Council of Europe to guide member states on review of anti-terror laws

Madrid, 8 July 2011 – In response to a campaign by human rights, media and journalists’ organisations from across Europe, the Council of Europe has agreed to provide guidance to member states so that they fulfill a promise made in May 2009 to review anti-terror laws for their negative impact on freedom of expression and access to information.

Two years have passed since Council of Europe member states pledged in Reykjavik to review all the anti-terror laws adopted since 11 September but to date no action has been taken. Frustrated by the lack of action, Access Info Europe and 35 other organisations called on 10 June 2011 for the Council of Europe, as the region’s main human rights defence body, to press for the review to take place.

Replying on 29 June 2011, the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland stated that “protection of freedom of expression … requires continuous efforts to be made by member states” and committed to “provide guidance to member states, possibly in the form of a Committee of Minister’s recommendation, for the review of their anti-terrorism legislation and practice.”

Commenting on the current situation in Europe, Access Info Europe’s Executive Director of Helen Darbishire said: “There is compelling evidence that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were used to justify the introduction of measures which have curbed human rights and civil liberties. It is now imperative that proper human rights impact assessments be conducted on the new security framework: only then can necessary amendments be made to law and practice so that the balance is redressed and fundamental human rights are adequately protected.”

“The Council of Europe has the job of protecting human rights and democracy in Europe. It should ensure that its members to not get away with making empty promises about their respect for human rights,” added Darbishire.

The letter was copied to other Council of Europe institutions, including the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). They are also urged to act to ensure that the core democratic rights of freedom of expression and access to information are not compromised in the name of security.

To read the letter, click here file_doc To read Secretary General Jagland’s response, click here file_pdf

For more information – in English or French – please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe | +34 667 685 319