Non-Governmental Organisations


    Strasbourg, 16 March 2010



The Human Rights Committee, meeting on 25 January 2010 with Gabriel Nissim (World Catholic Association for Communication, SIGNIS) in the chair:

1. Was greeted warmly by the Chair, who hoped that the committee and its members would make great efforts in support of all people who were suffering serious difficulties because of the many disasters throughout the world.

2. Adopted the synopsis of the meeting held on 30 September 2009 [CONF/HR(2009)SYN4].

3. Resisting the rise of discrimination: tasks for human rights INGOs

      3.1. Overview

      Discussed discrimination as a violation of human rights:

      The Chair said that discrimination was one of the main violations of human rights. Human rights were not granted or conferred by states, they were recognised on principle and it was up to the authorities to implement them and apply them through legislation. Many reports throughout Europe were currently indicating a rise in discrimination, in particular against immigrants, Roma, people with disabilities and members of minority groups, etc. The main cause here was the mixing of population groups, cultures and religions brought about by globalisation. This was leading to a lack of understanding of strangers, widespread fear, rejection of other people and a search for scapegoats.

      3.2. Actions to be carried out

      It was up to INGOs and civil society to combat these trends on the ground. Four specific measures against discrimination were proposed on the basis of the experience acquired in the field of people with disabilities by Marie-José Schmitt (European Action of the Disabled, AEH):

      - Change attitudes by highlighting the various forms of discrimination which still existed; highlight positive measures;
      - Eliminate any indirect discrimination which persisted in old legislation, administrative practices and educational curricula;
      - Make use of mediation and judicial bodies and help the persons concerned to do so;
      - Keep on doing the above at all times!

      Marc Leyenberger (Caritas), Conference representative on the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), referred to the Council of Europe instruments for combating discrimination, in particular Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) adopted by the Council of Europe in 2000, which was the key instrument for combating discrimination. INGOs needed to be familiar with the legal instrument so that they could:

      - lodge appeals against discrimination on the basis of the protocol in the 17 countries which had ratified it;
      - promote and publicise Protocol 12 in the other countries so that the maximum number ratified it as soon as possible.

      3.3. The case of sexual minorities

      Held a hearing with Nigel Warner (International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA) concerning the discrimination suffered by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT) in several Council of Europe member states because of their sexual orientation. Detailed accounts of such discrimination were given at the hearing, which took place in the context of a study visit by the relevant human rights defenders to the Council of Europe in connection with the draft recommendation by the CDDH currently before the Committee of Ministers on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

      Adopted unanimously, with three abstentions, a declaration of support by the Human Rights Committee for the above draft recommendation.

      Heard a presentation of the Speak Out Against Discrimination media campaign by Carole Reich, head and co-ordinator of this programme stemming from the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, and Reynald Blion, media and diversity manager of the campaign. Emphasis was placed on the tools made available to enable INGOs to take part.

      Was asked regularly to consult the campaign website, where various communication tools were available to INGOs. The main aim was to raise awareness and understanding of discrimination among media professionals and suggest new approaches in this area (workshops with minority media, exchanges, training for students in journalism schools, etc).

4. Future of the European Court of Human Rights

      Heard a statement by Giuseppe Guarneri, Conference representative on the Working Group on the Reform of the European Court of Human Rights. The key points here were:
      - ever since being set up, the Court had been a great success;
      - there were very many applications pending, totalling almost 100 000;
      - this backlog demanded a short or medium-term action plan;
      - in this connection, the Swiss Chairmanship would be holding an inter-ministerial conference in Interlaken on 18 and 19 February 2010. The President of the INGO Conference had been asked to participate;
      - improvements in the implementation of the ECHR at national level were one of the main means of improving the convention machinery. In accordance with the subsidiarity principle, states’ main obligation was to respect human rights and offer effective remedies;
      - Amnesty International had drawn up a document setting out proposals for the reform of the Court: the INGOs and the committee were asked to sign it;
      - a working group headed by Giuseppe Guarneri and Johannes Heiler (AI) would draw up a text which might be useful for the statement by the INGO Conference President in Interlaken.

5. Human rights and religions

      Was reminded by François Becker of the seminar on Human Rights and Religions to be held on 27 January 2010 with Jean-Paul Willaime, Director of the European Institute of Religious Sciences and Council of Europe expert. All INGOs were invited to attend.

6. Media education

      Was informed that further to the decision by the Committee of Ministers to launch a cross-sectoral activity concerning media education and further to the letter sent to Ms Battaini-Dragoni, Director General of Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport, and Mr Boillat, Director General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs, informing them of the committee’s decision to set up a working group on the subject, a reply taking note thereof had been received.

7. First European Youth and Human Rights Fair

      Heard a statement by Brigitte Kahn (B’NAI B’RITH International Council), Vice-Chair of the committee and Chair of the Regards d’enfants association, which would be holding the first European Youth and Human Rights Fair in Strasbourg in March 2011. It was due to be attended by 4 000 children from 12 countries. The fair was aimed at educating children and young people in human rights and tied in closely with the Council of Europe’s activities in this area.
      The association sought to educate children in human rights from the age of seven. It had already held many competitions to this end. In 2010, the theme of the competition was putting human rights into poetry. A book of poems about human rights written by children would be presented on 6 May 2010 at an event chaired by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni.

8. Other business

    Took note of the reminder concerning the collective complaints protocol and called on INGOs to reply by 15 April 2010. The relevant website was: European Social Charter.

    Heard a report by Jean-Claude Gonon (European Association of Teachers, AEDE) about the conference on The Legacy of World War II and the Holocaust held by the World Congress of Russian Jewry in Berlin on 16 and 17 December 2009.