Posted on Jun 29, 2019
This has been a week in which the Strasbourg based Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a pan-European human rights body, has certainly not covered itself in glory, although as is often the case with this institution, it is highly likely that certain individuals have further enriched themselves, writes Gary Cartwright.
The appalling decision to readmit Russia to the assembly will have dire consequences for the people of Ukraine. In 2009, in my book Putin’s Legacy: Russian Policy and the New Arms Race, I warned that Ukraine would pay dearly for the failure of the west to act appropriately to the 2008 Russian invasion, and subsequent occupation, of parts of Georgia. At the time I was accused of scare-mongering. My critics have remained strangely silent since 2014.
Russia had its voting rights withdrawn by PACE following its occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. These rights were to be restored only after the Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.
The Head of Ukraine’s delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Aryev, raised strong and legitimate objections to the decision referring to the fact that Russian delegation consists of members elected in occupied Crimea bringing into serious question the legitimacy of their mandate. The delegations of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia and Georgia joined Ukraine in a walkout in protest at the decision: the British delegation said it would challenge the Council of Europe over the issue again at the next session, which is due to be held in October.
We believed it was important that conditions were added and we worked hard to strengthen the terms of the restoration of Russia credentials… Russia has failed to show a consistent and unswerving commitment to human rights in the past, human rights that mark the bedrock of The Council of Europe.
This week’s decision, however, sent out a very clear message to the Cardinal of the Kremlin, one that he was very quick to seize upon: within hours of the announcement of the decision, Putin stated that this was “the first step towards recognition of Crimea as Russian territory”. Putin is correct, I fear.
Once this objective is achieved, Putin will then argue that it should then be only fair that PACE should recognise, in the interests of democracy, the status of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
But this is for the future: Putin’s pressing need is to have international sanctions against Russia lifted. Despite the official Kremlin line that the sanctions are hurting the west far more than they are hurting Russia, a line that is slavishly repeated by Europe politicians who are either personally or through their parties in the pay of the Kremlin, these sanctions are crippling Russia. They should be extended, not lifted.
Whilst EU sanctions are not directly in the remit of PACE, we can expect the Russian delegation to place them on the table by presenting arguments portraying them as affecting the human rights of its citizens.
During the same week, as EU Today has previously reported, another dubious occurrence took place in Strasbourg.
The highly controversial human rights NGO Open Dialog Foundation, organised a conference “Post-elections scenarios in Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan. Between political uncertainty and regime consolidation”. Although a minor event the sole purpose of which was to give the impression that PACE is supportive of their client, the fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, a convicted murderer and fraudster who presents himself as a persecuted politician, it becomes interesting when we consider that this NGO has been accused of receiving Russian funding.
It has also, along with named officials, been implicated in serious money laundering allegations.
The level of corruption within PACE was highlighted in a report, by the Independent investigation body on allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE)
An issue of lack of transparency and an absence of safeguards against abuse was also found to arise with regard to the voting processes in the committees, which might affect the voting results and open the door to the possibility of exertion of improper influence, including that of a financial nature…. Allegations of corrupt and improper activities on the part of members and former members of the Assembly, which have for several years circulated in the media and in the reports of various organisations, have done immeasurable damage to the reputation and standing of the Assembly itself and of the Council of Europe as a whole.
When we consider the decision by the Assembly to restore Russia’s voting rights, despite that country failing to meet the conditions imposed on it, namely to withdraw its forces from Crimea, and the presence of the highly questionable Open Dialog Foundation at PACE, possibly we should view all of this not within the context of human rights, but of a horrendously corrupt, and corruptible, institution.
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