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Friday, 29 October 2010

ECHR Rules Against Société Cofinfo In French Property Eviction Row

In its decision on the case of Société Cofinfo v. France (application no. 23516/08) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

Sulukule: End Of The Roma 'Jerusalem'

In her Council of Europe exhibition entitled 'Sulukule,' photographer Aurora Ailincai underlines the Roma people's struggle for place in Europe.

The photographer captures the soul of the 956 year old Sulukule neighbourhood in Istanbul, Turkey, through the images of its men, its women and particularly its children. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

ECHR Delivers Ruling On Disappearance Of Two Brothers In Chechnya

In a 28 October Chamber judgment in the case Sasita Israilova and Others v. Russia (application no 35079/04), which is not final , the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a:

Violation of Article 2 (right to life: disappearances) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the applicants’ relatives, Ilyas and Isa Yansuyev;

Violation of Article 2 (right to life: lack of effective investigation into disappearances);

Violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) in respect of the applicants’ mental suffering;

Two violations of Article 5 (right to liberty and security: unacknowledged detention);

A violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in conjunction with Article 2;

A violation of Article 38 (obligation ro furnish necessary facilities for the examination of the case).

ECHR Declares People Suspected of Fraud Kept in Pre-Trial Detention without Justification

In a 28 October Chamber judgment in the case Vasilkoski & Others v. “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (application no 28169/08), which is not final , the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the complaints by 38 people, accused of fraudulently collecting over 5 million euros in the form of road toll charges in 2007, about having been detained unlawfully and without justification.

Anti-Torture Committee Reports On Luxembourg

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its periodic visit to Luxembourg in April 2009, together with the Luxembourg Government's response. These documents have been made public at the request of the Luxembourg authorities.

Thomas Hammarberg: European Muslims are stigmatised by populist rhetoric

European countries appear to face another crisis beyond budget deficits – the disintegration of human values. One symptom is the increasing expression of intolerance towards Muslims. The Swiss referendum banning the building of minarets was no exception: opinion polls in several European countries reflect fear, suspicion and negative opinions of Muslims and Islamic culture.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Child Custody Row Goes To ECHR

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A father's rights in a child custory battle and allegations of police brutality are among the cases scheduled to come before the European Court of Human Rights next week.

First Meeting Of International Task Force for the Education of Roma

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Representatives from Roma organisations and international institutions gather in Strasbourg for the first meeting of the International Task Force for the Education of Roma on 28-29 October.

The task force meeting follows the Council of Europe (CoE) Roma summit on 20 October.

London Underground Police Shooting Before European Court of Human Rights

A case concerning the fatal shooting of Brazilian national Jean Charles de Menezes by the police in the London Underground is pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr de Menezes, who was mistakenly identified as a terrorist suspect, was shot dead on 22 July 2005, aged 27, by two special firearms officers of the Metropolitan Police Service at Stockwell underground station.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Anti-Torture Committee Issues Warning On Police Use Of Electrical Weapons

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Police use of electric 'stun' guns should be subject to strict controls, the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee warns in its annual report published today.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) states that it understands the wish of national authorities to provide law enforcement officials with means enabling them to give a more graduated response to dangerous situations.

The Committee acknowledges that the possession of less lethal weapons such as electrical discharge weapons (EDW) may in some cases make it possible to avoid the use of firearms. However, it stresses that these weapons can cause acute pain and are open to abuse.

Hammarberg: Russia Facing Human Rights Test

A "test for the effectiveness in practice of the right to peaceful assembly" is looming in Russia according to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

In an article enitled 'Freedom to demonstrate is a human right – even when the message is critical,' he points to the importance of a rally planned for Sunday 31 October.

Monday, 25 October 2010

View From The Court

A child custody row between parents in Israel and Romania comes before the European Court of Human Rights this week.

Raban v. Romania (no. 25437/08)

The applicants are David Raban, an Israeli and Dutch national who was born in 1957 and lives in Yehud (Israel), and his children, Ela Raban and Ilan Matzliah Raban, who were born in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Ela and Ilan have been living since April 2006 in Romania with their mother who was granted a divorce from Mr Raban and full custody of the children in December 2008. The case concerns Mr Raban’s complaint that the Romanian courts’ refusal to return his children to their habitual residence in Israel was in breach of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
This week's ECHR cases

CEB Gives £28 million To Help Europe's Roma

Loans and grants worth more than  £28 million are available to assist impoverished Roma communities, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) has confirmed.

The CEB is a key partner in the Roma Education Fund, established in December 2004 to develop joint programmes with the World Bank, the European Commission, specialised United Nations agencies and the Open Society Institute (OSI).

The bank is also part of the Steering Committee of the 'Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015,' launched in Sofia in February 2005 to provide an international forum to improve Roma’s welfare in four selected priority sectors: housing, education, health and employment.

How the Council of Europe Development Bank helps Roma
Speech by Mr. Raphaël Alomar, Governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank
Europe's Social Development Bank

Friday, 22 October 2010

Disability In Europe: Media, Business And NGO's Called To Action

Charities, media outlets, business and employers’ organisations have been urged to join a campaign to reinforce the impact of the Council of Europe’s Disabilities Action Plan.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lord Prescott Rallies Against ‘Crisis’ In Democracy

John Prescott giving speechImage via Wikipedia
New forms of democracy – in which citizens can participate directly in decisions, for example – are needed to supplement traditional representative democracy if the current crisis in democracy is to be overcome, Lord Prescott declared at the Forum for the Future of Democracy. 

Delivering a speech in Yerevan, Armenia, on behalf of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Mevlüt Çavusoglu, Lord Prescott, the United Kingdom's former Deputy Prime Minister, said there was a need for “sustained forms of interaction between people and the authorities.”


Jagland Highlights CoE's Contribution To Europe's "Deep Security"

Effective democratic governance is not only intrinsically linked to the respect of human rights but is also key to to ensuring stability, sustainability and well-being.

This message was writ large in Thorbjorn Jagland speech to the 2010 Forum for the Future of Democracy, which ended in Yerevan, Armenia on 21 October.

ECHR Judgement In Russian 'Whistle Blower' Journalist Case

In its 21 October Chamber judgment in the case Saliyev v. Russia (application no 35016/03), which is not final , the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

A violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the withdrawal from sale of copies of a municipally owned weekly newspaper at the request of the editor-in-chief on account of the politically sensitive content of an article.

Europe's Fight Against Homophobia

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Since his appointment as Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland has spoken out strongly against homophobia and discrimination aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Most recently, the Secretary General made known his concern following the violent incidents and arrests which marred the Belgrade gay pride parade on 10 October.

ECHR Rules On Moscow Gay Rights Case

In its judgment in the case Alekseyev v. Russia (application nos 4916/07, 25924/08 and 14599/09), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

A violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association);

A violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy);

A violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The case concerned the complaints by a Russian gay-rights activist about a repeated rejection by the Moscow authorities of his requests to organise gay-pride parades.

Principal facts

The applicant, Nikolay Alekseyev, is a Russian national who was born in 1977 and lives in Moscow (Russia). He was one of the organisers of several marches in 2006, 2007 and 2008 which were aimed at drawing public attention to the discrimination against the gay and lesbian community in Russia and to promoting tolerance and respect for human rights.

The organisers submitted notices to the Moscow mayor’s office on several different occasions announcing their intention to hold marches. They also undertook to cooperate with the law-enforcement authorities in ensuring safety and respect for public order by the participants and to comply with the regulations on restriction of noise levels when using loud speakers and sound equipment. Despite that, all they received were refusals to hold the marches. 

The mayor’s decisions explained those refusals with the need to protect public order, health, morals and the rights and freedoms of others, as well as to prevent riots. The decisions specified that, as numerous petitions had been received against the marches, negative reactions - including violence - against the participants in the marches were likely, which in turn could lead to public disorder and mass riots.

In addition to the official decisions issued on those occasions, the Moscow mayor and his staff were quoted in the media more than once saying that “the government of Moscow would not even consider the organisation of gay marches” and that no gay parade would be allowed in Moscow under any circumstances “as long as the city mayor held his post”. The mayor further called for an “active mass media campaign … with the use of petitions brought by individual and religious organisations” against the gay-pride marches.

Their marches having been refused, the organisers informed the mayor’s office of their intention to hold short pickets instead on the days initially planned for some of the marches. The pickets were also refused. Mr Alekseyev challenged unsuccessfully in court the decisions not to allow the marches or the pickets.

Decision of the Court

Article 11
The Court recalled that Article 11 protected non-violent demonstrations which might annoy or offend people who did not share the ideas promoted by the demonstrators. It also stressed that people had to be able to hold demonstrations without fearing that they would be physically agressed by their opponents.

At the same time, the mere risk of a demonstration creating a disturbance was not sufficient to justify its ban. If every probability of tension and heated exchanges between opposing groups during a demonstration resulted in the demonstration’s prohibition, society would be deprived of hearing differing views on questions which offended the sensitivity of the majority opinion, and that ran contrary to the Convention principles.

The Moscow authorities had repeatedly, over a period of three years, failed to adequately assess the risk to the safety of the participants and public order.  Although counter protesters could have indeed taken to the streets to oppose the gay-pride marches, the Moscow authorities should have made arrangements to ensure that both events proceeded peacefully and lawfully, thus allowing both sides to express their views without a violent clash.  Instead, by banning the gay pride marches, the authorities had effectively approved of and supported groups who had called for the disruption of the peaceful marches, in breach of law and public order.

The Court further noted that the considerations of safety had been of secondary importance for the decisions of the authorities who had been mainly guided by the prevailing moral values of the majority. The Moscow mayor had on many occasions expressed his determination to prevent gay parades, as he found them inappropriate. The Russian Government had also stated in their submissions to the Court that such events had to be banned as a matter of principle because gay propaganda was incompatible with religious doctrines and public morals, and could harm children and adults who were exposed to it.

The Court stressed that if the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and association by a minority group were conditional on its acceptance by the majority, that would be incompatible with the values of the Convention. 

The purpose of the gay pride demonstrations had been to promote respect for human rights and tolerance towards sexual minorities; they had not intended to include nudity or obscenity, nor to criticise public morals or religious views. In addition, while no European consensus had been reached on questions of adoption by or marriage between homosexual people, ample case law had shown the existence of a long-standing European consensus on questions such as the abolition of criminal liability for homosexual relations between adults, on homosexuals’ access to service in the armed forces, to the granting of parental rights, to equality in tax matters and the right to succeed to the deceased partner’s tenancy.

It was also clear that other Convention member States recognised the right of people to openly identify themselves as gay and to promote their rights and freedoms, in particular by peacefully and publicly gathering together. The Court emphasised that it was only through fair and public debate that society could address such complex issues as gay rights, which in turn would benefit social cohesion, as all views would be heard. 

An open debate of the kind, which had been exactly the type of event the demonstrators had attempted to organise unsuccessfully many times, could not have been replaced by Moscow’s official figures expressing uninformed views considered to be popular.

Consequently, the bans imposed on the holding of gay-rights marches and pickets had not been necessary in a democratic society, and had been in violation of Article 11.

Article 13
The Court noted that there had been no legally binding rule obliging the authorities to decide on the holding of the marches before the dates on which those had been planned. Therefore, there had been no effective remedy available to Mr Alekseyev that could have provided adequate redress in respect of his complaints. There had thus been a violation of Article 13.

Article 14
The Court observed that the main reason for the bans on the gay marches had been the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality. In particular, the Court could not disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the Moscow mayor and the undeniable link between those statements and the bans. Consequently, the Court found that, as the Government had not justified their bans in a way compatible with the Convention requirements, Mr Alekseyev had suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation. There had therefore been a violation of Article 14.

Article 41
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that Russia was to pay to Mr Alekseyev 12,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 17,510 for costs and expenses.

Thomas Hammarberg Deplores "Inhuman" Treatment Of Disabled People In Institutions

“The prosecutor general in Bulgaria has initiated criminal investigations into 166 deaths and 30 more cases of abuse of children living in state homes for young people with mental disabilities.

"This was an important signal not only for the Bulgarian authorities but for several other states with similar old-style institutions for children or adults”, says Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg.

More Information

Disabilities: Europe Must Do Better

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Strasbourg Declaration On Roma

A new European Training Programme for Roma mediators will be established to provide communities with legal and administrative advice.

The programme will train 440 mediators in 2011 and more than 1,000 the following year.

Thorbjørn Jagland: Time For "Critical Change" Towards Roma

A ‘Berlin Wall-style’ divide in Europe separates Roma from non-Roma communities, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has warned.

“Europe is still divided by a wall,” he said. “A while ago, a part of this wall was actually physical – brick and mortar and concrete - but most of it is invisible, yet no less effective in maintaining a divide between Roma and the rest of our societies.”

Strasbourg Summit: An Opportunity To Empower Roma

A decision by French authorities to return Roma people to their countries of origin has generated a pan-European debate that should trigger the empowerment of Roma communities.

That is the view of Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, expressed at the opening of the Roma summit meeting of government representatives in Strasbourg on 20 October.

Rudko Kawczynski: Alienated Roma Youth Are Ready To Explode

A growing militancy among jobless Roma youth from impoverished 'townships' could explode into violence, Rudko Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum has warned.

The Roma activist expressed his fears that widespread anti-gypysim and empty government promises are helping to radicalise Roma youth, as European ministers gather in Strasbourg on 20 October to discuss measures to integrate Roma communities.
The European Roma and Travellers Forum will take part in the summit meeting along with representatives from the Council of Europe's 47 member states.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Roma Summit: A Moment Of Truth For Europe

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Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Antonio Miloshoski, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, have invited governments, the EU and international organisations to attend a high-level meeting on 20 October and agree priorities to improve integration of Roma people in Europe.

Venice Commission Reacts To Ukraine's Judicial Changes

Legal experts from the Council of Europe's Venice Commission have delivered two opinions on planned changes to Ukraine's judicial system.

Issues and standards at stake

Among other issues, the opinions assess two main points:

the strongly reduced role of the Supreme Court as compared to the high specialised courts, including the new High Specialised Court in Civil and Criminal matters and

additional powers for the High Council of Justice, which exceed those provided for in the Constitution.

The composition of the High Council of Justice, as provided for in the Constitution, had been criticized in the past by the Commission (CDL-AD(2010)003).

Ban Ki Moon: Europe Must Seize Moment On Roma

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has hailed tomorrow’s European ministerial Roma summit as an opportunity for governments to “reaffirm their commitment to the highest human rights standards.”

The Secretary General’s declaration came during his address to the Council of Europe on 19 October to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Warning On Unaccompanied Children

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Some 100,000 children are illegally settled in Europe and vulnerable to organised crime and the sex trade, the Council of Europe will reveal.

The human rights inter-governmental organisation will use a conference on unaccompanied children on 20 October to highlight what it fears is the inadequate protection offered to youngsters.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Venice Commission: Al Qaeda Detainees 'Protected' By Geneva Conventions

World map about terrorist attacks of al-Qaeda.Image via Wikipedia
Heightened anxiety over the threat of terrorism in Europe should not lead to changes in the protection offered by the Geneva Conventions, Council of Europe legal experts have declared.

"The Geneva Conventions – regarding provisions for detention and treatment of persons - may date back to 1949 but they are still valid," said a spokeswoman for the Venice Commission.

The commission's declaration follows concern that the protection given to those who qualify as Prisoners of War (POWs) should be changed to meet the current international terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda.

Barbara Hendricks Brings Star Glamour To Human Rights Celebrations

Soprano Barbara Hendricks will bring celebrity glamour to celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The event's high-wattage political guest will be United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

18 -22 October: View From The Court

Gay rights, a protest against inhuman and degrading treatment, the disclosure of intimate relationships during a professional disciplinary investigation and the fairness of preventive custody come before the European Court of Human Rights this week.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Georgia: Experts Give Final Opinion On Constitutional Reform

At the request of the Georgian authorities, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission has delivered its view on the country's reform process.

The reform is intended to move Georgia from a strong presidential system to one in which the President is a more neutral figure and the executive is headed by a government responsible to parliament. The reform is supposed to provide for adequate checks and balances.


The constitutional reform places executive power is in the hands of the government which is accountable to the parliament. The President loses his role of leader of foreign and domestic policy and becomes [primarily] a guarantor of the continuity and national independence of the state and of the functioning of the democratic institutions.

His role is that of a neutral arbitrator between the state institutions. The proposed constitutional amendments provide for several important improvements and significant steps in the right direction, which the Venice Commission welcomes.

The Commission considers nevertheless that it would be desirable to further strengthen the powers of parliament. In this respect, the provisions on the formation of the government and especially those on the motion of non-confidence, as well as those about the parliament's powers in budget matters, should be reconsidered.

Venice Commission

Georgia, the Venice Commission and Hillary Clinton

Related articles

International Federation of Human Rights lodges complaint against Belgium

A complaint has been lodged with the Council of Europe's Social and Economic Rights Committee against Belgium by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

The complaint was registered on 30 September and alleges a violation of rights related to housing for Travellers under the European Social Charter.

The FIDH complains at the insufficiency of stopping places, problems stemming from the non-recognition of caravans as a home, a failure to respect the required conditions when carrying out evictions and a lack of a global and coordinated policy to combat poverty and social exclusion of Travellers.

More information

Social Rights In Europe

Roma At The European Court Of Human Rights

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Legal challenges to the treatment of Roma are a recurring theme at the European Court of Human Rights.

The number of cases brought before the Court or by means of the Social Charter, is likely to be an important theme at the Council of Europe's Roma ministerial summit on 20 October.

The French minister Pierre Lellouch, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding and representatives of governments from 47 member states are expected to attend, with press conferences arranged for 12h30 and 16h30.

The summit deliberations will be open to both press and public from 15h to 16h30.

Roma & Travellers at the ECHR: Case History

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Gary Younge: Little Change In Europe's "Shameful" Treatment Of Roma

Author, Guardian newspaper journalist and future Council of Europe podcast guest Gary Younge can now add “seer” to his list of talents.

Younge, the Guardian’s United States analyst, described vividly the troubles faced by Roma people in an article published by his newspaper some seven years ago.

He wrote: “The journey from the Indian subcontinent to eastern Europe made by many Roma has been a long and hard one.

"In terms of moral imperative, a human tragedy and a continent's shame, the treatment of the Roma, Europe's largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority, stands out.”

As European ministers and EU Commissioner Viviane Reding prepare to gather in Strasbourg on 20 October for the Council of Europe ministerial Roma summit, many of the themes touched on by Younge are still active concerns.

Daniel Holtgen, the Council of Europe’s Director of Communication, acknowledged as much when the organisation announced it would call a ministerial meeting in Strasbourg.

“This is a unique opportunity for governments of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the EU and other international institutions to come together and finally agree on what to do about this ghastly situation,” Holtgen said.

“The Council of Europe is the body with most experience on Roma. We will be talking about things that matter.”

Gary Younge's Roma Articles



Q & A On Medicrime With Portugal's Destak Newspaper

With fears growing about the impact of fake medical products on European health care sytems, the Council of Europe will open for signature a new 'Medicrime' treaty next month.

The convention criminalises the production and distribution of counterfeit medical products and imposes stiffer penalties on the criminals making rich profits from the illegal trade.

In this interview, the author and journalist Isabel Stilwell interviews the Council of Europe's Sabine Walser on the importance of tackling drug counterfeiting, a commerce more lucrative than heroin trafficking.

Destak Interview [pt]

Background information

Profile of Destak editor Isabel Stilwell

Note : Medicrime is the abbreviation of the convention

Q: What is the Medicrime convention

It is the first binding international instrument in the criminal law field on counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes involving threats to public health.

It is the result of the Council of Europe long held concern about the absence of harmonised international legislation, non-deterrent sanctions that were not proportionate to the harm caused to patients, and the involvement of criminal organisations which operate across borders.

Q: What will it proscribe?

There is an urgent need to take decisive repressive and preventive measures against counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes in order to protect the lives of individual patients/consumers and public health in general.

Though counterfeiting and the unauthorised manufacturing and supplying of medicinal products as well as the placing on the market of medical devices that are not in compliance with conformity requirements have already been outlawed at national level in many states, the absence of a dedicated international legal instrument establishing these activities as criminal offences carrying effective, proportionate and dissuasive penal sanctions and providing the basis for efficient international co-operation to combat them has facilitated the cross- border operation of criminals in this field.

Amongst its primary goals the Medicrime convention lists ‘prevention’ of suchcrimes, also providing a legal frame work supporting health authorities. The purpose of this Convention is to address these shortcomings.

The treaty aims to safeguard public health through penal measures against criminal manufacture and distribution of counterfeit medical products.

The Convention lays down a framework for national and international co- operation between the various public administration sectors, measures for co- ordination at the national level, preventive measures for use by the public and private sectors and protection of victims and witnesses. Furthermore, it provides for the establishment of a committee to monitor the implementation of the Convention by the signatory States.

Q: Who can sign it?

The Council of Europe sees it as a common responsibility for the global community to eradicate the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit medical products and hence accession to the Medicrime Convention, which will be formally adopted later this year, will be open for all states interested in working with Council of Europe on this important goal.

Q: How significant is medicrime

A: Counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes comprise the manufacturing, the distribution of counterfeit medical products (i.e. medicinal products, medical devices, ingredients and compounds used for medical devices),; It includes also the falsification of documents, and the unauthorized manufacturing and supplying of such products with criminal intent.

A counterfeit medical product is a product whose identity and/or source are misrepresented with criminal intent on the label. Counterfeiting and similar crimes target all kinds of medical products, such as those protected under IPR and not (so called generic medicines), medicinal products for human and veterinary use, active substances and excipients and materials designated to be used with medical devices.

Medicrime – the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes - thus violate the right to life, enshrined in the ECHR and compromises member states’ obligation to provide for the protection of human life.

Medicrime is now a global concern and an increasing worry in Europe and other regions of the world because counterfeit medicines and similar crimes can kill or harm severely patients. Ineffective and counterfeit veterinary medicines can promote the spreading of animal diseases to humans. (Avian flu!)

Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that many developing countries have areas where more that 30% of the medicines on sale are counterfeit.

Europe must protect public health of its citizen, demonstrate solidarity with other regions of the world affected seriously by this sourge. It shows leadership and offers cooperation to the world on this basic human rights issue by opening the treaty for accession of states in the world.

The Council of Europe is behind the first treaty which will criminalise the production and distribution of medical products that are counterfeit or have been manipulated by similar crimes, protects victims and witnesses, provides a framework for international cooperation between health and enforcement authorities at national and international levels.

Q: How do you estimate the numbers?

A: We do know that patients have died as a result of taking fake medical products (It is reported in the United States of America that some 80 deaths resulted from the use of counterfeit heparin). We also know that the health of European patients has suffered as a result of their exposure to counterfeit medicines.

Medicinal products intended to treat prostate cancer, high cholesterol levels and to protect against future heart attack or stroke and treat the symptoms of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and other mental disorders have been discovered counterfeit in the legal distribution chain in Europe.

During the time of the avian flu (Bird Flu), Tamiflu, the main treatment for this viral disease was a counterfeit target, due to the high demand and short in supply.

The fact that counterfeit medical products have become increasingly difficult to detect without carrying out costly laboratory test means that there is today an omnipresent risk that counterfeit medical products may enter into the legal supply chains for medical products, in the process getting mixed up with legitimate products with potentially disastrous results for the public health.

According to WHO, counterfeit medical products account for less than 1% of market value in developed countries, where there are efficient regulatory control mechanisms, but up to more than 50% from Internet sites that conceal their identity.

Q: Have you had complaints of real consequences or do the medicines only act as placebos and have no side effects?

Medicines that are counterfeit or were manipulated through similar crimes, can be very dangerous and effectively deny available treatment to patients: by the ineffective treatment provided by these products, the patient suffers harm or dies from the underlying disease if acknowledged treatment is no longer of value. In some cases, the counterfeit medicines contain also toxic substances not present in the genuine product.

Due to this facts, the identification of harm is difficult. It also undermines the trust the public can have in healthcare systems, medical treatment and the authorities supervisory control.

Q: More profitable that conventional drug traffic? Is it an organised crime?

The reason for the strong growth of this type of crime is clearly the relatively low risk of detection and prosecution compared with the potential high financial gains. Using the internet to advertise and supply their inherently dangerous products directly to patients and consumers around the world has proven to be a safe and easy modus operandi for the criminals involved and has given them a global reach. The result is a serious threat to public health of truly global proportions.

Expert evidence indicates that the production and distribution of counterfeit medical products is approximately 15 times more lucrative than heroin trafficking. Criminal organizations are actively involved with all stages of production and distribution of fake medical products.

Which countries are most affected?

The evidence shows that counterfeit medicines have greatest impact in countries where the regulatory system is weak and market control is less effective.

Europe does have an effective regulatory system and market control which has been able to prevent the incidences of counterfeit medicines from causing serious public health problems.

Yet, evidence from the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Council of Europe gives no reason for complacency: That is why the effective implementation of the Council of Europe's treaty is so important: it must be prevented by all means that what is today a rare incident manageable by the authorities becomes frequent reality.

Q: Are counterfeit drugs a side effect of the internet? Are medicines by post the only ones that can be counterfeit?

The internet is an enormous opportunity for the marketing of counterfeit or illegal medicines. The Internet supply route can be deliberately counfused by the criminals so as to hide source and production and distribution paths.

The Council of Europe Medicrime convention approach is to focus on the criminal activity and not on the internet. In some countries mail order trade in medicines via the Internet has become legal.

The internet has created a global market place offering access to medicines often without a doctor's prescription.

For many customers, the Internet means low prices, discounts, and confidentiality, and provides easy access for people living in remote locations or wanting to access novel medical products first.

However, The Internet is used to make countless illegal offers of medicines, many of which are counterfeit or illegal. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that over 50% of medicines purchased on Internet sites that conceal their real address are counterfeit.

The public should follow certain precautionary rules when purchasing medicines from the net. The trend of self-diagnosing and self prescribing is potentially dangerous, but unless a website has a physical address clearly displayed and a certification of a recognized authority or association, the likelihood of obtaining a counterfeit product is greatly increased.

Q: Is it possible to be fooled by these drugs in a hospital or a pharmacy?

In countries where regulatory systems, market surveillance and law enforcement are well organized and operational, the risk of encountering counterfeit or illegal medicines in the legal chain is very small.

Reports from law enforcement agencies indicate that counterfeiters seeing the scale of the profits involved in their enterprise, have every incentive to produce convincing products. That is why we stress vigilance.

The Council of Europe's treaty is the cornerstone of a comprehensive attack plan against medicrime with its potentially and real devastating effects on health care systems.

Q: What are the “favourite” counterfeit drugs?

Criminals active in the European market are known to have produced products counterfeiting antibiotics, anti-asthma medicines, hormones, medicines to increase the number of red blood cells, to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and to control weight gain with the intention of introducing them into the legal and illegal chains.

Of course, treatment for erectile dysfunction is much sought after, particularly on the internet.

Q: Do they come in boxes and with instructions just like normal medicines?

Yes. The large-scale, international counterfeiters want their products to be convincing.

Does medicrime include alternative drugs like diet pills?

The scope of the medicrime convention encompasses medical products claiming an effect in the therapy, prevention or diagnosis of diseases. This includes weight loss medication. Counterfeit medicines to control weight gain have been found in Europe.

Related articles

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Claimants Win €145,000 In Human Rights Dispute Against Greece

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ECHR Case: Antonopoulou and Others v. Greece (no. 49000/06)

The applicants, Vagia Antonopoulou, Dimitrios Chrysafis, Emmanouil Mantousis and Nikiforos Mantousis, are Greek nationals. They own land along the main highway between Thessaloniki and Nea Moudania (Greece).

In a judgment of 16 April 2009 the Court found that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property).

It took the view that the rejection of a ground of appeal on points of law, of which the applicants had complained, constituted an over-formalistic approach to the admissibility conditions for the appeal and that, consequently, the restriction on the applicants’ right of access to a court had not been proportionate to the aim of guaranteeing legal certainty or due process.

In addition, the Court held that in refusing to award the applicants compensation for the non-expropriated parts of their land that had been devalued as a result of the widening of the highway, the domestic courts had failed to strike a fair balance between the protection of individual rights and the demands of the general interest. It reserved its decision on the application of Article 41 (just satisfaction).

In its judgment, the Court awarded the applicants EUR 145,000, jointly for pecuniary damage.

Conference On Medical Treatment In End Of Life Situations

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Lawyers, sociologists and health professionals will gather at the Council of Europe next month to discuss the pitfalls of decision-making for terminal patients.

The international conference takes place from 30 November to 1 December and is billed as "the starting point for European thinking on the decision-making process regarding medical treatment in end-of-life situations."

Participants will focus on the principles of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, the ethical and deontological principles applicable at the end of life and the right of palliative care.


Book: Biomedicine and human rights - The Oviedo Convention and its additional protocols (2010)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Georgia-Russia conflict: "Confrontation must give way to dialogue" says Dick Marty

Deadlock in the conflict between Georgia and Russia may be broken if plans by Dick Marty for a full day of high-level hearings are successful.

The Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly's Monitoring Committee  has proposed the talks to break what he called the “deadlock” on dealing with the consequences of the war between the two Council of Europe nations.

“Confrontation must give way to dialogue,” said Mr Marty in a note made public outlining the plan.

The hearings, to be held by January 2011 at the latest, could involve representatives of the Georgian and Russian governments, Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini – who wrote a report on the origins of the war which was recognised by both sides as impartial – and the EU and UN co-chairs of the Geneva talks, as well as the head of the EU monitoring mission in the region, Council of Europe leaders, representatives of the European Parliament and the ICRC.

The hearings could help to reduce the “emotional impact” of the war, which continues to be an obstacle to discussion, Mr Marty pointed out, and clarify the current situation, including the situation on the ground. Armed conflict between two member states is “an exceptionally serious development” and its consequences were a priority for PACE and the Council of Europe as a whole, he said.

Mr Marty was authorised to make contact with the authorities of both states to draw up a catalogue of practical questions for discussion and rapid settlement, as well as a roadmap to address the humanitarian situation, and the assessment of the situation with regard to the Assembly’s three resolutions on the consequences of the war.


Assembly co-rapporteurs call on Georgian Parliament not to hurry the adoption of constitutional amendments

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Airlines Are Not Immigration Authorities

European states seek to reduce immigration through improper threats of sanctions against airlines and other transport companies. They pass heavy responsibility on to the carriers in order to limit access to their territories, said the Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

Travel personnel, who cannot possibly have the appropriate competencies for ensuring the rights of refugees under international law, have been made to decide if someone should be allowed to board an airplane or ship – or not.

For a refugee in need of international protection this is a serious barrier, as one must gain access to a state’s territory in order to seek and possibly obtain asylum. Not everyone who fears torture or repression has the proper documents to travel, especially if he or she fears persecution from national authorities, who control the issuing of passports and other travel documents.  (more ...)