|PACE WINTER SESSION WILL NOT BE EASY
MOSCOW. (Mikhail Margelov for RIA Novosti)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) starts its
winter session in late January. The Russians, who judge about its work by
media reports, sometimes gain the impression that all they do in
Strasbourg is criticize Russia. This is by no means the case. At its
sessions, PACE lashes out at everyone, if there is a reason. During the
winter session there will be plenty of excuses for attacking the Russian
delegation. Sometimes we are criticized with good reason, and sometimes
the accusations are rather far-fetched.
There are several reasons why PACE could condemn Russia at its winter
session. The main pretext is likely to appear in its report on
Georgian-Russian relations, particularly the deportation of illegal
immigrants from Georgia. The Council’s number one concern is human
rights compliance, and the report includes some “suspicious cases” in
this context. The appendices include copies of orders issued by Russian
police bosses. One of them reads that the police and the courts agree in
advance on mandatory deportation of all those arrested. Another one
mentions police instructions to school principles to hand over lists of
students of Georgian origin.
These attachments will have to be analyzed, as well as many other claims,
such as the demand for compensation for occupation, which the Baltic
delegates are chanting with gloomy persistence.
However, the PACE critics of Russia have a couple of indisputable
arguments. We owe the Council ratification of two protocols to the
European Convention For the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms. Russia has signed them, but they are meaningless unless ratified
by the Federal Assembly. It is the only Council member not to have
ratified the sixth protocol on the death penalty abolition, and the 14th
protocol on the European Court reform.
Indeed, Russia should stop discussing the capital punishment and cancel it
by law. The primordial an eye-for-an-eye instinct is deeply rooted in the
human mind, and any referendum on the subject is predictable – the
majority will vote in favor of capital punishment. In order to abolish the
death penalty, the Russian authorities will have to display political
will. But they must do this, and also ratify the 14th protocol.
The latter protocol is about the reform of the European Court of Human
Rights. Upon joining the Council, Russia pledged itself to take part in
its priority projects. The suggested reform falls into this category.
Currently, the Court does not cope with the growing load of complaints
from citizens of European countries. It is necessary to improve procedures
for accepting complaints, set up a new institution of reporters, and
strengthen control over the Court’s performance.
However, the State Duma behaves as if it has never heard of the 14th
protocol, although Russia signed an obligation to ratify it at the
Council’s third summit in Warsaw a little more than a year ago. It was
even one of the protocol’s initiators, and Russian experts worked hard
on its wordings.
The Duma’s delay in ratifying the protocol is making Russia’s position
in PACE more vulnerable. This year, the Council intends to focus on the
compliance of its members with their commitments. We will be reminded of
both the sixth and 14th protocols, when the opportunity presents itself.
For no reason whatsoever, we have made an enemy of the European Court,
which is trying to reform itself.
The winter session is going to be difficult even without these subjects.
The Russian delegation will have to discuss the prospects of the
Council’s relations with Kazakhstan, and potential admission of Belarus
and Montenegro. These topics are of vital interest for Russia.
This year, the Council and its Parliamentary Assembly will concentrate on
dialogue between civilizations. The war of civilizations is a subject of
heated debates. Some claim that this war is already going on, whereas
others maintain that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with
ethnic or religious origin. Nevertheless, the bulk of experts attribute
the growing number of conflicts to social and cultural reasons. The
Council is planning to produce a White Book on intercultural dialogue. In
this context, I will deliver a report on anti-Semitism in Europe.
Today, Europe has become a seat of ethnic and religious confrontation. As
part of Europe, Russia is facing the same problem. Of course, a search for
agreement between civilizations through dialogue is a global problem, but
it should be resolved in individual regions.
PACE is also going to discuss the concept on single legal space in Europe.
It gives priority to European conventions and relevant protocols, and
stipulates immediate response to violations of the European Human Rights
The Council will review its cooperation with other international
institutions, such as the EU, the OSCE and the UN. It will continue
coordinating the efforts of its own bodies with those of the EU – its
European Court, Human Rights Commissar, and the EU Agency for Fundamental
Mikhail Margelov is the head of the committee on foreign affairs of the
Federation Council and the leader of the European Democrats faction in