24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice
FIGHT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
IMPLEMENTATION OF JUDICIAL DECISIONS IN CONFORMITY WITH EUROPEAN STANDARDS
4-5 October 2001
Moscow, Russian Federation
Conclusions, Report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
1. The 24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice was held in Moscow on 4 and 5 October 2001 at the invitation of the Russian Government. The agenda, list of participants and Resolutions adopted are set out in Appendices I-III to this report.
2. The Bureaux of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), as well as the Senior Officials, held their preparatory meetings on the eve of the Conference.
3. The Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation was elected Chair of the Conference. The Ministers of Justice of Moldova and the Czech Republic were elected Vice-Chairs.
4. The themes of the Conference were:
- “Fight against International Terrorism”
- “Implementation of judicial decisions in conformity with European standards”:
Implementation of long-term prison sentences
General approach and means of achieving effective enforcement of civil judicial decisions – strengthening or reducing the role of the state.
The first theme was added to the agenda of the Conference, on a proposal by the Minister of Justice of Germany, supported by the Ministers of Justice of Slovenia, Turkey and the Russian Federation.
5. The main report on the second theme was submitted by the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation and a number of Ministers submitted a memorandum. The list of documents appears in Appendix IV.
6. A welcome address by the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Vladimir Putin, was read out by his representative.
Later during the Conference, President Putin received the Ministers and Heads of Delegation in the Kremlin. The President stressed the need for European co-operation in the fight against terrorism, and praised the Council of Europe for its assistance to Russia in the process of legal and judicial reforms.
7. In his opening speech, the Deputy Secretary General referred to the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of 12 September 2001 on the fight against international terrorism, and the decisions of 21 September. These decisions are but a first step, and the input of the Ministers of Justice in much awaited in order to finalise the plan of future actions of the Council of Europe.
The Deputy Secretary General commended the achievements of the Russian Federation in the process of legal and judicial reforms, and pointed to the areas in which work remained to be done, stressing the readiness of the Council of Europe to assist in any possible way.
Finally, the Deputy Secretary General recalled that the execution of judicial decisions is part and parcel of the problems related to efficiency and fairness of justice: this Conference is the natural follow-up to the most recent Conferences of European Ministers of Justice.
8. On the occasion of the Conference, the Additional Protocol (ETS 179) to the 1977 European Agreement on the Transmission of Applications for Legal Aid (ETS 092) and the Convention on Information and Legal Cooperation concerning "Information Society Services" (ETS 180) were opened for signature; details are provided in Appendix V to this report.
9. The Ministers expressed their gratitude to the Russian authorities for hosting the Conference, and for their cordial hospitality.
Main report by the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation
The effective enforcement of court decisions constitutes an important step towards the effective protection of all rights and freedoms set forth in national legislation and relevant international treaties. Deficiencies in the organisation of enforcement proceedings are likely to undermine the confidence of citizens in the judicial system.
There is a growing awareness that management of long-term prisoners should aim at implementing the objectives of punishment, and at striking a balance between several factors such as preventing escapes, ensuring good order and discipline in penal institutions, and providing active regimes and opportunities for these prisoners. It would be useful to identify European standards regarding conditions of custody and safety for administration staff and prisoners, sentence planning and allocation of the prisoners as well as sentence commutation. Penal institution’s staff conduct must be respectful of the European Prison Rules and other regulations as safety of prisoners and administration staff depends considerably on the knowledge, skills and training of security services’ officers. Educational work as well as psychological and educational follow-up throughout the full term of imprisonment is important to help achieve the resocialisation of long-term prisoners. The involvement of the private sector in the penal system is to be thoroughly examined in the light of these objectives.
With respect to imprisonment of foreigners and stateless persons, measures should be taken to make the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (ETS 112, 1983) and its Protocol (ETS 167, 1997) universally accepted. Conditional release for these prisoners calls for a study of the mechanisms of the 1964 European Convention on the Supervision of Conditionally Sentenced or Conditionally Released Offenders (ETS 051, 1964).
The possibility of unifying the substantive and procedural laws relating to enforcement of court decisions on European level is of great concern. Recognition and execution of foreign court judgments in civil cases require particular co-operation of the States, which could be provided for through the development of a European Code of Enforcement Procedure. An inter-state European Agency for Search of Debtors and Their Assets could be established. Topical problems such as the qualifications, powers and conduct of bailiffs (including private bailiffs), and the extent and forms of States’ participation in the implementation of court decisions in civil cases should also be addressed in order to achieve the effective enforcement of civil judicial decisions.
Summary of the discussions
Fight against international terrorism
The Ministers were unanimous in condemning the terrorist acts in the United States on the 11 September and deploring the loss of life and the injuries suffered by thousands of people. They pledged their full support to the efforts by the Council of Europe to combat international terrorism in all its forms and wherever it is committed, in the light of the Decision taken by the Committee of Ministers and the Recommendation adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly.
They welcomed the draft Resolution presented by the Federal Minister of Justice of Germany which faithfully reflected the determination of participants to contribute to the increased efforts of the international community to fight this threat to the democratic systems of member States.
They took note with interest of two initiatives taken within the European Union on the basis of proposals made by the Commission: to agree on a common definition of “acts of terrorism” and to introduce a European arrest warrant which would replace extradition among the member States of the European Union.
It was generally agreed that democratic states should respond to terrorism in a way compatible with the values to which the Council of Europe is committed by virtue of its Statute, i.e. the Rule of Law and the protection of human rights, which required inter alia measures for an improved protection and support of the victims of terrorist acts.
Several speakers emphasised the need to deprive terrorist organisations of their financial support, in particular by ratifying the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and by adopting the measures necessary to give effect to Resolution 1373 recently adopted by the UN Security Council. In this context they called on states which had not already done so to ratify the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Crime Proceeds, and they invited the Committee of Ministers to reinforce the work of the Committee evaluating States’ anti-money laundering measures (PC-R-EV). Moreover, the new Convention on cyber-crime which is to be opened for signature on 23 November 2001 will contribute to States’ efforts to fight terrorism.
Among the other measures conducive to combating international terrorism, speakers proposed that States should:
- actively participate in the elaboration, within the United Nations, of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism;
- ratify, if they have not already done so, the international treaties which seek to facilitate international co-operation in criminal matters
- review Article 13 of the European Convention on the suppression of terrorism with a view to either withdrawing reservations made under this provision or to deleting the provision altogether;
- improve the exchange of information between States and law enforcement agencies;
- promote the establishment of the International Criminal Court by ratifying its Statute as soon as possible;
- review their domestic legislation relating to bank secrecy and extend it to other financial institutions.
Implementation of long-term sentences
The discussions focused on the need to provide decent detention conditions for those serving long-term and life sentences, without sacrificing security, order and discipline in penal institutions. The Ministers were concerned about the increasing number and length of long-term sentences, leading to prison overcrowding and impairing the humane and effective management of prisoners in conformity with international human rights standards. In the case of long-term sentences, it is necessary to strike a fair balance between the preventive function of punishment and the social resettlement of prisoners. Early release from prison may offer a solution, provided that legitimate security interests are not jeopardised.
The Ministers strongly supported the work done by the Committee on the management of life-sentenced and other long-term prisoners (PC-LT) and encouraged it to complete its work on guidelines for good practice in this field before the end of 2002. They also expressed their support for the cooperation programmes to promote the reform of prison systems.
General approach and means of achieving effective enforcement of judicial decisions
The Ministers discussed the question of implementing judicial decisions in line with European standards, and the general approach and means of achieving their effective enforcement, not only in criminal but also in civil, commercial, administrative and social matters.
During the discussion, the following points were made:
The enforcement of court decisions within a reasonable time was an integral part of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The organisation of execution procedures differs widely among the member States of the Council of Europe. These differences reflect legal traditions and historical experiences in each country, which make it difficult to harmonise procedures at European level. From a practical point of view, such harmonisation would be neither necessary nor appropriate. It would, however, be very useful to identify common standards and principles that may help States to improve their legislation and practices as the full respect of judicial decisions forms part of the Rule of Law.
On the level of the European Union, mutual recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions in both civil and criminal matters constitutes a cornerstone of the creation of a space of freedom, safety and justice. Some instruments developed within the European Union could possibly be extended to the wider circle of Council of Europe member States.
Some Ministers stressed that the execution of court sentences should remain a State prerogative, while others were prepared to envisage a limited role for private actors.
The creation of a European Agency for the Search of Debtors and Their Assets could raise difficult problems of data protection. Better use should instead be made of existing instruments and co-operation between national agencies.
Training and codes of conduct for bailiffs are important to ensure that they carry out their important tasks fairly, impartially, efficiently and transparently.
Information technologies play an important role in enforcement procedures and full use should be made of such technologies.
Efficient enforcement procedures are necessary in order to provide business interests with confidence when making investments.
24. The Deputy Secretary General wishes to pay tribute to the Russian authorities and thank them both for the excellent organisation of the Conference and the warm welcome extended to participants.
Resolution No 1 on combating international terrorism
THE MINISTERS participating in the 24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Moscow, October 2001),
Condemning the heinous terrorist attacks in the United States of America on 11 September 2001;
Deploring the loss of life and the injuries suffered by thousands of innocent people as a result of these attacks as well as those in other regions of the world;
Expressing their deeply felt sympathy with the victims and their families;
Reaffirming their determination to combat all forms of terrorism;
Welcoming the declarations and decisions of international organisations condemning terrorism, in particular the Declaration adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 September 2001 and the Decision taken on 21 September 2001, and expressing their full support for the measures envisaged in this Decision;
Bearing in mind Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1534 (2001) on democracies facing terrorism;
Convinced of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of terrorism, involving all relevant legal aspects;
Resolved to play their part in States' efforts to reinforce the fight against terrorism and to increase the security of citizens, in a spirit of solidarity and on the basis of the common values to which the Council of Europe is firmly committed: Rule of Law, human rights and pluralist democracy;
Recognising the need to involve and motivate the public in this fight, including relevant organisational, social and educational measures;
Convinced of the urgent need for increased international co-operation,
CALL UPON member and observer States of the Council of Europe
a. to become Parties as soon as possible to the relevant international treaties relating to terrorism, in particular the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism of 9 December 1999;
b. to participate actively in the elaboration of the draft United Nations comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism; and
c. to become Parties as soon as possible to the Statute of the International Criminal Court;
INVITE the Committee of Ministers urgently to adopt all normative measures considered necessary for assisting States to prevent, detect, prosecute and punish acts of terrorism, such as:
a. reviewing existing international instruments - conventions and recommendations, in particular the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism - and domestic law, with a view to improving and facilitating co-operation in the prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism so that the perpetrators of such acts can speedily be brought to justice;
b. drafting model laws in this field, and codes of conduct in particular for law enforcement agencies;
c. reviewing existing or, where necessary, adopting new rules concerning:
i. the prosecution and trial of crimes of an international character, with a view to avoiding and solving conflicts of jurisdiction and, in this context, facilitating States' co-operation with international criminal courts and tribunals;
ii. the improvement and reinforcement of exchanges of information between law enforcement agencies;
iii. the improvement of the protection of witnesses and other persons participating in proceedings involving persons accused of terrorist crimes;
iv. the improvement of the protection, support and compensation of victims of terrorist acts and their families;
v. the reinforcement of the prevention and punishment of acts of terrorism committed against or by means of computer and telecommunication systems ("cyber-terrorism");
d. depriving terrorists of any financial resources which would allow them to commit acts of terrorism, including amendments to the law, in conformity with Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001);
e. reinforcing, through adequate financial appropriation, the work of Council of Europe bodies involved in the fight against money laundering, in particular the Committee evaluating States' anti-money laundering measures (PC-R-EV);
f. facilitating the identification of persons by means of appropriate identity, civil status and other documents, as well as by other means, including the possibility of using genetic prints (DNA);
g. ensuring the safety and control of dangerous or potentially dangerous substances;
DECIDE to remain in close contact on these matters, in particular in order to review the steps taken to give effect to this Resolution, at the latest on the occasion of their next Conference.
Resolution No 2 on the "implementation of long-term sentences"
The Ministers participating in the 24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Moscow, October 2001),
Considering that the enforcement of sentences requires striking a balance between objectives such as ensuring security, good order and discipline in penal institutions on the one hand, and providing decent living conditions and active regimes for the prisoners, on the other;
Considering that the enforcement of long-term sentences and life sentences in particular poses a heavy burden on prison administrations and on society as a whole;
Concerned about the increase, in many countries, in the number and length of long-term sentences, which contribute to prison overcrowding and impair the effective and humane management of prisoners in full conformity with international human rights standards;
Aware of the particular situation of some countries whose prison administrations face severe difficulties in connection with the enforcement of long-term and life sentences, due in particular to a lack of adequate resources and staff;
Welcoming that on the proposal of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) the Committee of Ministers instructed the Committee of Experts on the management of life-sentenced and other long-term prisoners (PC-LT) to elaborate guidelines for good practice,
Bearing in mind the importance of the principles contained in existing relevant instruments, in particular Resolution (76) 2 on the treatment of long-term prisoners, Recommendation R (87) 3 on the European Prison Rules and Recommendation R (82) 17 on the custody and treatment of dangerous prisoners;
Also bearing in mind that the implementation of the principles contained in Recommendation R (99) 22 concerning prison overcrowding and prison population inflation as well as the provision to prison administrations of adequate resources and staff would reduce an important part of the management problems related to long-term imprisonment and allow for safer and better conditions of detention;
EXPRESS their support for the work undertaken by Committee PC-LT and encourage the Committee to pursue its efforts with a view to concluding its work before the end of 2002;
INVITE the Committee of Ministers to give priority to the work in this field and to support and develop the co-operation programmes put in place to promote the reform of prison systems.
Resolution No 3 on "General approach and means of achieving effective enforcement of judicial decisions"
The Ministers participating in the 24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Moscow, October 2001),
Having regard to the Report of the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation on the enforcement of judicial decisions in conformity with European standards;
Having discussed the topic of the implementation of judicial decisions in conformity with European standards and, in particular, the general approach and the means of achieving effective enforcement of judicial decisions;
Acknowledging the need to improve the enforcement of judicial decisions;
Recognising the importance of ensuring the effectiveness not only of criminal sanctions but also of judicial decisions in civil, commercial, administrative and social matters;
Bearing in mind the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and, in particular, the recognition by the European Court of Human Rights that the enforcement of court decisions, in particular within a reasonable time, has to be regarded as an integral part of the right to a fair trial for the purposes of Article 6;
Recalling Resolution No. 1 on "Delivering justice in the 21st century", adopted at their 23rd Conference in London in June 2000 and welcoming the decision of the Committee of Ministers to prepare an appropriate legal instrument or legal instruments aimed at promoting efficiency of justice throughout Europe and encouraging their rapid completion;
Recalling also the results achieved during the intergovernmental co-operation, as well as the multilateral and bilateral legal co-operation activities carried out by the Council of Europe and its member States and convinced of the need for these results to be properly followed up by means of legislative or other practical measures aiming at improving the enforcement of court decisions;
Having regard to the decisions of the Committee of Ministers concerning the monitoring procedure on questions relating to the functioning of the judicial system;
Noting the importance of promoting international co-operation to ensure the effectiveness of foreign judicial decisions;
Recognising that without an appropriate enforcement procedure, court decisions will be rendered inoperative and illusory both for the State and individuals;
Aware that economic activity, in particular trade and industry, is likewise dependent on confidence in an effective enforcement system;
Underlining the essential role played by bailiffs (or any other enforcement agent) and the need for their work to be carried out, according to the law, fairly, impartially, efficiently and transparently;
Bearing in mind the principles of cost-effectiveness and proportionality when carrying out the enforcement process;
AGREE that the proper, effective and efficient enforcement of court decisions is of capital importance for States in order to create, reinforce and develop a strong and respected judicial system;
RECOGNISE that enforcement procedures have to comply with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights;
DECIDE to promote efficiency of justice through greater mutual co-operation amongst States, with a view to improving the functioning of their judicial system by means of appropriate mechanisms;
INVITE THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS to instruct the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) to identify common standards and principles at a European level for the enforcement of court decisions. To this end, particular attention has to be paid to:
I. enforcement procedures, in particular
a) role of the parties (eg. creditors, debtors, third parties);
b) assets (eg. sales of assets, distribution, attachment, exempted assets) and other types of safeguards and guarantees;
c) procedures (eg. settlements, access to court and review, the role of judges, proportionality);
d) costs (eg. interests, court fees, costs of enforcement, fees of bailiffs);
e) special cases (eg. family cases, labour disputes, landlord and tenant, enforcement of injunctions, transfrontier cases); and
II. bailiffs (or any other enforcement agents), in particular
a) recruitment and education;
b) role, competence and powers;
c) co-operation with the parties and other legal professionals (including settlements);
d) use of new information technology and means to reduce costs;
e) control by judges of the acts of bailiffs;
f) professional codes of conduct (including duties, liability and disciplinary measures).
Resolution No 4
THE MINISTERS participating in the 24th Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Moscow, October 2001),
Aware of the advantage of arranging personal contacts between the Ministers responsible for their governments' policy in the legal field in order to foster the progress of cooperation in this area in Europe,
EXPRESS the warmest thanks to the Russian Government for the excellent organisation of the 24th Conference in Moscow and for its kind hospitality.