Russia’s return to the Council of Europe: What balance between rights and obligations?

Nieuwspoort International Press Centre, 10 Lange Poten, 2511 CL The Hague




 09:00 – 14:00

Free admission but please register here

Enquiries: [email protected]

This summer, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted by 118 to 62 to restore the full rights of the Russian Federation in Europe’s oldest pan-continental body dedicated to upholding human rights. They key argument from proponents was that membership in the Council serves the interests of Russian citizens, keeping them under the protection of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and under the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. “Russia belongs in the Council of Europe – with all the rights and obligations that entails,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the driving-force behind Russia’s return, told journalists as the decision was taken.

Now that the rights have been restored, it is time to talk about the obligations. Across the spectrum of freedoms guaranteed by the Convention, the Russian government is falling far short of the standards expected of a Council of Europe member state. Elections on both national and local level lack genuine competition, as witnessed most recently in this year’s legislative polls in Moscow that saw the removal of major opposition candidates. Peaceful demonstrations are violently dispersed by police, with protesters beaten and arrested. The judicial system is used by the government to punish political opponents and members of undesirable religious groups: the Memorial Human Rights Centre counts at least 304 people who correspond to the Council of Europe’s criteria of political prisoners. Increasingly, murder is used as a tool of silencing dissent. Nearly five years after the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the organizers and masterminds remain unidentified and unindicted, with the Russian government refusing all cooperation with international oversight procedures – including in the Council of Europe itself.

On 11th December, political leaders and human rights advocates from the Netherlands and Russia will meet at the Nieuwspoort International Press Centre in The Hague to discuss the risks and benefits of Russia’s return to the Council of Europe, and mechanisms that are available to keep the Russian government to account over the violations of its international commitments.


09:00  Registration and coffee

10:00  Panel One: Human rights, rule of law, democracy: is Russia meeting Council of Europe standards?

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian Opposition Politician, Chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom

Sergei Davidis, Head of the Political Prisoner Support Programme, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia

Vadim Prokhorov, Lawyer for the Family of Boris Nemtsov, Former Member of the Russian Central Electoral Commission

Natalia Arno, Russian Democracy Activist, President of the Free Russia Foundation

11:00  Panel Two: Russia’s return to the Council of Europe: what benefits and risks?

Lize Glas, Assistant Professor of International and European Law, Radboud University, The Netherlands

Scott Martin, International Human Rights Lawyer, Global Rights Compliance, The Hague

12:00  Lunch break

13:00  How can Western governments and civil society respond?

Jan Marinus Wiersma, Senior Visiting Fellow, Clingendael Institute, Member of the European Parliament, 1994–2009

Harry Hummel, Senior Policy Advisor, Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Jelger Groeneveld, Secretary of the Department of International Cooperation, D66 Party, The Netherlands

14:00  Event concludes