Cablegate: Council of Europe: Opportunity to Influence New Secgen;
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHSR #0021/01 2670906
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 240906Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL STRASBOURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0184
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0195
Thursday, 24 September 2009, 09:06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STRASBOURG 000021
DEPT ALSO FOR DRL, L, EUR/ERA AND EUR/WE
EO 12958 DECL: 9/24/2019
TAGS PREL, PHUM, COE, FR, GG, KV, RS
SUBJECT: COUNCIL OF EUROPE: OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE NEW SECGEN;
GEORGIA, RUSSIA, GUANTANAMO
REF: (A) STRASBOURG 13 (B) STRASBOURG 12
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CLASSIFIED BY: Vincent Carver, CG, Strasbourg, State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) Department action request - please see para two.
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1. (C) The Council of Europe’s (COE) Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is expected to elect the next Secretary General of the COE (REF A) September 29 or 30; a ranking Department official should consider reviewing our human rights agenda with the new SecGen soon - please see para two. The Georgians are pushing for a political confrontation with Russia at the PACE session September 28-October 2, with over 70 PACE members supporting debate over the Russian delegation’s credentials. Several western European ambassadors have told us they want to prevent a plenary debate which would provoke a walkout by the Russians. Separately, a few ambassadors questioned Human Rights Commissioner Hammarberg’s authority to write to all member states urging them to consider accepting detainees from Guantanamo. We do not expect this to hamper the Commissioner’s continuing to support us on this issue. End summary.
EARLY CONSULTATIONS WITH NEW SECGEN WOULD BENEFIT U.S.
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2. (C) Mateo Sorinas, PACE Secretary General, briefed us September 21 on the September 28-October 2 PACE session. Despite lingering institutional rivalry between the PACE and member states, the PACE is expected finally to elect former Norwegian PM Jagland September 29 or 30. According to COE Chief of Protocol Benitez, Jagland would take his oath within a day of being elected and likely would assume his full-time duties in Strasbourg by mid-October. Comment: Jagland can be expected to criticize the U.S. for the death penalty; he may, however, be less enthusiastic than the previous SecGen, Terry Davis (UK), in publicly criticizing renditions, particularly if we review such issues with him soon. In this regard, we highly recommend a visit by a ranking Department official, such as the Assistant Secretary for DRL, to review our human rights agenda with the new Secretary General in the next several weeks.
COMMISSIONER CRITICIZED FOR LETTER ON GUANTANAMO DETAINEES
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3. (C) Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, in his quarterly report to the Council of Ministers’ deputies (resident ambassadors) September 23, briefly mentioned his “informal” visit a few months ago to Washington, during which he told Administration officials that the U.S. could not expect European countries to accept detainees from Guantanamo if the U.S. were not willing to accept some on U.S. soil. Hammarberg was then criticized by a few ambassadors for having written in June to all COE member states calling on them to consider accepting detainees from Guantanamo. The Maltese Ambassador (one of those criticizing Hammarberg) told us privately that Hammarberg thinks he is “God’s gift to the world.” The ambassador added that, if Washington wanted assistance with the detainees, it had plenty of direct channels to European countries and did not need Hammarberg to carry its messages. Comment: A few ambassadors, including the Maltese, have a history of bad relations with Hammarberg. Most member states respect and even relish Hammarberg’s independence. We do not expect this recent criticism to stifle Hammarberg from raising the detainee issue with European officials.
GEORGIA: TIME TO QUESTION RUSSIA’S CREDENTIALS IN THE PACE
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4. (C) The Georgian Ambassador told us September 23 that he is confident the upcoming PACE session will result in some sort of sanctions against the Russian PACE delegation. He said it is high time for the COE to penalize Russia for its non-compliance with its COE commitments, including but not limited to its actions on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Over 70 PACE members, mainly from conservative parties from central and eastern Europe, have signed a petition to debate the Russian delegation’s credentials. No Georgian PACE member has signed in an effort to demonstrate that this is a “COE issue, not simply a Georgian one.” The Russians have made it well known that their PACE delegation will walk out if the issue is debated in plenary (note: it will first be debated in the Monitoring Committee). While the Romanian Ambassador told us that the COE will demonstrate it means business on this issue, the Danish Ambassador told us that most member states, “taking a cue from the EU, NATO, and various European and non-European countries,” want better relations with Russia and therefore seek to head off a confrontation. He also noted that the leaders of the political groups and committees in PACE do not support questioning Russia’s credentials. The Russian Ambassador, speaking at the deputies’ session September 23, stressed that any move to question the Russian delegation’s credentials would “impose real damage to the image of the PACE and the COE. Comment: While the Georgians will view the Monitoring Committee’s debate on the credentials as a victory, it likely
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will be a hollow one - we doubt that the PACE plenary will, in the face of a Russian walkout, vote to support any serious sanctions against the Russians.nor
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5. (SBU) Hammarberg and the Serbian Ambassador had a testy exchange September 23 on Kosovo. The Serb made the usual points about its “southern province,” claiming there has been no progress on IDPs and that there is a lack of freedom of movement for non-ethnic Albanians. She also criticized references to the Ahtisaari Plan and the Kosovo Constitution in Hammarberg’s report. Hammarberg retorted that his report covered the Serb minority’s concerns. He then underscored that he is “obliged to cover the concerns of Europeans - to help individuals - even if this might be viewed as supporting one side or another politically.” He called on the Serbian Ambassador not to undermine his work “when we are trying to assist people.”
6. (SBU) Several delegations and officials from the European Court of Human Rights have told us that recent rhetoric from Moscow, including from the Duma, on support for court reforms is just that - rhetoric. Few hold out any hope that Russia will ratify Protocol 14 (REF B).
7. (SBU) In a rather sad exchange at the deputies’ meeting September 23, the Greek Ambassador criticized photos apparently chosen for Commissioner Hammarberg’s website regarding Hammarberg’s recent official visit to Turkey. The Greek (echoed by the Italian and Maltese ambassadors) contrasted the “vacation-like, very positive” images with those associated with the Commissioner’s visit to Greece. Hammarberg challenged the Greek by noting that his report on Turkey had not yet been published, and therefore the photos for the website had not yet been selected. CARVER