HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Strasbourg, 1 September 2010
FOR THE ATTENTION OF MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Rapporteur: Maritchu Rall, International Association of Charities (AIC)
The Human Rights Committee, meeting on 21 June 2010, with Gabriel Nissim – World Catholic Association for Communication (SIGNIS) – in the chair
1. Adopted the meeting agenda [CONF/HR(2010)OJ3] after the Chair had pointed out that item 4 on the agenda “Migration and human rights” would be dealt with by the Europe and Global Challenges Transversal Group on Tuesday 22 June 2010;
2. Adopted the synopsis of the meeting held on 27 April 2010 [CONF/HR(2010)SYN2];
3. Abolition of the death penalty in Belarus with the participation of a group of representatives of civil society:
Heard the representatives of civil society in Belarus, the only European country which to date still used the death penalty: in March 2010 two persons were executed. Belarus was not a member state of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly had suspended the participation of observers from Belarus, inter alia because of the continued existence of the death penalty. The representations made to the Belarusian authorities on this subject had not yielded any results.
Alexander Vaskevich, Society for Comparative Legal Studies and former judge at the Constitutional Court, made an introductory statement on behalf of the Belarusian group on the legal framework and the socio-political implications of a possible moratorium on executions or the abolition of the death penalty. In 2004, the Constitutional Court stated that the abolition of the death penalty not only complied with the Belarusian Constitution, but was even anticipated by the fundamental law. Regardless of the fact that the referendum of 1996 confirmed that 80% of the voters wanted to keep the death penalty, a moratorium could be introduced by presidential decree or a decision of Parliament.
Heard Nikolaï Samoseyko, member of the Lower House of the Belarussian Parliament, who informed the Committee that on 3 February 2010 a parliamentary committee had been set up under his chairmanship to study the issue of the death penalty as a legal instrument in Belarus. Belarus readily understood the arguments in favour of abolition. The abolition of the death penalty had already been incorporated into Belarussian legislation but it took time for it to be applied because the public opposed abolition. A plan of action had been drawn up with emphasis on communication with the media, research and crime analysis. The main aim in setting up this working group was to change public opinion. A parliamentary debate was to take place and the working group would put forward proposals.
During the discussion, the Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the INGO Conference pointed out that a large amount of information could be found on the website of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty www.abolition.fr. A World Congress on this subject had been held in Geneva in February 2010. More representations should be made to the country’s various political and religious authorities. The death penalty was inhuman and incompatible with the fundamental right to life. It is on this which the case should be based, irrespective of whether or not the death penalty was an effective deterrent or whether the public would be receptive or not. It was by ensuring respect for life and teaching people about the meaning of life that progress could be made in abolishing the death penalty.
Was informed by Jutta Gützkow, Head of the Division of NGOs and Civil Society, that as part of the programme on co-operation with Belarus, a meeting with experts on the issue of abolishing the death penalty was to be held in Minsk in autumn 2010.
Migration and human rights: fixing the strategic objectives of the ad hoc group on “Migration and Human Rights”
(This item was discussed with the Europe and Global Challenges Transversal Group on Tuesday 22 June 2010).
5. First European Youth and Human Rights Fair: for discussion and adoption
Heard Brigitte Kahn, Vice-Chair of the Committee and President of the “Regards d'enfants “association, who reminded members that the First European Youth and Human Rights Fair would take place in Strasbourg at the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès from 19 to 21 March 2011. The theme of the Fair would be discrimination. The Fair was one of several encounters with European children on human rights education. The first book of European poems by children on human rights was presented on this occasion. Teachers from 10 European countries attended training courses at the European Youth Centre as part of the Pestalozzi programme. Institutional partners such as the Council of Europe, the Centre international des études pédagogiques, the School Inspectorate of Germany, the Strasbourg Local Education Authorities, Rotary clubs and Lions clubs (branches of these clubs in different European countries are very active in the field) had been invited to take part. Children of different origins would attend and would present their activities and their view of human rights.
Were urged by the Chair to enrol in the Fair as it would be an opportunity for the INGOs to present and possibility even demonstrate their activities.
Alain Mouchoux proposed that the Parliamentary Assembly be informed that the Fair would be taking place.
6. Working Group on Media Education: for information
Was informed by Gabriel Nissim, as the representative of the INGO Conference on the Steering Committee on Media and New Communication Services (CDMC), that he would be sending an interim document on the development of work in the field of media education to the members of the Working Group.
Was informed by the Committee chair that the Commissioner for Human Rights had introduced a new communication tool “Human Rights Comment” in which articles addressing major human rights issues would be published. This document would replace the weekly newsletter. The INGOs would be entitled to a free subscription.