Council of Europe tackles restrictive NGO laws and urges better protection for human rights defenders.

In its latest session on January 28, 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted by a massive majority two resolutions on NGO restrictions and human rights defenders.

How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe? highlights a dramatic deterioration in the situation of civil society in a number of member States. Azerbaijan, Russia and annexed Crimea are particularly affected following the adoption of laws and regulations aimed at curtailing NGOs and human rights defenders by imposing inappropriate restrictions on their activities. The Assembly pinpoints the continuing deterioration of human rights in Azerbaijan, calling upon member States to address human rights and fundamental freedoms during bilateral co-operation.

Strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States focuses on the increased reprisals against human rights defenders in certain member States, including Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey, as well as a marked deterioration in Georgia. Smear campaigns, threats, intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders, including lawyers, are on the rise. The Assembly deplores that some of the most serious attacks, including murders, abductions and torture, have still not been properly investigated, creating a spiralling and damaging climate of fear.

The recommendations issued by PACE echo those submitted by FIDH through its Observatory, namely to repeal restrictive laws on NGOs, bring existing legislation into conformity with international human rights instruments regarding freedom of association, assembly and expression and ensure NGO consultation on new legislation affecting civil society. In addition, the explanatory reports related to both resolutions contain a number of cases and situations which have been covered by the Observatory. The protection of human rights defenders remains a priority and all forms of attack should be vigorously investigated to fight against impunity.

Read more