Human Rights and Rule of Law
Last up-date : 06/05/2014
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The Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law
has overall responsibility for the development and
implementation of the human rights and rule of law
standards of the Council of Europe, including the promotion
of democracy through law, the operation of relevant treaties
and related monitoring mechanisms and the development
and implementation of activities in these fields.
The Directorate General is responsible for all matters within
its competence that are relevant to the fulfilment of the
Organisation's statutory objectives.
Human Rights Directorate
Information Society and Action against
The Directorate General is organised as follows :
The Directorate works to promote, protect and
develop human rights and rule of law and to ensure
compliance of Council of Europe's member states.
For this, the directorate puts into practice the
Council of Europe's unique strategic triangle of
standard-setting, monitoring and co-operation,
which establishes mutual links between developing
legally binding standards which are monitored by
independent mechanisms and supplemented by
co-operation and support activities.
Prevention of Torture and Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) visits
places of detention, in order to assess how persons deprived of
their liberty are treated. These places include prisons, juvenile
detention centres, police stations, holding centres for immigration
detainees, psychiatric hospitals.
Execution of the European Court
of Human Rights Judgments
Respect of the European Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and, in particular, of the Court's
judgments, is a crucial element of the Council of Europe's system
for the protection of human rights, rule of law and democracy and,
hence, for democratic stability and European unification.
European Social Charter
The European Social Charter, the natural complement of the
European Convention on Human Rights, guarantees social and
economic human rights. It was adopted in 1961 and revised in
1996. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) is the
body responsible for monitoring compliance in the states party
to the Charter.
European Code of Social Security
The European Code of Social Security and its Protocol, as well as
the Revised European Code of Social Security, set standards in the
social security field on the basis of minimum harmonisation of the
level of social security, providing minimum standards and permitting
(or rather encouraging) the contracting parties to exceed these
Human Rights Intergovernmental Co-operation
The principal role of the Steering Committee for Human Rights
(CDDH), under the auspices of the Committee of Ministers, is to set
up standards commonly accepted by the 47 member States with
the aim of developing and promoting human rights in Europe and
improving the effectiveness of the control mechanism established
by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Human Rights Law and Policy
Strengthening and developing human rights through new legal and
political instruments, guaranteeing coherence and synergies in the
development of human rights law and policy.
The Oviedo Convention, signed by most of the European States,
together with its Additional Protocols, sets out the fundamental
principles applicable in day-to-day medicine as well as those
applicable to new technologies in human biology and medicine.
Human Rights Trust Fund (HRTF)
The Fund finances activities that support member states’ efforts in
implementing the European Convention on Human Rights ("the
Convention”) and other Council of Europe human rights instruments
and contributes to strengthening the sustainability of the European
Court of Human Rights.
European Programme for Human Rights Education
for Legal Professionals (HELP)
The HELP Programme supports the Council of Europe member
states in implementing the European Convention on Human Rights
(ECHR) at the national level, in accordance with the Committee of
Ministers Recommendation (2004) 4, the 2010 Interlaken and 2012
Brighton Declarations. This is done by enhancing the capacity of
judges, lawyers and prosecutors in all 47 member states to apply
the ECHR in their daily work.
Public and private law development
The European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) is an
inter-governmental body which sets new standards – and regularly
evaluates existing ones – in the field of public and private law. Its
competence is defined by the priorities of the Council of Europe and
the needs of member States; it has a well-known expertise notably
in the area of family law and and nationality. Moreover, it works in
the fields of administrative law, justice and rule of law.
Capacity building in the fields of human rights
and the rule of law
To increase awareness of the Council of Europe’s standards in
these fields, the Justice and Legal Co-operation Department
provides training to members of legal bodies and other
professionals. They are thus able to make extensive use of those
norms and case-law in their daily work at national and, where
appropriate, at international level.
Efficiency of justice - CEPEJ
The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) is
an innovative body entrusted with promoting and developing the
tools and measures aimed at improving efficiency and quality of
user-oriented judicial systems in the member States.
Judges - CCJE
The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) is an
advisory body of the Council of Europe on issues related to the
independence, impartiality and competence of judges. It is the first
body within an international organisation to be composed
exclusively of judges, and in this respect, it is unique in Europe.
Prosecutors - CCPE
Composed exclusively of prosecutors, the Consultative Council of
European Prosecutors (CCPE) is an advisory body of the Council of
Europe. It gives advice on issues related to the status of
prosecutors and the exercise of their duties, in particular to facilitate
the implementation of Recommendation Rec(2000)19 on the role of
public prosecution in the criminal justice system.
The Directorate is responsible for the Council of Europe's
work on the media, information society and for action
against crime. The Directorate's activities comprise
standard-setting, monitoring and co-operation activities on a
wide variety of issues including freedom of expression, data
protection, internet governance, cybercrime, criminal law,
fighting economic crime, corruption and money laundering
as well as action against drug trafficking and drug abuse. It
also promotes transparency and understanding of the
functioning of audiovisual industries in Europe from a legal
and economic point of view.
Media and freedom of expression
There is no true democracy without freedom of expression and
without free and pluralist media. The right to freedom of expression
also applies to new forms of mass communication. The Council of
Europe keeps freedom of expression and media standards under
constant review; it provides assistance to ensure their respect, in
line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe – the only
binding international instrument in the field – provides guidelines for
any country developing comprehensive national legislation against
Cybercrime and as a framework for international co-operation
between States Parties to this treaty.
The Convention, opened for signature on 28 January 1981, was the
first legally binding international instrument in the data protection
field. Parties to the convention are required to take the necessary
steps in their domestic legislation to apply the principles it lays down
in order to ensure respect in their territory for the fundamental human
rights of all individuals with regard to processing of personal data.
Promoting Internet governance built on the basis of human rights,
the public service value of the Internet and multi-stakeholder
European Audiovisual Observatory
The Observatory was created in 1992 in order to collect and
distribute information about the audiovisual industries in Europe. By
making this information available, the Observatory aims at
promoting greater transparency and a clearer understanding of the
ways in which the audiovisual industries in Europe function, both
from an economic and legal point of view.
European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC)
The CDPC identifies priorities for intergovernmental legal co-
operation, makes proposals to the Committee of Ministers on
activities in the fields of criminal law and procedure, criminology
and penology, and implements these activities.
Transnational criminal justice
Treaties have been negotiated within the Council of Europe
establishing a common basis for co-operation in criminal matters
across Europe and sometimes beyond. They cover co-operation
mechanisms such as extradition, mutual legal assistance and the
transfer of persons serving prison sentences.
Prisons and community sanctions and measures
The Council of Europe’s expertise in promoting more humane and
socially effective prisons is unique. It has adopted a number of legal
instruments, including the European Prison Rules and
recommendations on education in prison, prison staff, healthcare in
prison and prison overcrowding.
Criminal law cooperation
Through bilateral co-operation activities and projects, the Criminal
Law Co-operation Unit plays a major role in assisting the
beneficiary countries to integrate the Council of Europe standards
in their penitentiary, probation and law enforcement institutions.
Fighting the counterfeiting of medical products:
The Council of Europe Convention on the counterfeiting of medical
products and similar crimes involving threats to public health (CETS
No. 211) was opened for signature on 28 October 2011. The
“Medicrime convention”, as it is known, constitutes the first binding
international legal instrument criminalising offences committed in
the medical field.
Action against terrorism
The Council of Europe is dedicated to upholding human rights, the
rule of law and pluralist democracy, and is determined to combat
terrorism, which rejects these three fundamental values. Its work in
this field begain in the 1970s, but efforts have been stepped up
since 2001, following the unprecedented terrorist attacks in the
Co-operation against economic crime and corruption
Support is provided for the implementation of international and
European standards against corruption, money laundering and the
financing of terrorism. They follow up the recommendations of
GRECO and MONEYVAL and include strategic policy and
legislative advice, risk-assessments, identification of various reform
related tools, training, capacity and institution building, networking
modalities among homologue institutions in Europe, provision of
equipment and the dissemination of good practices.
Money laundering and financing of terrorism
The Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money
Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL)
evaluates compliance with relevant international and European
standards to counter these crimes in 28 Council of Europe member
states, Israel and the Holy See (including the Vatican City State).
Money laundering and financing of terrorism
The Conference of the Parties set up under the Council of Europe
Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the
Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (CETS No.
198) monitors the proper implementation of the Convention by the
Parties and, at the request of a Party, expresses an opinion on any
question concerning the interpretation and application of the
Fight against corruption: GRECO
The Group of States against corruption (GRECO) is the Council of
Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body; its 49 members comprise 48
European States and the United States of America. Its objective is to
improve member States’ capacity to fight corruption by assessing their
compliance with Council of Europe anti-corruption standards through a
process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. It helps to identify
deficiencies in national anti-corruption legislation and policies, prompting
the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms.
Drug abuse and illicit trafficking: Pompidou Group
The core mission of the Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse
and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (Pompidou Group) is to contribute to
the development of multidisciplinary, innovative, effective and
evidence-based drug policies in its member states. It seeks to link
Policy, Practice and Science and focuses especially on the realities
of local implementation of drug programmes.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law - better
known as the Venice Commission as its plenary sessions are held
four times a year in Venice - is the Council of Europe's advisory body
on constitutional matters. It provides legal advice on how to bring
legal and institutional structures into line with European standards
and international experience.
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