Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 09.10.2018
When the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in February 2014, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned Russian aggression and refused to recognize the so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea. When the foreign invaders began to systematically violate international human rights law, PACE condemned that too. The Russian delegation was sanctioned, and its voting privileges were taken away in the proceedings of PACE. For more than four years the Russian Federation has refused to abide by PACE resolutions. Despite all of this, there is a chance this week that the Russian Federation will be readmitted to PACE with its voting rights restored and sanctions removed. The Russian Federation will be welcomed back, and at the same time be permitted to continue ignoring PACE resolutions, abusing human rights, and waging war on Ukraine.
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Its signature achievement has been the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights. The current Secretary-General of PACE, Thorbjørn Jagland (on photo), leads a pro-Russian appeasement faction which is now attempting to bring Ukraine-invader Muscovy back into PACE. This grouping intends to subvert PACE resolutions about human rights by changing PACE rules about sanctions. The Kremlin believes it has found a way to get back into PACE while doing nothing to stop its abuse of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
Bringing the Russian Federation back into PACE without adhering to any PACE resolutions is effectively another act of war against Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is prepared for this possible stab-in-the-back by its European partners. The Ukrainian delegation to PACE is leading an all-out effort to try to save the Council of Europe as a body that protects human rights and stands up for the rules-based international order.
The ethical position that PACE should take is clear. “Sanctions against the Russian Federation should remain in force until the Russian Federation completely corrects gross violations of the principles of the Council of Europe, restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine," is what the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Mariana Betsa, said on Twitter on October 8.
Ukraine and its allies in PACE will be speaking against a motion to complicate the procedure to impose sanctions. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed a resolution that sets out what Ukraine’s delegates will say. Any lifting of restrictions on the Russian Federation delegation to PACE that bypasses resolutions about the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine will mean that PACE admits to its political incompetence. The protection of human rights and promotion of the rules-based international order through the Council of Europe will be dead. Ukraine will quit a human rights body that welcomes human rights abuser Russia. So will many other nations who still believe in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Russian Federation has refused to abide by any of the ten resolutions that have been adopted by PACE about Muscovy’s invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Crimea and part of Donbas. Instead of changing its behaviour, the Russian Federation is trying to change PACE. The head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Ariev, stated what Ukraine and defenders of human rights are up against: “Russia has a very powerful friend in the face of PACE Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland, who is trying with all his might to ensure that Russia is returned.”
Thorbjørn Jagland may succeed in bringing the Russian Federation back into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe without requiring any respect from the Russians for PACE resolutions, for human rights, or for peace. Or, Ukraine may lead PACE to save the Council of Europe and save the European Convention on Human Rights, and keep sanctions on the Russians. The fate of the post-Second World War international order of human rights in Europe will be settled this week.