16 mar 2022 09:24 am
Russia has started a process to withdraw from the Council of Europe after being temporarily suspended from its representation rights at the end of February. The formal notice of withdrawal was handed over to the Secretary General of the organization.
The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, together with the Court of Justice based there, is responsible for the protection of human rights in the 47 member states. Russia has been a member of the body since 1996. The Council does not correspond to any organ of the European Union. By the end of February, Russia and Ukraine were full members of the Council of Europe. Following a previous suspension by the Council of Europe, the organization’s Croatian Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, was handed a letter by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday on Russia’s withdrawal from the body.
Article 8 of the statutes on the suspension has only been used once – against the Greek military junta. In 1969, this led to Greece leaving the Council of Europe. On February 25, the organization revoked Russia’s “right to representation.” The official announcement stated that Reason:
“In accordance with the Statute of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers decided today to withdraw, with immediate effect, the right of representation in the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russian Federation as a result of the armed attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine.”
According to the Council of Europe, the suspension was “a temporary and not a final measure”. The decision meant that “the Russian Federation remains a member of the Council of Europe and a state party to its conventions. The judge elected for Russia at the European Court of Human Rights also remains a member of the Court and the complaints filed against the Russian Federation will continue to be examined and decided by the Court of Justice”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed commented on the Council of Europe’s actions on Wednesday as follows:
“EU and NATO countries have abused their majority in the Council of Europe (CE) to continuously transform this organization into an anti-Russian political tool, while rejecting dialogue on an equal footing and refusing to adhere to the principles of this pan-European organization. On February 25, they took the discriminatory decision to suspend Russia’s representation in the statutory bodies of the Council of Europe.
Responsibility for the destruction of the common humanitarian and legal space on the continent and the consequences for the Council of Europe – which will lose its pan-European character without Russia – rests solely with those who force us to take this step.
In view of what has become of the Council of Europe, we part ways without regret. Our country’s withdrawal from this organization will not affect the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees these rights and freedoms no less than the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Initial reactions pointed out that Russia, after the threatened exclusion Article 8 of the statutes of the Council of Europe. According to Article 8, after a suspension has been declared, an affected member state may be asked to withdraw or be excluded. In an immediate reaction, it is now said in a Tuesday published Council of Europe press release:
“As Heads of State or Government of the Council of Europe, we have on several occasions strongly condemned the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. This unjustified and unprovoked aggression led to the decision of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly to discontinue the expulsion procedure provided for in Article 8 of the Statute of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe.
By acting in Ukraine, the Russian authorities are depriving the Russian people of the benefit of the world’s most advanced human rights protection system, including the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and our comprehensive system of conventions.
We express our solidarity with the Russian people, who we firmly believe share democratic values and aspire to remain part of the European family to which they belong.”
Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office (AA) Anna Lührmann explained on the vote of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday on the AA website:
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted in an unprecedented vote to exclude Russia. Russia’s exclusion is a necessary step in defending our values. With the brutal attack on Ukraine, Russia is trampling on the core values of the Council of Europe. Russia has the common canon of values consisting of human rights and international law. For years, Russia has flouted its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Christopher Chope, British Conservative Member of the Council of Europe and UK Parliament, commented the decision of Russia with the words:
“This is not just a war against Ukraine. This is Putin’s war against NATO, against the European Union, against the Council of Europe and against the entire civilized world. And we here in the Council of Europe have compromised our own principles. We have allowed dictators rigging elections that present restrictions on liberties as protection of human rights. And we have allowed a mass murderer to masquerade as a defender of the rule of law.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed in its statement on Tuesday that the Russian government would remain “open to pragmatic and equal interaction with the members of this organization on matters of mutual interest and within the framework of the conventions” even after leaving the Council of Europe.
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