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At the end of May, a plenary meeting of the Stabilisation

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At the end of May, a plenary meeting of the Stabilisation

DPA/Inf(2008)17

    13 June 2008

With the compliments of the Director General of Democracy of Political Affairs

    Avec les compliments du Directeur Général de la Démocratie et des Affaires Politiques

INFORMATION NOTE

    FOR THE ATTENTION OF THE MINISTERS DEPUTIES

    __________

NOTE D'INFORMATION

    A L'ATTENTION DES DELEGUES DES MINISTRES

    RE: Report from the Council of Europe Field Offices and other Structures* /

    May 2008

     Rapport des Bureaux et autres structures du Conseil de l‟Europe sur le terrain* /

    mai 2008

    Please find attached the Report from the Council of Europe Field Offices and other Structures for May 2008.

_________________________

    Veuillez trouver ci-joint le rapport des Bureaux et autres structures du Conseil de l‟Europe sur le terrain pour mai 2008.

Ce document n‟existe qu‟en anglais

* For a more complete list of activities, see the Council of Europe activities database (CEAD)

     http://dsp.coe.int/CEAD / Pour une liste plus complète des activités, voir la base de données des activités du Conseil de l‟Europe (CEAD) – http://dsp.coe.int/CEAD

     DPA/Inf(2008)17

Yerevan

1. Political and legislative developments

The Armenian authorities provided information to the Council of Europe about steps taken

    to implement PACE Resolution 1609 on the functioning of democratic institutions in

    Armenia. According to the information provided, it is planned to establish an ad hoc parliamentary inquiry into the events of first March. There are also plans to promote greater involvement of the parliamentary opposition, reform the electoral process further, and revise the Law on Radio and Television to ensure that regulatory bodies are “truly representative of Armenian society”.

The Office of the Prosecutor General announced at the end of May that 49 people were

    being held in preliminary detention on charges connected with the 1 March events, and

    cases involving 64 others had already gone to trial (the latter group includes an unspecified number of people who remain in detention). Verdicts have been pronounced in 24 cases, with the defendants found guilty in each case; nine persons have been sentenced to prison

    terms (between one and 3.5 years), with the remaining persons sentenced to probation.

    One of the oppositionist detainees, Aram Karapetyan (leader of the New Times Party, which supported presidential candidate and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian) who was detained on 24 February on charges of “false crime reporting”, was transferred to a medical

    centre on 15 May due to health problems. On 26 May, Mr Karapetyan was released on condition that he remains in the country.

On 21 May, the Parliament passed, in the first reading, amendments to the Law on Rallies,

    drafted following discussions with the Venice Commission. According to information provided by the Armenian Parliament to the Venice Commission, the amendments are expected to be adopted in a second reading on 11 June.

President Sarkisian expressed the intention to set up a Public Council or Chamber

    involving various political forces, activists, and intellectuals representing a broad cross-section of the population, to discuss key challenges facing the country. This initiative met with a mistrustful reception on the part of the opposition and civil society, who have argued that such an initiative would be meaningless unless the “political prisoners” are released.

In its final report (issued on 30 May) on the 19 February Presidential Election,

    OSCE/ODIHR concluded that, while the election mostly met international standards during the pre-election period and during voting hours, serious challenges emerged after election day. According to the report, this displayed an insufficient regard for democratic standards and devalued the overall election process. In particular, the vote count demonstrated deficiencies of accountability and transparency, and complaints and appeals procedures were not fully effective.

At a parliamentary hearing (5 June) on the Ombudsman‟s ad hoc report concerning the

    presidential elections and the events of 1 March (which called into question the official version of the events of 1 March), the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Justice, as well as several MPs from the ruling Republican Party, strongly criticised the Ombudsman for “exceeding his powers” and making a political report.

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    Several changes took place in the leadership of the National Police and other agencies.

    The Head of the National Police, Hayk Harutyunyan, was replaced by Alik Sarkisian, who had been serving as Governor of the Ararat region since 2000; this was followed by the dismissal of the First Deputy Head of the National Police, Ararat Mahtesyan. Grigori Sarkisian (Alik Sarkisian‟s brother), the Head of the State Protection Service (the agency responsible for the security of high-ranking officials) was also dismissed. A new Head of the State Customs Service was appointed.

    During the reference period, three Government Ministers (Agriculture, Education and Science, and Labour and Social Affairs) resigned following their election to the Dashnak Party Bureau, and their posts were taken up by other members of the same party. A Dashnak Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hrayr Karapetyan, was elected to replace his fellow party member Vahan Hovannisian, who resigned shortly after the February presidential election.

    On 29 May, the Administrative Court rejected the claim for unlawful dismissal filed by four of the Foreign Ministry officials who were relieved of their duties in February for

    publicly criticising the conduct of the presidential elections. Former Deputy Prosecutor General Gagik Jhangiryan - who was dismissed for publicly expressing support to Ter-Petrosian, and was detained shortly thereafter and charged with illegal weapons possession and violence against an official also filed a claim for unlawful dismissal with the

    Administrative Court.

    The National Police submitted a motion to the Administrative Court to authorise the expulsion of Lebanese national Jirayr Sefilyan, a veteran of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh and supporter of Ter-Petrosian, upon the completion of his 18-month prison sentence for illegal weapons possession on 9 June. The plans to expel Mr Sefilyan from

    Armenia have been criticised both by the opposition and by the Dashnak Party.

On 28 May, Arsen Kharatyan, a young opposition activist was assaulted by unknown

    persons in the centre of the city. Mr Kharatyan is the son of Ms Hranush Kharatyan (herself a member of the opposition National Democratic Party), who was dismissed on 6 March from her post as Head of the Governmental Department on National and Religious Minorities.

    During the month, elections were held in four communities of Yerevan and in the town of Hrazdan, and other local elections will take place in September and October this year.

2. Council of Europe action

Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio visited Armenia (19 to 20 May) to

    participate in a conference on domestic violence, organised by the Armenian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Deputy Secretary General met with the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Labour and Social Affairs, and the Ombudsman. During her talks with the authorities, she underlined the importance of complying with the requirements of PACE Resolution 1609 (2008) on the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia.

In a press release issued on 28 May, the PACE Monitoring Committee expressed concern

    that initiatives taken by the Armenian authorities to address the demands made in PACE Resolution 1609 (2008) on the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia “have led to only a few tangible results”. In particular, the Monitoring Committee was seriously

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    concerned by the lack of any noticeable progress on the opening of an independent and credible inquiry into the events of 1 March. The committee also regretted that no progress had been made regarding the release of persons detained on seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges.

    From 12 to 16 May, an assessment visit to Armenia took place with the aim of formulating country-specific assistance activities in the framework of the Joint CoE-EC Programme

    Freedom of Expression and Information in the South Caucasus and Moldova 2008-2009.

    Two CoE activities in the area of local democracy took place during the reference period: an expert meeting (15 May) on the Draft Law on Yerevan and a fact-finding mission to update

    the National Training Strategy for Local Government (3 to 4 June). The Government will

    submit a new version of the Draft Law on Yerevan to Parliament at its Autumn session.

3. Other action co-operation and co-ordination with partner organisations

    During the month, the SRSG took part in a number of meetings with international partners, civil society, and the Armenian Ombudsman, relating to various areas of common interest (donor co-ordination, follow-up to PACE Resolution 1609 (2008), etc.).

4. Activities of the Information Office

    Publication of the bilingual IOCE Newsletter, featuring an article by SG Terry Davis, interviews with SRSG Bojana Urumova and Director of Communication Seda Pumpyanskaya, and the Human Rights Commissioner‟s report on his Special Mission to Armenia. The electronic version is available on www.coe.am. Preparation and translation of

    3 press releases for website and dissemination. Translation and summarising of the articles from the print press for the daily news digest on the website under

    http://www.coe.am/digests.php?date=26-04-2008

The IOCE provided a review of the media coverage of DSG‟s visit to Armenia.

    On 5 and 12 May, the IOCE staged two puppet plays for schoolchildren in the village of Shenavan of the region of Aragatsotn and in the town of Charentsavan in the region of Kotayk, organised in the framework of Building a Europe for and with Children. Around

    120 participants in Shenavan and 200 in Charentsavan attended the plays, including schoolchildren, teachers, parents and education specialists. The events were covered by local TV channels.

; Statistics of the office:

    a) general information/library 100 phone inquiries

    b) ECtHR information 4 persons

    c) Website: www.coe.am

    - Total Hits: 44875/ Average Hits per Day: 1448/ Average Visitor per Day: 51

    - Total Visitors: 1581

Ms Bojana URUMOVA

    Special Representative of the SG

    Tel: +374 10 24 33 85 - Fax: +374 10 24 38 75

    E-mail: bojana.urumova@coe.int

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    Baku

1. Political and legislative developments

    On 14 May, amendments to Electoral Code proposed by the government were discussed in the Parliament‟s “Commission on Legal Policy and State Construction”. Over the last two years, the Azerbaijani authorities had been working in close consultation with the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR in preparing modifications to the Code. The extent to which proposals made by the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR are taken into account fuelled political debate in Parliament and outside. Amendments were first discussed in a plenary session of Parliament on 30 May and passed by the Parliament on 5 June.

    In respect to the forthcoming presidential election, the Central Electoral Commission informed on 28 May that, according to recently up-dated voters‟ lists, a total number of

    4,834,584 citizens will be entitled to cast a vote for the election.

    On 14 May, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, a local court ordered the cancellation of the registration of the Electoral Monitoring Committee (EMC). Founded on 19 February 2006 as a non-governmental organisation, EMC was registered with the Ministry of Justice on 1 February 2008. The primary activity of the EMC is to monitor (pre) election processes and promoting electoral reforms in the country. Following the court verdict, EMC complained about its websites being blocked and its local and regional representatives being harassed by the authorities.

    On 30 May, the Parliament also adopted amendments to the law on freedom of assembly.

    On two occasions in the course of this month, the opposition “Musavat” party decided to postpone the organisation of a public protest on the basis that the authorities refused to provide them with appropriate locations. On Republic Day (28 May) - marking this year the 90th anniversary of the first Azerbaijani Republic - a group of twenty young activists staged a protest in the city centre; the group was rapidly and peacefully disbanded by the police.

    On 21 May, the Prosecutor Office closed a criminal case that it first initiated against two police officers in relation with the beating of a journalist which took place on 22 February. Three weeks later, the same journalist was knifed in the chest in circumstances that remained disputed (see previous report). The Prosecutor Office‟s decision of 21 May was strongly

    criticized in opposition newspapers. Concerns were also raised with respect to the immediate safety of the journalist.

    The trial of a group of seventeen persons accused of terrorist activities and illegal possession of weapons started before the Court of Grave Crime on 30 May. The group, headed by a Saudi citizen, was arrested by the Azerbaijani police force in autumn last year (see November report).

    2. Council of Europe action

    On 2-4 May, Mr Jean-Paul Costa, President of the European Court of Human Rights, paid an thofficial visit to Azerbaijan and participated in a Conference on the occasion of the 85

    anniversary of the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan. Mr Costa also had meetings with President Ilham Aliyev, Minister of Justice and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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    On 7-8 May, a training session for civil servants on ethical conduct and performance evaluation was held as part of the AZPAC Project co-ordinated by the Council of Europe and the Commission on Combating Corruption of the Republic of Azerbaijan. On 14 May, a public awareness seminar to introduce local authorities and NGOs with the new Anti-corruption Strategy and Action Plan was held in Lankaran.

    On 18-20 May, Ms Jivkova and Mr Herkel, co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly, visited Baku with a view to preparing a draft report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.

    On 16-17 May, in Sheki, and on 23-24 May, in Shirvan, Council of Europe experts participated in the sessions of the cascaded training seminars for prosecutors on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (CEAD 23068).

    On 20-22 May, in co-operation with Ministry of Interior, the Council of Europe organised “Train-the-trainers” courses for police officers in the capital and in the regions to increase implementation of the European human rights standards in the daily work of the police forces (CEAD 12605).

    On 29 May, the third seminar of the 2008 curriculum of the School of Political Studies was organised in Baku (CEAD 22883).

    3. Other action / co-ordination, and co-operation, with partner organisations

    On 2 May, the SRSG attended the International Conference devoted to the 85th anniversary of the Supreme Court on “Protection of the Democratic Values in Administration of Justice”.

    The same day, the SRSG took part in a Human Dimension meeting organised at the initiative of the French Embassy.

    On 5 May, Office representatives participated in the conference organised by the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan Republic on “Integration of disabled people to the society: problems and perspectives”.

    On 7 May, the SRSG took part in the first meeting of the OSCE Ambassador Working Group with regard to the Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan.

    On 15 May, at the invitation of the Judicial Legal Council, an Office representative monitored an examination session for judges.

    On 27 May, an Office representative participated in a conference “90th anniversary of foundation of Azerbaijan Republic and acknowledgment of the voting right of women” organised jointly by UNFPA, Heydar Aliyev Foundation and State Commission of AR on family, women and children‟s issues.

    On 29 May, the Office hosted a regular meeting of the International Legal Reform Group with participation of representatives of OSCE, USAID, ABA CEELI, GTZ and UNCHR.

    Through the month of May, a series of training seminars for law students and young lawyers on the European Convention on Human Rights were organised in the Office compounds. Participants were awarded with certificates. On 22 May, the Office organised an asphalt

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    drawing contest for schoolchildren within the context of the anti-discrimination campaign. Thirty schoolchildren from twenty different schools of Baku participated in the contest. On 23 May, the Office conducted a brain-ring contest among senior schoolchildren of twelve schools within the framework of the campaign “Abolishing corporal punishment of children”.

    Statistics: The Office translated sixteen press releases as well as a fact sheet and related documents in connection the campaigns “Abolishing Corporal Punishment” and “Stop Domestic Violence against Women”. The Office answered a hundred and sixty requests by phone, including forty one coming from journalists, mainly in relation to forthcoming visits of Council of Europe high level delegations. The website of the Office registered two hundred hits.

Mr Denis BRIBOSIA

    Special Representative of the SG

    Tel: +994 124 975 489 - Fax: +994 124 975 475

    E-mail: denis.bribosia@coe.int

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Sarajevo

1. Political and legislative developments

    The main event this month was the announcement that the SAA would finally be signed on 16 June in Luxembourg and the decision of the EU on 26 May to launch the dialogue on visa liberalisation with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Preparations for the upcoming local elections on 5 October 2008

    On 7 May, a day before the Central Election Commission officially announced the date of local elections in 2008, both Houses of the State Parliament convened in a special session and adopted amendments to the Election Law. As a result, residents of Srebrenica recorded in the 1991 census may now register to vote in the forthcoming municipal elections there. This new franchise applies only to Srebrenica‟s pre-war residents and only for the local

    elections scheduled for 5 October 2008. All other refugees and displaced persons who have taken up permanent residence in other communities can no longer vote in their pre-war place of residence.

President Silajdzic invokes “Vital National Interest”

    On 7 May, President Silaijdzic was outvoted 2 to 1 in a meeting of the 3 member Presidency of the country, thus paving the way for ratification of a State agreement between BiH and the Serbian Orthodox Church. He then invoked “Vital National interest” to veto ratification of this agreement.

    In order for this veto to be upheld, it must be confirmed with a two-thirds majority by the House of Peoples of the Federation. President Silaijdzic however did not receive the support of the Bosniak caucus in the HoP since all SDA delegates abstained. This is expected to further strain the already difficult relations between the 2 major Bosniak parties.

Public Broadcasting Reform

On 21 May, the Federation Constitutional Court held a public hearing regarding the Croats‟

    objections - invoking „vital national interest‟ - to the long-blocked Federation law on public

    broadcasting. A ruling by the Federation court is expected soon.

    At State level, on 15 May, the House of Peoples, the upper house of the State Parliamentary Assembly, adopted a non-binding resolution asking the Council of Ministers to submit legislation that would allow for the creation of a specifically Croat public broadcaster. This in turn prompted the Bosniaks to invoke Vital National Interest. The ensuing parliamentary commission having failed to resolve the matter, the Bosniaks submitted their case to the State Constitutional Court on 20 May.

Brcko District

    On 6 May, Brcko Supervisor Raffi Gregorian issued a Supervisory Order amending the Statute of Brcko District and the new Rules of Procedure for the District Assembly as well as a new Election Law of Brcko District. The amended Statute institutes a mechanism that prevents outvoting of a constituent people in the Assembly, establishes a more efficient

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    system of voting in the Assembly, and provides for representation of national minorities by the addition of two seats to the Assembly.

War crimes

    The President of the ICTY, Fausto Pocar, visited BiH from 19 to 21 May. He praised the work of the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court and described BiH‟s co-operation with

    the ICTY as good. He also recalled the urgent need to build a state prison.

    On 30 May, the High Representative ordered the seizure of the travel documents of 16 persons linked to ICTY indictee Stojan Zupljanin, without however making their names public. He also removed Predrag Ceranic from the post he held in the State Intelligence and Security Agency (OSA), despite a domestic court‟s decision ordering his reinstatement.

2. Council of Europe action

Human Rights

    15-16 May, Mostar, a two-day cascade training seminar for lawyers on the Procedure before the Constitutional Court of BiH and the European Court of Human Rights, and on Articles 6 and 8 of the ECHR and Art. 1 of Protocol 1 to ECHR. (CEAD 22895)

    19-20 May, Sarajevo, a two-day cascade training seminar for staff in the relevant ministries

    on the rights of prisoners and persons in custody, focusing on the procedure before the European Court of Human Rights and Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the European Convention of

    (CEAD 22669) Human Rights.

    22-23 May, Trebinje, a two-day cascade training seminar for public attorneys on the procedure before the Constitutional Court of BiH and the European Court of Human Rights and on Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 1 of Protocol 1 (CEAD 22671).

    Prison reform

    7 May, Sarajevo, meeting of local prison staff trainers to create the evaluation tools necessary to assess the future training sessions to be held until the end of the year. These will focus on training manuals for core competencies, processing prisoners‟ complaints and risk

    and needs assessment procedures of the prison population.

    27 May, Mount Vlasic, meeting of the State and Entity ministers of justice with the CoE experts to discuss how to improve the co-ordination/integration of the three(four) prison systems in BiH. Priorities agreed are better health care for the prisoners, rationalization of the prison capacities and more appropriate solutions for education and training of the prison staff organised by the prison system administrations at the state and entity levels.

    On 28 May, the CoE non resident expert also met the Deputy Head of the EU Police Mission and the EUPM detention systems‟ expert to discuss future co-operation and co-ordination of

    activities.

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