Review of the Full Text of the Istanbul Convention – Part 7

Feel free to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 of this series of articles, by following their respective links.

In this article, the question of GREVIO, its purpose, function, and freedoms will be covered. The procedure of choosing its members, mandates, responsibilities of the organization, immunities, and other questions will be thoroughly reviewed in order to supply the reader with a clear image of this international organization.

Article 66 of the Istanbul Convention defines GREVIO (Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence). The Article 66 Paragraph 1 defines GREVIO as an international organization, which will oversee the proper implementation of the Convention through all member states. Paragraph 2 says that GREVIO consist of 10 members, which will be extended to 15 upon the 25th ratification of the document.

All members of GREVIO will have a four-year mandate and can be re-assigned to the position only once. All members will be proposed by member states and voted on by the Committee of the signing Parties. No two members of GREVIO may be from the same state. The members will be chosen by keeping to a geographical and gender balance, which means that they will be from different parts of the world and will probably have a differing worldview.

Article 66 Paragraph 4 gives additional information on the matter of electing the members of GREVIO. The members will be voted for, through a transparent procedure and should be people of “…high moral character…”. They should have competence on matters like human rights, violence against women, domestic violence, and gender equality or should have proven experience on matters related to the Convention.

Members of GREVIO will be representatives of the “…main legal systems…”. They will be representatives for all actors and agencies included in the fight against violence against women or domestic abuse. All of the organization’s members are to be considered independent from one-another and impartial in the exercise of their functions.

Paragraph 5 states that the Council of Ministers of Europe will be the authority deciding the voting procedure on the members of GREVIO. Paragraph 6 states that the organization will act under its own rules of procedure. Article 7 states that members of GREVIO and its collaborators will be granted certain immunities and privileges which are explained in an appendix, paired with the document.

Article 66 establishes a body, which will be in direct control of countries’ decisions and actions concerning all matters related to the Convention. For later in the article, it should be kept in mind that these people will operate completely autonomously in the pursuit of their goals.

It will, once again, be mentioned that the word “gender” has its own definition within the scope of the Convention and should be understood only through the supplied definition. Thus the gender balance, one of the points on which members will be chosen, together with the “gender equality” related competence of the candidates may lead to results which go far from the expectations.

Article 67 explains matters related to the aforementioned Committee of the Parties. Paragraph 1 states that the Committee of the Parties will be composed of representatives of local governments concerning the matters of the Istanbul Convention.

Paragraph 2 states that one year after the Convention has been implemented (11.V.2011) the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe should convene the Committee of the Parties. This will be done with the purpose of electing the members of GREVIO. A meeting of the Committee of the Parties should be convened every time the Secretary-General, one-third of the Committee, or one-third of the member states request so. Paragraph 3 states that the Committee of the Parties shall have its own rules of procedure.

Article 68 covers matters related to the procedures of operation which GREVIO will adopt. It is divided into 15 paragraphs in the following order. Paragraph 1 states that GREVIO will prepare a questionnaire, which each member country must fill, the questionnaire is related to the preventative measures taken in accordance with the Convention. Based on this questionnaire, local governments will file a report to the Secretary-General. According to Paragraph 2, GREVIO, together with representatives of each local government, will review the reports in order to approve their submission.

Paragraph 3 states that the length of each subsequent evaluation procedure will be determined by GREVIO. GREVIO will be solely responsible for the topic of the survey and the questions which will be presented in the current evaluation questionnaire. Paragraph 4 states that GREVIO decides the method in which each separate evaluation will take place. The organization may decide to adopt a different questionnaire for each different evaluation. The filled questionnaire, together with any other information requested by GREVIO must be supplied by the local governments.

Article 68 Paragraph 5 states that GREVIO may supply information from third-parties such as “…non-governmental organisations and civil society…” this, once again, brings the problem of involving NGO’s directly into legal affairs.

In this particular case, they are even free to completely bypass the government of their country of residence and directly report to GREVIO. This way, personal interest may severely influence some of the important decisions in the country concerning law, family and other topics within the scope of the Convention. Another problem is the mention of “civil society”, but placing no constraints on it, such as limiting it to sociological surveys only. This way, individuals are given the chance to influence the mentioned topics, again completely unobstructed by local authority and government.

Paragraph 6 adds that information may also be collected from regional and international instruments and bodies which fall within the scope of the Convention. This means, that they will be free to trade information with countries which have not signed the Convention, as long as they host institutions and organization related to the matters discussed in the Convention.

Paragraph 7 states that the data collected from all surveys, which fall under Article 11 of the Convention, will be taken into account when GREVIO is preparing the survey questionnaire. Paragraph 8 states that GREVIO will have access to all information related to the Istanbul Convention, which has been collected by the “Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Parliamentary Assembly and relevant specialised bodies of the Council of Europe, as well as those established under other international instruments”. All complaints issued to these organizations will also be made available to GREVIO.

Paragraph 9 is important to remember, as it will be referenced later in the article. It states that GREVIO may make 14 day-long country visits in case they decide that the information available is insufficient. During their visit, they may decide to as local specialists for support during their investigations. According to Paragraph 14, in case of insufficient information, GREVIO may decide to either send a single emissary, to conduct an inquiry and immediately report to the organization, or the whole organization may embark on a country visit. This, of course, is done with the permission of the host country. If under the conditions described in Paragraph 14, any action is taken, GREVIO will issue a report towards the local government, the Committee of the Parties, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe together with any comments and recommendations.

Paragraph 10 states that GREVIO shall issue a report about the progress on the implementation of the Convention in member countries.

A first draft of the report, paired with suggestions and propositions on the better implementation of the Convention, will be sent to the country in question and its comments on the report will be taken into account when finishing the report. Paragraph 11 adds that on the basis of these comments, another report will be issued, concerning the measures taken by governments in order to fully implement the Convention. The second report, together with conclusions on the situation, will be sent to each government and to the Committee of the Parties.

Paragraph 12 states that GREVIO will be free to issue a recommendation on achieving the conclusions from their reports. These recommendations will be addressed to each government individually to help them on their way to fully embracing the Convention and to promote the co-operation between GREVIO and the local governments for the proper implementation of the Convention.

Paragraph 13 states that if GREVIO receives multiple signals or information about serious violations of the Convention’s texts, the organization may issue a special report, containing immediate measures to be taken in order to avoid a serious, massive or persistent pattern of violence against women.

Article 69 holds a single paragraph and explains that where needed, GREVIO will adopt general recommendations towards the implementation of the Convention.

Article 70 covers matters of the Parliament’s involvement in the implementation of the Convention. Article 70 Paragraph 1 states that parliaments of member countries will be invited to participate in the monitoring of the measures taken for the implementation of this convention. This means, that the nation, as presented by the Parliament, will have some control over the juridical, social and cultural changes, which the implementation of the Convention may force on the citizenry. Paragraph 2 states that governments are obliged to make GREVIO’s reports available to the Parliament. Paragraph 3 adds that The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be invited to regularly oversee the implementation of the Convention.

There is not much place for comments on a section that is mostly functional. It covers the methods through which GREVIO will obtain its data and will influence local governments. Now the question is not of what is written, but how everything that was written before will be put into practice. The Convention offers a wide array of practices which may prove successful in reducing the level of domestic abuse in the country, but through this review, often times the possibilities of abuse have also been stated. On one hand, the citizenry has its power limited by the direct involvement of NGO’s. On the other hand, power is reduced by the GREVIO structure which will use the authority of the Council of Europe and all other institution of the EU to enforce its demands on any country which has ratified the document. The citizenry has been added through the Parliament, but it will present just a fraction of the decision makers, instead of having the strongest voice.

The Appendix of Privileges and Immunities is a document, which serves as an extension to Article 66 and quite self-explanatory covers the matter of immunities and privileges granted to the members and contributors of GREVIO. The document is rather short and consists of six paragraphs. Paragraph 1 states that the scope of the appendix covers GREVIO members as mentioned in Article 66 and “other members of the country visit delegations” which is a rather loose term, covering all contributors which take part in country delegation visits as described in Article 68 Paragraph 9.

Paragraph 2 of the Appendix states that each GREVIO member on a country visit and all of their collaborators receive a certain set of privileges and freedoms. They will be directly copied from the document: “immunity from personal arrest or detention and from the seizure of their personal baggage, and immunity from legal process of every kind in respect of words spoken or written and all acts performed by them in their official capacity;”.

Also “exemption from any restrictions on their freedom of movement on exit from and return to their country of residence, and entry into and exit from the country in which they exercise their functions, and from alien registration in the country which they are visiting or through which they are passing in the exercise of their functions.”.

This means that each member of GREVIO and their collaborators will receive something resembling diplomatic immunity, or the immunity which MP’s have during their work in the Parliament. Such freedom is integral to the proper functioning of any government structure, which is expected to be somewhat autonomous and defend the right of free speech for all its members in order to evade political censorship.

Paragraph 3 of the Appendix adds that GREVIO members and members of their delegation, in regards to customs and exchange control will be treated just like diplomats and other foreign political representatives. Paragraph 4 adds that reports made by GREVIO will remain unchanged for as long as they serve the purposes of GREVIO. No manner of censorship of halt of communications is allowed towards members of the organization.

Paragraph 5 of the Appendix states that all privileges gained through the work of GREVIO members, or their collaborators, will be retained even after the end of their official duties. Of course, this will only be applied to matters directly concerning their work with GREVIO related to the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

Paragraph 6 adds that all immunities and privileges may be wavered by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe where the immunity would impede the course of justice before the local law. This can only happen in cases, where the waiver of the immunities is not in direct prejudice to the interests of GREVIO.

This concludes the current review of the Istanbul Convention. GREVIO is a large power structure and it will be an important decision maker in many situations related to local law all over the EU. This could suffice an explanation on why years after without any problems on the topic, suddenly some Bulgarian politicians became quite active on the equality scene. In the last few months, there have been serious by different politicians, discussing the fight for equality among the sexes in a country, where women have the exact same rights as men. Besides that, women are not limited in their potential in any way, as they are athletes, artists, musicians, actors, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and policemen. There are women everywhere from the small factories, through the big media and they have even reached the highest positions of power within the country. The mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria, is a woman, the vice-President is a woman, the chairman of the Parliament is a woman and women are in leading positions in several Bulgarian parties. Bulgarian women are European Commissionaires and MP’s. Women consist about half of the Constitutional Court and both deputy-chairmen of the Supreme Administrative Court are women. Women are mayors of many villages, towns, municipalities and even regions of varying sizes. One cannot objectively say that women are not represented within the Bulgarian governmental system or even in public life. Yet with the chance of the ratification of this document becoming a reality, suddenly a large portion of the major names in Bulgarian politics became deeply concerned with the matters of equality between men and women. One would wonder what power could one of them gained through their immediate concern on matters directly related to the Convention.

(Picture taken from: coe.int)

Bozhidar Lazarov

Bozhidar Lazarov is a freelance writer, hobbyist programmer and an aspired novelist. Feel free to follow him on https://www.minds.com/seriousways for his latest articles and personal projects.

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