What is the Advisory Committee on Disputes?

The Advisory Committee on Disputes (“the Committee”) is an independent body which formulates opinions on administrative complaints lodged by staff members at the request of the concerned staff member or on the initiative of the Secretary General. The Committee is composed of four staff members, two appointed by the Secretary General and two elected by staff. At present, the composition of the Committee is as follows: Mr Gaël Martin-Micallef, Mr Wolfgang Rau, Mr Stephanos Stavros (chair), and Mr Yves Winisdoerffer1. The Committee is assisted by Ms Pamela McCormick and Mr Dmytro Tretyakov, co-secretaries.

 What is an administrative complaint?

Current and former Council of Europe staff members, and persons claiming through them, are entitled to submit complaints to the Secretary General against administrative acts adversely affecting them2. Any such complaint must be made in writing and lodged via the Director of Human Resources within thirty days of the act concerned being published or, in the case of an individual measure, being notified to the person concerned.

 How is a complaint referred to the Committee?

The Secretary General may refer a complaint to the Advisory Committee on Disputes on his own initiative; a staff member may also request a referral of his or her complaint. 

 What happens once a complaint is referred to the Committee?

The Committee will request submissions from the complainant and from the Administration. The Committee will then formulate its opinion, within one year of the date of referral of the complaint.

The Committee shall give reasons for its opinion which may relate not only to the lawfulness but also to the expediency of the act complained of depending on the particular circumstances of the case. It may also propose an equitable settlement.

The Committee deliberates in private and its proceedings are confidential.

 What happens once the Committee has given its opinion?

The Secretary General shall have thirty days from the date of receipt of the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Disputes to give a decision on the complaint. The Secretary General’s decision may be appealed against to the Administrative Tribunal.

 Examples of cases already dealt with by the Committee

Over the last ten years, the Committee has considered a range of complaints, including complaints against:

  • a decision not to extend a temporary contract;
  • the termination of the payment of dependent child allowance to a father and an orphan’s pension to his daughter on the ground that the daughter was no longer enrolled in full-time education;
  • the refusal to permit a permanent staff member to proceed to the written examination stage of a competition after she failed to attain the minimum required score in a pre-selection aptitude test;
  • the refusal of the Governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank to award a survivor’s pension to the surviving partner of a deceased staff member.

For more information about the Advisory Committee on Disputes, see the Staff Regulations Part VII: Disputes.


1. In addition, there are four substitute members (two appointed by the Secretary-General and two elected by staff) who replace titular members if and when required, and two members from the Council of Europe Development Bank (one appointed by the Governor and the other elected by the Bank’s staff) who replace titular members when the Committee is dealing with complaints concerning the Bank.

2. There are special rules concerning matters relating to an external recruitment procedure.