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Conference of high-ranking representatives of Ministers of Internal Affairs on dealing with Domestic violence

Strasbourg (Agora Room G1) , 

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Mesdames et Messieurs,

Chers participants à la conférence,

Tout d’abord je voudrais remercier et féliciter les précédentes intervenantes, Madame Alvares Molero pour sa présentation très claire des conclusions, et Madame la Déléguée Interministérielle Elisabeth Pelsez, qui nous fait l’honneur de sa présence au titre de la Présidence Française du Comité des Ministres et dont l’allocution de clôture était particulièrement éclairante.

J’ai noté avec une attention particulière ce que vous avez dit sur la coopération interministérielle au niveau national et sur différents aspects déterminants du processus de suivi des violences domestiques – notamment sur l’accueil et la prise en charge des victimes, l’application uniforme des procédures sur tout le territoire national, ou encore l’émergence de bonnes pratiques.

Les pistes dégagées au cours de cette conférence me semblent également très utiles dans la perspective de la Conférence sur l’expérience de la Convention d’Istanbul au niveau européen, qui se tiendra dans quelques jours à Prague, au Parlement, pour discuter la valeur ajoutée de la Convention d’Istanbul, les implications de la ratification par les Etats membres et les inquiétudes qui l’accompagnent parfois. Les propositions concrètes et développements positifs discutés hier et aujourd’hui m’aideront à expliquer ce que la ratification de la Convention d’Istanbul apporte réellement à ses Etats parties, au-delà des solutions nationales qui peuvent être développées pour lutter contre les violences à l’encontre des femmes.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me now to switch to English.

As was just said by Ms Pelsez, the home is the place where we should feel at our most safe and secure.

It’s familiar, it’s personal, it’s where we belong.

Yet for millions of people – and especially women – the reality is different.

The terrible truth is that domestic violence continues to blight lives across the length and breadth of our continent – and indeed around the world.

This results in physical harm, psychological damage, and a climate of fear and intimidation that deprives its victims of their right to live freely and with dignity.

Despite this – and indeed because of it – we know that most incidents go unreported.

This is confirmed by surveys carried out by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights and, very recently, by the OSCE too.

And some Council of Europe member states still do not record reliable statistics, making the true
pan-European picture less clear still.

For example, the murder of women by their partners may not be counted separately from the overall number of homicides.

As this Conference has heard, and as you will know from your own professional experience, this needs to change.

The extent of domestic violence must be identified, its causes made clear, and appropriate public policy responses put in place.

Inevitably, police forces across Europe will be central to achieving this.

For the public to come forward, they must have confidence in law enforcement.

This is particularly true for victims of this crime.

They must know that the police will respond with empathy, efficiency and effectiveness.

And at every stage:

The first call to a police dispatcher;

Intervention at the site of an alleged incident, including the protection of those at risk;

Handling the interview phase for the victim, the suspect, and witnesses alike – sometimes including children;

Investigating what has occurred, including the collection and transfer of evidence;

And putting in place any measures that are legal and required to prevent the escalation or reoccurrence of a crime.

All these steps require police training.

Training that is continuous, specific and specialised, with the input of doctors, psychologists, and an assortment of other specialists.

The Council of Europe has already acted to help our member states achieve this.

Our Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is the most important, legally-binding international treaty in this area.

It puts particular emphasis on the need to ensure a gender-sensitive approach to police intervention and interaction with victims.

And Article 15 obliges parties to ensure appropriate training for professionals, including the police.

It encourages multi-agency co-operation so that support organisation staff members are involved in police training.

And it does so as part of an overall approach to ensuring the prevention and detection of crime, the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators.

Central to this is the need to respect the needs and rights of those who have suffered abuse, and the avoidance of secondary victimisation.

In addition, our Code of Ethics for the Police advocates community policing.

Community police offers work not only with individuals but local associations and organisations too, including the whole community in the detection and prevention of crime.

They take an open-minded approach to the problems in a local area and seek solutions based on trust and personalised relationships.

This includes domestic and gender-based violence.

The precise model varies from member state to member state as does the oversight mechanism that is required by law.

But all the evidence suggests that where community policing is used properly, it works.

However, the question remains: what more can be done?

With regard to the Istanbul Convention, it should be ratified and implemented by all member states - and without delay.

That way, standards will be raised and our independent monitoring body GREVIO can help national authorities to ensure its implementation.

The community policing model should be used to maximum effect too.

But I wonder if we might go further still.

In light of what has been said at this Conference, could we benefit from a new mechanism to promote co-operation and experience-sharing between police forces in our member states?

We already do this for judges and prosecutors, and it has helped to promote best practice.

Why shouldn’t our police adopt the same model?

That way they can learn from one another about the best way to handle domestic violence incidents – or other crimes for that matter.

After all, the police play an important role in many of our Organisation’s activities:

From the prevention of torture, corruption and discrimination to the ongoing challenges posed by migration and the everyday work of the European Court of Human Rights.

If information is power, perhaps we can share that information more effectively, and empower police across Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, domestic violence is an age-old problem.

But our societies are changing, and so are our means to combat this crime.

So, this is a challenge to which we must respond.

I thank the French presidency of our Committee of Ministers for organising this event and to each and every one of you for attending.

Together, we can offer greater protection to those who need it most.