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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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To be checked against delivered speech

Address of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro GIL ROBLES

Warsaw, 17 may 2005

Chairman, Excellencies,

The institution I have the honour to represent here today was established following the decisions taken at the Council of Europe’s 2nd Summit. Almost six years after its creation, the institution of the Commissioner for Human Rights has begun to show its full potential.

We have endeavoured to lay down the foundations of an institutional activity aimed at identifying, notably through action on the ground, the human rights problems specific to each country and making constructive recommendations for their resolution in the context of a continuing dialogue and cooperation with national authorities.

At the same time, the flexible nature of the institution enables it to react promptly in crisis situations.

The Commissioner also contributes to the identification of problems common to several countries, in respect of which he is able to formulate general recommendations.

The action of the Commissioner is thus corrective but also, and to a large extent, preventive. Its aim is to facilitate the adoption of measures at the national level, which address at source the collective or structural problems behind potential violations. In the long run, this should help to limit the number of repetitive individual cases arriving before the European Court of Human Rights. The Commissioner will have to bear this preventive function in mind when exercising the new power conferred by Protocol 14 to intervene before the Court.

However, the institution still needs to be consolidated. In order to fulfil its considerable potential and to respond effectively to its mandate, the institution must be provided with the necessary resources and be fully assured of its independence.

Chairman, Excellencies, there are many challenges ahead.

This is particularly evident today in the tensions resulting from the need to respect individual rights and freedoms and, at the same time, to ensure collective security.

Resolute action is also required to eliminate the racism and xenophobia that is still pervasive in Europe; to stem the trafficking of human beings which claims thousands of new victims each year; to combat the exclusion of persons belonging to vulnerable groups and minorities.

The survival of the model enshrined since 1950 in the European Convention on Human Rights depends on our ability to meet these challenges. The defence of the values and principles at the heart of a Europe in which justice, peace, security and democracy prevail requires the engagement of each and every one of us.

The active support for ombudsmen, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations is of particular importance in this process. They play a vital role in the service of a cause that is common to all of us.

Thank you for your attention