SOC Group joins PACE in firmly condemning the appalling deterioration of human rights in Russia, Belarus and Turkey

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), during the 2021 spring plenary session, has once again expressed its concerns on the worrying human rights situation present in Russia, Belarus and Turkey In fact, when expressing its vision of the Council of Europe's strategic priorities for the future, the Assembly reminded that a key point is “to remain the pillar of democratic security, the guarantor of human rights and rule of law, as well as platform for genuine multilateralism in Europe.”

Russia and the arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny was arrested right after returning to Russia last January with the accusation of having violated the terms of a suspended 2014 conviction for money laundering, the so-called Yves Rocher case. This resulted in him being sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. However, as pointed out by PACE’s newly adopted resolution, “from the perspective of the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Navalny’s arrest and detention are unlawful. His conviction resulted from an unfair trial and his punishment was not properly based in law.” Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers asked for the immediate release of Mr Navalny and called for the Russian courts to remedy these violations.

The Group of Socialists, Democrats and Greens (SOC) warmly welcomes the Assembly’s decision to back up the position of the Court and the Committee of Ministers, as well as the call for Mr Navalny immediately assistance with all necessary medical treatment and the request to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to visit Mr Navalny and report on his conditions of detention.

Human rights violation and the need for electoral reform in Belarus

On 9 August 2020 Belarus held its presidential elections, which were neither free nor fair and caused a deep crisis in the country. The result was a rising number of violent attacks against political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and citizens. The Assembly has thus asked for “a comprehensive electoral reform, which would contribute to the long-term stability of the country as well as its rapprochement, and ultimately its accession to the Council of Europe based on the Organisation’s values and principles.”

The first step to reach this objective is transforming the Belarusian electoral system by making it transparent, accountable, credible, and thus rebuilding the trust of the citizens in the national electoral process.

Additionally, the Assembly reminded that respecting human rights is a basic necessary condition for the establishment of a democratic and transparent voting system. As such, another crucial step is fighting against the impunity for perpetrators of serious human rights violations by using the existing “universal jurisdiction” to impose targeted sanctions on them.

The increasing attacks on political pluralism and democratic institutions in Turkey

On 20 March 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree withdrawing the country from the Istanbul Convention, which had unanimously been ratified by the Turkish Grand National Assembly, taking a major step backwards in the protection of women’s rights in Turkey. Unfortunately, according to the report prepared by Thomas Hammarberg (SOC, Sweden) and John Howell (Conservative, UK), this is only the final of a series of actions that have further undermined democracy, the rule of law, political pluralism and human rights situation in the country.

The SOC Group welcomes PACE’s resolution, which reiterates the call on the Turkish authorities “to put an end to laws and practices that contravene democratic standards, to revise its legislation and constitutional framework in order to ensure the separation of powers, to restore freedom of speech and media freedom, to restrict the interpretation of its anti-terror legislation, and to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights”.

Once more, the SOC Group supports the call for the immediate release of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and philanthropist Osman Kavala, as the rulings of the European Court and the decisions of the Committee of Ministers indicate.