The European Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) of the Council of Europe gathered representatives from Judiciary Schools and Bar Councils from member States on 21-22 June 2018.
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, opened the Conference highlighting that HELP is the only network that contributes across all 47 of our member states to the up-skilling of legal professionals on human rights and that its courses reflect the Council of Europe work in tackling the persistent challenges affecting our continent. The Deputy Secretary General underlined the contribution of the European Court of Human Rights (the European Court) to the quality of HELP courses and called the members of the Network to pursue their engagement in the rolling out of courses at national level. She underlined the backing of HELP’s key allies, particularly, the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN), the Council of Bar and Law Societies in Europe and, of course, the European Union as a strong political and financial partner.
PACE President, Michele Nicoletti, presented the idea of academic networks on the Council of Europe connecting legal professionals and academia to promote knowledge on key Council of Europe conventions amongst these communities.
Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, spoke about the reform and current challenges in the work of the European Court of Human Rights. Thanks to Protocol 16, the European Court is ready to guide Superior Courts of the Council of Europe countries in the interpretation and application of rights and freedoms recognised by the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). He also stressed the role of the Council of Europe’s HELP Programme and its courses for legal professionals in improving implementation of the Convention and effectiveness of the system.
The Conference was organised under the Croatian chairmanship. The Ambassador of the Permanent Representation of Croatia to the Council of Europe, Miroslav Papa, mentioned in his opening remarks that “Good training for good judgments" demonstrates the direct link between the focused high quality training for legal professionals and the quality of judgments and ultimately, of justice provided to individuals under the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe. He referred also to the recent ratification of Croatia of the Istanbul Convention, where a HELP course on Violence against Women exists.
The Ambassador, together with the Director of the Judicial Academy of Croatia, Andrea Posavec Franić, were pleased to see that Croatian justice professionals have also benefitted from HELP courses, and that in autumn 2018, a multi-country course will be organised for Croatian, Greek and Spanish judges in cooperation with the Spanish Judicial School.
The Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, Christos Giakoumopoulos, highlighted the role of the HELP Network in times of challenges and the contribution of HELP and its courses to ‘democratic security’ in the European continent.
The European Judicial Training Network Secretary General, Wojciech Postulski, presented the EJTN Guidelines for evaluation of judicial training practices, as the perfect preamble for the working group on measuring the impact of human rights training. In the latter, the HELP experience was shared, including impact of the HELP project funded by the EU “HELP in the 28” more than one year after its completion.
The coordinator of the Joint Programme between the European Union and the Council of Europe “Strengthening the implementation of the European human rights standards in Ukraine”, Milica Djunic, shared the conclusions of the impact assessment of the training component.
Highlights and results of the HELP Programme were presented, with a focus on its courses. If initially courses focused on the Convention, they now refer to the European Social Charter and other key Council of Europe Conventions. Since 2015, courses also cover synergies of the Council of Europe and EU legislation. Key geographical projects were presented such as (EU-funded) HELP in the EU or those supported by the Human Rights Trust Fund: HELP in the Western Balkans and HELP in Russia. Topical interventions were also mentioned such as the HELP project with the Turkish Directorate of Migration Management of the EU-Council of Europe joint project HELP Radicalisation Prevention. In the last three years, some 4 000 legal professionals have benefitted from HELP courses organised with Council of Europe national training institutions for judges/prosecutors or bar associations. The number of people and organisations accessing HELP courses for free through the HELP online platform has also increased by 400% over the past three years – from under 7 000 participants then to almost 25 000.
The Head of the Coordindation and International Cooperation Division of the Council of Europe, Tatiana Termacic, concluded the first day focusing on the importance of Rule of Law and HELP’s contribution.
The Council of Europe is home to the pan-European standards on Rule of Law. All member states participated in the development of the Council of Europe rule of law standards – they are therefore common to all European states
HELP’s contribution is crucial to ensure that they are effectively protected throughout Europe.
In line with the Conference’s title ‘Good training for good judgment’, there was a strong focus on presenting HELP courses that had been developed in the last year in cooperation with inside experts of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
- Rights of Refugee and Migrant Children - Tomáš Boček, Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General on Migration and Refugees
- Key human rights principles in Biomedicine - Laurence Lwoff, Head of the Bioethics Unit, Directorate of Human Rights, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law
- Child-friendly Justice - Regina Jensdottir, Head of Children’s Rights Division, Children’s Rights and Sport Values Department, Directorate General of Democracy
- Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings - Petya Nestorova, Head of Trafficking in Human Beings Division, Human Dignity and Gender Equality Department, Directorate General of Democracy
- International Cooperation on Criminal Matters - Eva Pastrana, Head of HELP Unit, Human Rights and National Implementation Division, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law, Council of Europe
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Antonina Vykhrest, Co-founder, ACCESS - the Advocacy Centre on Council of Europe Standards
- Human Rights in Sports - Elda Moreno Villanueva, Head of Children’s Rights and Sport Values Department, Directorate General of Democracy
- Internal Displacement - Lilja Gretarsdottir, Deputy Head of Division, Independent Human Rights Bodies, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law
- Prohibition of Ill-treatment - Ana Medarska-Lazova, HELP Project Officer, Human Rights and National Implementation Division, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law, Council of Europe
The members of the HELP Network, particularly the representatives from the Judiciary Schools, benefitted from the presentation of the Superior Court’s Network by Onur Andreotti from the Directorate of Jurisconsult of the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.
Two HELP country presentations showed best practices of cooperation with National Training Institutions and Bar Associations, by Diana Scobioala, Director of the National Institute of Justice of the Republic of Moldova and Julen Fernandez, representative of the General Council of the Spanish Bars and HELP Info Point for Spain.
One of the working groups confirmed the need for HELP of increasing its work on human rights education in Universities. The session included presentations by the Romanian HELP Info Point, Raluca Bercea and Bakhtiyor Avezdjanov on the programme Global Freedom of Expression of Columbia University as well as Tamara Shashikhina from MGIMO University.
During the conference the new members of the HELP Consultative Board were elected:
- Julen Fernandez-Conte, Spain Info Point
- Maria-Andrianni Kostopoulou, Greece Info Point
- Jasmina Krstenic, Serbia Focal Point
- Vladimir Palamarciuc, Moldova Info Point
- Roxana Rizoiu, Romania Focal Point
- Jolanta Samuolyte, Lithuania Info Point
The Head of Human Rights Policy and Cooperation Department of the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, Mikhail Lobov, closed the conference underlining the quality of HELP courses as they benefit from the Council of Europe and the European Court expertise and urged the members of the Network to embed them in the curricula of their national training institutions or bar associations.