12 May, 2009

The Council of Europe

Here is an article about The Council of Europe: Council to battle Russia on Protocol 14. This organisation, not to be confused with the Council of Ministers or the European Council is in the odd position of being far less well-known that one of its subsidiary parts. The Council was formed after the Second World War, and was basically an excuse for people from European parliaments to get together and talk about stuff (as opposed to fight wars against each other). The more famous subsidiary of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Member countries of the Council of Europe have to agree to abide by the European Convention of Human Rights, a set of legal principles enacted as a reaction to the gross violation of human rights that marked the Third Reich period and (to a somewhat lesser extent) the period of Commmunist rule in Eastern Europe. Citizens of member countries can appeal directly to the European Court of Human Rights. Ireland's legalisation of male homosexual acts was triggered by a decision of the ECHR. As with so much of international law, Council of Europe member states could decide to leave the organisation if faced with an ECHR decision they do not like, but no one has ever done that because it would make you look like the kind of country that hates freedom.

Currently the Council of Europe is proposing to change its rules for processing ECHR cases, to eliminate legal backlogs. Unfortunately, one member country is adamantly opposed to these rule changes. Curiously, this country (Russia) is one with a very large number of cases pending where its citizens are accusing its government of trampling on their rights. It appears that the streamlined rules will be adopted by the other Council of Europe members, while Russian citizens will continue to wait for their cases to be heard.

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