The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has voted to accept the Russian delegation, which was sanctioned after the occupation of Crime, back to the Assembly without any limitations whatsoever. The vote for the relevant resolution took place on 26 June and dismissed all amendments submitted by Ukrainian, Georgian, British, and other PACE Assembly Members.
The previous day, on 25 June, PACE had voted for a resolution destroying existing sanctions mechanisms in the Council of Europe allowing to lift most political sanctions on the Russian delegation imposed five years ago after the occupation of Crimea on 25 June. This resolution had taken away the right of PACE to sanction delegations of violating states by depriving them of the right to vote, speak at sessions, participate and vote in the Assembly committees. However, possibilities for some sanctions remained, such as the right to occupy managerial positions, participate in monitoring missions etc. Those sanctions have now been lifted and the Russian delegation has no limitations whatsoever in PACE, with 116 MPs voting in favor, 52 – against, and 15 abstaining.
The document mentions Russia’s multiple violations of the principles of the Council of Europe, but limited itself to “calls” to fulfill five demands of the previous resolutions:
- release the 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the Kerch Strait on the charge of “illegally crossing the border of the Russian Federation;
- immediately pay all fees due to the Council of Europe budget;
- unconditionally and fully co-operate with the joint investigation team and the Dutch prosecution service in bringing these responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 to justice;
- take effective measures aimed at preventing violations of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, in particular in the Chechen Republic, and prosecute the perpetrators for acts committed in the past;
- co-operate fully with the international community in the investigation of the murder of Boris Nemtsov.
This list makes no mention of other Russian violations, but “calls” upon Russia to fulfill the PACE resolutions calling upon Russia to end its aggression against Ukraine, without implementing which the lifting of sanctions on the Russian delegation was impossible. Neither the war in Donbas, the occupation of Crimea, the repressions against the Crimean Tatars, and the holding of over a hundred Ukrainian political prisoners by Russia, human rights abuses in the occupied territories of Donbas got a mention in the resolution, nor the occupation of Georgia, European Pravda reported.
The Rules committee which dealt with the question of the presence of MPs who voted for the annexation of Crimea, and those who were elected with the votes of people living in occupied Crimea in the Russian delegation, declined to report altogether.
However, the credentials of the Russian delegation may be challenged at the next PACE session if the Venice Commission confirms that the Russian MPs were elected illegally because of the votes of the people living in occupied Crimea.
In protest, the delegations of seven countries joined a demarche, announcing that they return home for consultations, as the Council of Europe was “losing the trust of the people it stands to protect.”
Statement by Members of Delegations of Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
26 June 2019 STRASBOURG
The unconditional restoration of the Russian Delegation’s rights without the Russian Federation honouring any of the Assembly’s numerous demands runs counter to the core values of the Council of Europe and its Statute. This step sends a very wrong signal to the country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning of individuals, does not observe human rights of its citizens and does not promote but seeks to destabilize democracies throughout Europe.
Today, we as the delegates of our nations have no answer to our people how exactly the CoE is protecting their rights if it comes across as more interested in protecting the well-being of an aggressor than the victims of aggression and repression.
The future of the CoE is under threat as a whole because the CoE is losing the trust of the people it stands to protect.
We return home to consult our Parliaments and Governments about the joint actions in the Assembly in the next sessions.
We wish good luck to the newly elected Secretary General and hope she/he finds a way to solve this unprecedented crisis of trust which was created this week.
- PACE destroys sanctions mechanism, allowing return of Russian delegation
- Russia’s return to PACE would end Council of Europe as human rights instrument – Ukraine’s ambassador to CoE
- Reforming PACE rules of procedure must not lead to a weakening of the current sanctions regime
- Open letter of lawyers & foreign policy experts: stop efforts to weaken Council of Europe’s powers to sanction violators
- Relatives of Ukrainian hostages of the Kremlin ask PACE to prevent lifting Russia sanctions
- Rebecca Harms: Germany and France should stop supporting Russia’s unconditional return to PACE
- Russia ignores PACE resolutions to end aggression against Ukraine. So PACE prepares to lift sanctions