states have proper legislative and administrative measures to effectively protect individuals against violations of human rights committed by agents of friendly foreign security services operating on their territory. It looks as if the analysis of laws and administrative practices regulating the use of civil aircraft will lead to a similar conclusion. Some governments are trying to remedy the situation by asking for diplomatic assurances, a method which in my view has not proven to be adequate and to provide the level of positive protection required by the European Convention of Human Rights.

Second, on the basis of the information I have received so far, I am now in position to say that we no longer need to speak about “alleged” cases of rendition. I am not in a position to go into any further detail at the moment, but we have received official acknowledgment of “handing over” individuals to foreign officials through procedures which ignore the standards and safeguards required by the European Convention on Human Rights and other legal instruments of the Council of Europe. A few other replies contain inconsistencies which we are in the process of clarifying in direct contact with the authorities of the countries concerned.

I will stress again that the primary objective of my inquiry is not to look for a “smoking gun” of possible wrongdoing by our member states, but first and foremost to review and reinforce our legal arsenal for the protection of human rights.

If human rights of individuals have been violated – and this clearly cannot be excluded - this should be dealt with primarily by the competent authorities at the national level and eventually by the European Court of Human Rights.

The nature of the information received, and its possible legal and political implications, prevent me from making any further comments on individual countries at this stage. I ask for your understanding in this regard. All information will be made public as soon as possible.