INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM "THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE: STRENGTHENING MECHANISMS TO ADDRESS CURRENT CHALLENGES IN HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RYLE OF LAW“

  31 October – 2 November 2018, Berlin, Germany

The 2019 Legal Dialogue Symposium took place in Berlin from October 31 to November 3. The 2019´s topic was “The Role of Civil Society in the Council of Europe: Strengthening Mechanisms to Address Current Challenges in Human Rights and the Rule of Law.”

The Symposium feature over forty legal experts from civil society organizations in Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Holland, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. They discussed the roles played by the Council of Europe and civil society in protecting the rights enumerated in the European Convention on Human Rights. During the public portion of the Symposium, attendees discussed the relationship between the Council of Europe and civil society as well as the effectiveness of the tools used by the Council to defend human rights. In the closed part of the event, one group examined possible ways of reforming the council and growing its institutions, producing scenarios to make it work more effectively. The second group of experts discussed how rulings by the European Court of Human Rights could be better enforced in countries where the rule of law was threatened.

Guests of this year’s Symposium included Thomas Hammarberg (former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and a current Swedish member of the PACE), Bojana Urumova (deputy director, Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights), and Başak Çali, (Center for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School). The civil society organizations represented at the Symposium included the Center for International Protection (Strasbourg), EHRAC (London), Human Rights Watch (London), Memorial Human Rights Center (Moscow), Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow), and Team 29 (St. Petersburg).

The Symposium ended with participants drawing a roadmap for how civil society should interact with the Council of Europe in coming years. The results of their discussions will be embodied in a policy paper on reforming the council, which will be presented in early 2020. Finally, a task force was formed during the Symposium that will coordinate lawyers working with the European Court of Human Rights to achieve a higher rate of enforcing its rulings in countries where the rule of law is embattled.