At the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Heads of State and Government of the organisation’s 46 member states have decided to establish a Register of damage caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression as a first step towards an international compensation mechanism. The leaders agreed to strengthen the Council of Europe and its work in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law by adopting a declaration on democracy principles, recommitting to the European Convention on Human Rights and developing tools to tackle emerging challenges in the area of technology and the environment.
Agreement on the Register of Damage for Ukraine
Council of Europe member states, as well as several non-member countries, including Canada, Japan and the United States, and the European Union (*) have agreed to set up a Register of damage caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Intended as a first component of a future compensation mechanism, the Register will serve as a record of evidence and claims information on damage, loss or injury caused since 24 February 2022 to all affected natural and legal persons, as well as to the State of Ukraine. The Heads of State and Government expressed their willingness to engage in international initiatives to further developing such a mechanism, which may include a claims commission and compensation fund, stressing the Russian Federation’s obligation to pay for the damage caused by its war of aggression.
The leaders also welcomed progress towards the establishment of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression and offered the Council of Europe’s support to the process. They called on the Russian Federation to immediately release all civilians forcibly transferred or unlawfully deported to its territory or to temporarily controlled or occupied areas, in particular children. The Russian Federation should comply with its international obligations and withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts will be supported through the Council’s action plan for Ukraine “Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction” and the Council of Europe Development Bank.
Declaration on the situation of the children of Ukraine
Member states adopted a Declaration dedicated to the situation of the children, calling for support to Ukrainian authorities to ensure the immediate return of children unlawfully transferred and deported by Russian forces. All perpetrators of such crimes committed against children should be brought to justice. Assistance should also be provided to member states temporarily hosting Ukrainian children.
Reykjavik Principles for Democracy
Warning against democratic backsliding, Council of Europe leaders adopted the “Reykjavik Principles for Democracy”, a range of principles to be respected by democratic states, such as freedom of expression, assembly and association, independent institutions, impartial and effective judiciaries, the fight against corruption and democratic participation of civil society and of young people.
Recommitting to the Convention System as the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s protection of human rights
The leaders of the 46 member states reaffirmed their deep and abiding commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, their unwavering commitment to the Convention system as a mechanism to promote peace and stability in Europe and their unconditional obligation to abide by the final judgments of the Court.
The Council of Europe and the environment
Regarding the environment, the leaders affirmed that human rights and the environment are intertwined and that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is key to the full enjoyment of human rights. The Council of Europe’s work in this area should be based on the political recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right and on the extensive case law developed by the European Court of Human Rights.
Other major challenges
Finally, the Summit endorsed a number of other priorities of the Council of Europe: The significance of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights; new standards to safeguard human rights in the digital era online and offline, in particular regarding artificial intelligence; the promotion of social rights in Europe through the Social Charter; continued co-operation with Belarusian democratic opposition forces as well as with Belarussian and Russian human rights defenders, free media and independent civil society.
(*) Forty countries have joined the Enlarged Partial Agreement on the Register set up within the Council of Europe : Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom; as well as Canada, Japan and the USA. The European Union has also joined, while four other countries (Andorra, Bulgaria, Mexico and Switzerland) have expressed their intention to join.
“Reykjavik Declaration – United around our values” and Summit file