Directorate of Monitoring
   

Practical impact of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms
in improving respect for human rights and the rule of law in member states

This document describes the way in which the Council of Europe mechanisms pertaining to human rights and rule of law have worked towards definite improvements in legislation, practice and the situation of individuals in the member states. The second part of the document brings together a selection of recent examples of situations where the Council of Europe member states have taken measures to improve the position regarding human rights, and also against corruption and money laundering, whether directly or indirectly, wholly or partially, as a result of the action of one of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms.
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Good laws,
if they are not obeyed,
do not constitute good government.
Aristotle (Politics)
 
Foreword

The foundations of a free and peaceful Europe based on solidarity have never varied. Although there has been a disturbing resurgence of nationalist rhetoric and identity-based discourse, the last twenty years have mainly confirmed European citizens’ commitment to overcoming differences and asserting their sense of unity, while continuing to stress the positive and fertile nature of their cultural diversity. Defending democracy and the rule of law and safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms remain at the core of the common values that unite the Council of Europe’s 47 member states and constitute the very substance of the shared goal they have assigned to it, together with the resources and machinery needed to achieve that goal. This is the framework of the new European architecture within which the Council of Europe strives not only to develop common rules and standards that form a European legal area based on the principle of the rule of law and human rights and strengthen the democratic nature of the necessary reforms, but also establish a system for enforcing these standards by anticipating any malfunctioning.

At the Ministers’ Deputies’ meeting on 20 January 2010, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, said that “the Council of Europe must be the lighthouse of Europe, a house for early warning”. The machinery for monitoring human rights and rule of law forms part of this early warning sys-tem, one that works on behalf of member states and sets out to reflect as closely as possible the concerns of European citizens, with a view to meeting the main challenges of modern society.

Philippe Boillat, Director General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs

 
Introduction

Over a period of almost sixty years, the Council of Europe has made considerable gains in the sphere of human rights, as also in the furtherance and safeguard of the principle of the rule of law. These gains – never truly gained unless we remain watchful – comprise not only norms (linked with civil and political rights, social rights, rights of minorities, action against racism, corruption, trafficking in human beings, money laundering and tax havens), but also active supervision of compliance with these norms. This supervision is carried out by means of several well-established specialised mechanisms with working methods suited to their competence, and recognised expertise and professionalism. Thanks to these mechanisms, the Council of Europe is able to supervise the implementation of its standards, discern cases of non-compliance, and propose solutions or address recommendations to each of its member states.

The Committee of Ministers, especially in its mission of overseeing the execution of the binding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Committee of Social Rights, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Advisory Committee of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Group of States against Corruption, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (Moneyval), the Committee of Experts of the Charter of Regional and Minority Languages and the Group of Experts against Trafficking in Human Beings, collectively, most fittingly exemplify the mechanisms of warning and censure regarding the situation of democracy and human rights in Europe. They operate in complete consonance with the concerns of citizens anxious to live in an environment of justice and freedom securing their rights.

This document describes the way in which the Council of Europe mechanisms pertaining to human rights and rule of law have worked towards definite improvements in legislation, practice and the situation of individuals in the member states. The second part of the document brings together a selection of recent examples of situations where the Council of Europe member states have taken measures to improve the position regarding human rights, and also against corruption and money laundering, whether directly or indirectly, wholly or partially, as a result of the action of one of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms.

Christos Giakoumopoulos, Director of Monitoring
Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs

 

* This document does not purport to be exhaustive; the examples given merely serve to illustrate the national impact of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms in the sphere of human rights and rule of law. Nor does it show the significant results achieved in the sphere of human rights and rule of law through activities of the classic intergovernmental type leading to the adoption of reports and legal instruments (for example treaties, recommendations, guidelines) by the Committee of Ministers, the specific activities of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the European Committee for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the assistance and awareness- raising activities intended to aid compliance with the prescribed standards, and those of other Council of Europe institutions with a wider field of action, such as the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.