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Information Documents

    DGAP/Inf(2007)14

     16 April 2007

    With the compliments of the Director General of Political Affairs Avec les compliments du Directeur Général 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 Outpost* / March 2007

     Rapport des Bureaux et de l’antenne du Conseil de l’Europe sur le terrain* /

    mars 2007

Please find attached the Report from the Council of Europe Field Offices and Outpost for

    March 2007.

_________________________

    Veuillez trouver ci-joint le rapport des Bureaux et de l‟antenne du Conseil de l‟Europe sur le terrain pour mars 2007.

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

     2 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    FIELD OFFICES

    YEREVAN CHISINAU

    Ms Bojana URUMOVA Mr Vladimir RISTOVSKI Special Representative of the SG Special Representative of the SG Tel: +374 10 24 33 85 Tel: +373 22 202 304 or +373 22 202 212 374 Fax: +374 10 24 38 75 Fax: +373 22 202 305 E-mail: bojana.urumova@coe.int E-mail: vladimir.ristovski@coe.int BAKU BELGRADE

    Mr Denis BRIBOSIA Mr Denis HUBER Special Representative of the SG Special Representative of the SG Tel: +994 124 975 489 Tel: +381 11 3 088 411 Fax: +994 124 975 475 Fax: +381 11 3 086 494 E-mail: denis.bribosia@coe.int E-mail: denis.huber@coe.int SARAJEVO PODGORICA

    Mr Tim CARTWRIGHT Mr Vladimir PHILIPOV Special Representative of the SG Special Representative of the SG Tel: +387 33 264 360 or 361 Tel: +381 81 230 819 or +381 81 230 825 Fax: +387 33 233 937 Fax: +381 81 230 176 E-mail: tim.cartwright@coe.int E-mail: vladimir.philipov@coe.int TBILISI PRISTINA

    Mr Igor GAON Mr Zurab KATCHKATCHISHVILI Special Representative of the SG Head of Office

    Tel: +995 32 98 54 40 Tel: +381 38 243 749 Fax: +995 32 98 96 57 Fax: +381 38 243 752 E-mail: igor.gaon@coe.int E-mail: zurab.katchkatchishvili@coe.int

     OUTPOST

     TIRANA

    Ms Delphine FREYMANN

    Special Adviser

    Tel: +355 4 22 84 19

    Fax: +355 4 24 89 40

    E-mail: delphine.freymann@coe.int

    3 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    Yerevan

1. Political and legislative developments

A heart attack suddenly claimed the life of Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan (aged 56)

    on 25 March. Politicians from various parties - including the Opposition - reflected positively

    upon Mr Margaryan's contribution as a stabilising factor in the country's political scene.

By Presidential Decree issued on 4 April, Serge Sargsyan was relieved of his duties as

    Defence Minister and became the new Prime Minister, only 37 days before the parliamentary elections which will take place on 12 May. The constitution gives him 20 days

    to form his Ministerial team which has to be endorsed by the President. Defence Minister

    Serge Sargsyan succeeded the late Mr Margaryan as leader of the Republican Party.

    The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM), headed by Ambassador Boris Frlec (former Foreign Minister of Slovenia), arrived in Armenia on 20 March. The

    OSCE/ODIHR EOM comprises a core team of 13 staff based in Yerevan and 29 long-term

    observers who were deployed in 11 locations throughout the country on 25 March; further, it

    is envisaged that 300 short-term observers will be deployed immediately prior to the elections.

24 parties and one electoral bloc submitted registration documents to the CEC for the

    proportional list contest in time for the 28 March deadline, the largest lists being those of - in

    descending order - the Opposition Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir) Party; ARFD-

    Dashnaktsutyun and the Republican Party from the ruling coalition; and the new Prosperous

    Armenia Party, which is regarded as the power base of the President. 141 candidates were

    registered for the majoritarian contests; only the Republican Party is aiming towards a more

    extensive countrywide coverage with 26 applications. In five (out of 41 majoritarian

    constituencies) there is only one candidate.

The report of the US State Department on human rights practices in Armenia, which

    called the Government's human rights record "poor", met with strong criticism from the

    authorities, especially as regards the terms used in reference to Nagorno Karabakh and

    surrounding territories. Even though the report referred to certain improvements following the

    2005 constitutional reform (e.g. some increase in judicial independence, access of citizens to

    the Constitutional Court) and praised tougher penalties for human trafficking, it reflected on

    several problematic areas (ill-treatment of pre-trial detainees, impunity of the security forces,

    judicial corruption, media freedom). Whereas the authorities called the report "subjective"

    and marred by "factual errors", elsewhere the reactions were more positive; for example, the

    Opposition-oriented daily Aravot called the report "moderate".

The Court of Cassation rejected the appeal of Arman Babajanian against his 3.5 year

    prison sentence for illegally avoiding military service. It may be recalled that Mr Babajanian

    - who was the former Editor-in-Chief of Zhamanak-Yerevan (Yerevan Times) opposition-oriented daily - admitted that he committed the offence of which he was convicted, but

    considered that his sentence was disproportionate and constituted selective enforcement in

    retaliation for his journalistic activities. He was listed in the US State Department report on

    human rights practices as a possible political prisoner. The lawyers of Mr Babajanian

    announced their intention to apply to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of

    Human Rights.

    4 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

The Yerevan Press Club (YPC) media NGO initiated the development of a Code of Conduct

    of Media Representatives, with a view to establishing a media self-regulatory body. The

    Code of Conduct, which has been elaborated with the help of a Council of Europe expert,

    was signed by 18 media on 10 March. The signatories also committed to the Declaration on

    Election and Referendum Coverage Principles. It may be added that the YPC is conducting

    media monitoring of the pre-electoral coverage on seven television channels, with the support

    of the Open Society Institute.

    On 19 March the term of office of three members (including the Chairman, Grigor Amalyan)

    of the National Commission On Television and Radio expired. During the tenure of Mr

    Amalyan the Commission rejected all the broadcasting license bids by A1+ and Noyan Tapan

    television companies, which had their broadcasting licences withdrawn in 2002.

    In March the President ratified amendments to each of the following laws and sub-legal acts:

    Law on Television and Radio, the Regulations to the National Commission on Television and

    Radio, the Law On Citizenship, the Electoral Code, Criminal Code and Codes of Criminal

    and Civil Procedure, Administrative Code, the laws on Judicial Service, Formation of Courts

    and Council of Justice, and the Law on Compulsory Military Service.

On 19 March the Armenian and Iranian Presidents officially inaugurated a newly constructed

    pipeline that will transfer Iranian natural gas to Armenia.

2. Council of Europe action

At its 70th plenary session held from 16 to 17 March, the Council of Europe's Venice

    Commission adopted the Final Joint Opinion on the amendments to the Electoral Code,

    prepared together with OSCE/ODIHR. The Opinion concluded that the Electoral Code

    provides a good basis for the organisation of genuinely democratic elections - despite the fact

    that some recommendations were not addressed in the adopted text - and that the key

    challenge remaining is political will for good faith implementation of the legislation.

At its meeting on 15 March the PACE Bureau decided to set up a 41-member Ad Hoc

    Committee to observe the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Further, the PACE plans

    to send a pre-electoral mission from 11 to 13 April, consisting of four members and two staff.

    The pre-electoral mission and the main observation mission will be headed by Leo Platvoet

    (Senator from the Netherlands, Group of the United European Left).

In the framework of the CoE Action plan to support parliamentary elections, a conference on

    "Free and Fair Elections as a Cornerstone of Democracy" organised by the Directorate

    General of Political Affairs was held in Yerevan on 27 March. The conference brought

    together representatives of political parties, authorities, the mass media and civil society, and

    led to lively discussions on the prerequisites for a democratic and transparent electoral

    process. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister died only two days before, the Conference

    was well attended and extensively covered on television. The SRSG opened and chaired the

    conference, and speeches were made by PACE member Andres Herkel (keynote speaker), the

    Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the

    EU Presidency represented by the German Ambassador, and others.

     5 DGAP/Inf(2007)14 The Council of Europe Office in Yerevan continued to pursue the implementation of activities

    of the CoE Action Plan to support parliamentary elections (cf. also Information Office activities, below); for example, there were regular contacts with the Central Electoral

    Commission to set the groundwork for the implementation of Venice Commission activities

    (in particular, technical assistance to the electoral administration).

    A training seminar on selected substantive articles of the ECHR and the ECPT was organised, in cooperation with the Collaboration for Democracy Centre (a local NGO), from

    28 to 29 March. The SRSG opened the event and made a presentation on the work of the CPT.

    The seminar attendees were primarily civil society representatives.

    3. Other action / co-ordination and co-operation with partner organisations The SRSG participated in a joint press conference on elections, held at the UN House, on the

    occasion of the presentation of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on elections (covering

    the basic right to vote, women and voting, electoral fraud, and vote-selling). EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby met with the SRSG on 2 March to

    discuss the political climate in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.

    The SRSG actively participated in international working groups on various topics, including elections and anti-corruption (working groups coordinated by OSCE), as well as

    coordinating action with OSCE on specific areas of interest to the CoE (media, gender, anti-

    trafficking). The SRSG also attended a donor coordination meeting at UN House on 29 March,

    where the European Commission was represented among other donors.

4. Activities of the Information Office

Publications and translations

    Preparation and/or translation of four press releases for the website and dissemination.

    Translation and summarising of the articles from the print press for the daily media digest on the website under http://www.coe.am/en/?go=digests&d=20061004#1366 .

    Weekly monitoring on the Council of Europe visibility in the Armenian media for the Directorate of Communication.

    Support to Directorate of Communication in publishing the Armenian version of the CoE Law book.

    Support in preparation of the publication of the Armenian version of the Revised Social Charter.

Organisation

    Contribution to the implementation of the CoE Action Plan in Support of Parliamentary

    Elections in Armenia. IOCE also organised the production of the short film on the new

    modalities of the vote. The first version of the film will be submitted by the production

    company on 9 April 2007.

On 29 March, IOCE hosted 16 students from regional NGOs and youth clubs who visited

    Yerevan within the framework of European integration as a Guarantee of Peace and

     6 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    Democracy in the Region: Dialogue with Regional Youth organised by the NGO UFSD (Urban Foundation for Sustainable Development).

On 30 March, 20 students from Armenian Russian Slavonic University visited the

    Information Office library. SRSG made a presentation on the Council of Europe and

    answered questions regarding CoE mission and CoE-Armenia relations.

Several meetings for preparation of a play for children in cooperation with the Puppet Theatre

    took place. The event is scheduled for June 2007 will be carried out in the framework of the

    CoE campaign Building a Europe for and with Children.

Attendance

    Seminar on Violence against Journalists, 2 March 2007, organised by Internews Media Support NGO.

    Presentation of the Results of Media Monitoring in the run-up to 12 May parliamentary elections, 7 March 2007, organised by Armenian Centre for National and International

    Studies.

? Statistics of the office:

    a) general information/library 54 visitors, 290 phone inquiries

    b) ECtHR information provided to four persons

    c) Website: www.coe.am

     7 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    Baku

1. Political and legislative developments

The domestic political scene was marked by two separate incidents that reflected an

    increasing level of tension within the ruling party Yeni Azerbaijan (YAP) chaired by

    President Aliyev. On 15 March, a prominent political figure and founder of the party strongly

    criticised government policy and verbally attacked several holders of key posts in government.

    He was expelled from the party on 27 March.

On 16 March, following the presentation by the Prime Minister of the government‟s annual

    report, a fist-fight broke out between two parliamentarians. The incident led to the arrest of

    one of them who, three days later, was remanded for two months following a rushed decision

    by Parliament to lift his immunity.

These events gave rise to rumours about an attempt by certain personalities within the

    dominant political circle to set up a new political party.

Meanwhile, opposition parties not represented in Parliament also experienced some

    turbulence. On 6 March, the Azadlig alliance decided to no longer consider the Azerbaijan

    Democrat Party (ADP) as part of the alliance, following the recent turmoil that affected the

    party last month (see report 02/07).

The major opposition party represented in Parliament, the Musavat Party, organised a new

    protest action on 18 March and “urged the government to improve living conditions for the

    people”. The meeting gathered around one thousand supporters and no incidents were

    reported.

From a human rights perspective, on 7 March, the U.S. State Department released a critical

    annual report on human rights in Azerbaijan. On 2 March, commemorative events were

    organised two years after the brutal assassination of Elmar Huseynov, editor in chief of a well

    known weekly review, whose killers have still not been brought to justice. In the course of the

    month, hearings took place in three separate cases involving journalists who had been pursued

    for libel and/or insult.

On 15 March, the Court of Appeal turned down a complaint brought by Mr Ali Kerimli,

    Chairman of the Popular Front Party, who has been denied his passport for several months.

On 19 March 2007, President Aliyev adopted a decree pardoning eleven of the persons on the

    lists of the NGO members of the Task Force on prisoners. As a result, ten persons were

    released and one person‟s sentence was reduced from life to 25 years' imprisonment.

2. Council of Europe action

On 5-6 March, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, in cooperation with the

    Norwegian Association of Local and Authorities, organised a training session with the newly

    established Azerbaijani‟s association of municipalities.

    8 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    On 14-15 March, a delegation of Council of Europe experts (DG I Legal Affairs) conducted a project formulation mission in the framework of the cooperation programme “Technical assistance activities in the fight against corruption, economic crime and money laundering”. (CEAD 18129)

    On 22-25 March, the Baku School of Political Studies held its second seminar (CEAD 18725).

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

    On 2 March, the Office took part in a commemorative event for the second anniversary of the murder of journalist Elmar Huseynov.

    On 4 March, the Office observed the conduct of the bar exam organised by the Collegium of Advocates.

    On 9 March, the Office organised, in cooperation with local NGOs, a seminar on the Council of Europe‟s campaign “Stop domestic violence against women” which was attended by

    students and representatives of civil society.

    On 29 March, the Office participated in a roundtable discussion on “Prospects, benefits and perils of regional interaction in the South Caucasus” organised by the London based organisation LINKS

    Statistics: In March, the Office answered sixty eight requests from journalists, provided thirty four visitors with information on procedure before the European Court of Human Rights and delivered training materials and documents to three local partners. Forty eight university scholars and students visited the library of the Office and made use of its ressources.

     9 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

Sarajevo

1. Political and legislative developments

By the end of the month, half a year after the elections, the business of establishing the

    organs of governance at State and Entity levels was at last completed. The inaugural session

    of the State House of Peoples which includes former Presidency member Tihic and ex-

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivanic, took place on 14 March, completing the legislature at State

    level.

    At Entity level, whilst the Republika Srpska has been fully functional for several months, matters in the Federation proved much more complicated, and ultimately involved an

    unwelcome spat between the FBiH President and the High Representative. FBiH legislation

    still provides for OHR vetting of candidates for ministerial office. On 22 March, the FBiH

    House of Representatives voted a government before receiving the green light from OHR on

    those nominations. As a result, the High Representative resorted to the Bonn powers the

    following day to annul the FBiH HoR decision, noting that “there had been an attempt to

    manipulate the vetting process”. In particular, OHR had concerns about the candidate put

    forward for the post of Minister of the Interior. Finally, after a new candidature had been

    vetted by OHR, the FBiH HoR was able to approve a government on 30 March, and at the

    same session adopted the FBiH 2007 budget. Many municipal authorities and some

    cantonal ones still remain in disarray however.

    On the broader political front, the ICJ Genocide decision began to radicalise both rhetoric and party policy. Many commentators described the atmosphere during March as being more

    akin to that of 1991 than of 1996 or even 2006. Dominant Bosniak political forces claimed the

    ICJ ruling invalidated the very existence of the RS; Serb politicians became even more

    entrenched in their defence of Entity prerogatives and competencies.

During the month, this tension played out in two major issues Police Reform and the status

    of Srebrenica itself. In Police Reform, abandonment of the RS Police had long been a sticking point for RS PM Dodik. Progressive deadlines slipped, but hope remained that

    agreement might be reached so that European Commissioner Olli Rehn might initial the

    SAA with BiH during his visit to Sarajevo on 16 March. As the visit approached, negotiations

    intensified, involving facilitation and lobbying by prominent International Community actors.

    In the end, no agreement was concluded, and the SAA opportunity appears to have been lost

    until 2008. Interestingly, it emerged that contrary to the previous trend of these negotiations,

    Bosniak, and not Serb, politicians had been the deal-breakers in the end-game.

    This failure to begin the formal SAA process, for which Police Reform is a sine qua non, was met with a somewhat surprisingly muted reaction from the political class, media and

    population alike. The IC may wring its hands and talk the talk, with notably robust statements

    from Olli Rehn both before the European and BiH Parliaments, and the EU Presidency in

    Sarajevo on the 50 anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, but on the domestic scene this major

    set-back was greeted with almost a tired inevitability, an absence of surprise or real

    disappointment.

The ICJ decision also raised the temperature, not surprisingly, in Srebrenica itself. The

    Bosniak leaders there threatened organised mass exodus; Bosniak political parties declared

    10 DGAP/Inf(2007)14

    that the municipality should be removed from the RS and be afforded special status similar to

    that of Brcko, prompting the IC, and in particular the OHR, to recall that the Dayton

    Constitution could be amended only by constitutional means; the Municipality itself adopted a

    Resolution calling for special status, which met with declarations of support from SBiH, SDA

    and SDP. After a rather unseemly hiatus, the RS government responded to these various

    initiatives with an increasingly compliant attitude to the ICJ decision, and with a decision to

    make Srebrenica an area of „special economic and social significance‟, promising an injection

    of government funding.

Difficulties with Police Reform and reactions to the ICJ decision will however continue to

    make themselves felt more broadly, and will hamper steps towards constitution reform in

    particular.

    The month also witnessed the absence of real coalition at State level. The Council of Ministers (CoM) struggled to find a quorum in the early part of the month as what had

    essentially been a power-sharing arrangement at executive-level fractured on policy

    differences. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was the subject of an ultimately unsuccessful

    motion of censure in the HoR, and attracted criticism from the Presidency; parliament

    struggled to reach agreement on a number of key reforms, including the Higher Education

    Law, the draft of which was at least retained in parliamentary process.

    Other developments of note included commencement of a constitutional reform process in the RS; positive if tardy moves in both the RS and FBiH to implement the Constitutional

    Court decision on the symbols and insignia of both Entities; a tempered response from the High Rep. to the Constitutional Court decision in the Appeal of Milorad Bilbija et al; full

    parliamentary approval of two CEB loans, including one for the refurbishing of the Mostar Gymnasium; proposal of a State Budget of some 500 M ?, over 65% of which will be spent

    on salaries, and an approved opposition motion in the HoR calling on the CoM and

    Presidency to develop a roadmap for the return of the so-called „Algerian Six‟ currently held in Guantanamo, which echoes the earlier CoE CM position.

2. Council of Europe action

General

    Monitoring of the CoE visibility in the three main newspapers (Dnevni avaz, Nezavisne

    novine and Dnevni list) and main TV news during the month in March reveals more than

    30 major stories of a positive or neutral nature, with all newspapers and TV stations covering

    the visits of the PACE and CM monitoring visits (see below). On 18 March, Nezavisne

    novine published the Children Have Rights Too! advertorial, together with articles on the situation in BiH, relevant police data, legislation and action in this area undertaken by the BiH

    Ministry for Human rights and refugees in that area. The Dosta! Awareness Rising Campaign TV spot is being broadcast by all major State and Entity TV stations, and the radio

    spot was provide to main radio stations.

    On 14-15 March, a delegation of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, led by Mr Nikolaos Dendias, Greek MP and rapporteur, made a fact finding visit

    to BiH, following on from visits to Croatia, Serbia, (Kosovo) and Montenegro.

     thFrom 22 to 27 March, the Secretariat delegation charged with drafting the 13 Monitoring

    Report, led by the Director General of Political Affairs, Jean Louis Laurens, held talks with

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