The Council of Europe (COE) likes to portray itself as a bastion of democracy, a promoter of human rights, and the last best hope for defending the rule of law in Europe – and beyond. It is an organization with an inferiority complex and, simultaneously, an overambitious agenda. In effect, it is at its best in providing technical assistance to member-states and at its worst in tackling geo-political crises.
Finally, we turn to one issue where the COE has been both an irritant and, more recently, somewhat of a champion – Guantanamo. Dick Marty, a member of the Swiss delegation to the PACE, conducted an investigation into renditions and “secret prisons” in Europe connected to the U.S. war on terrorism. His work created a great deal of controversy and anti-U.S. sentiment in the COE. More recently, however, SecGen Davis and COE Human Rights Commissioner Hammarberg have called on COE member-states to work with the U.S. and consider accepting detainees from Guantanamo to help the U.S. shut down the detention facility there.
2009 cable 09STRASBOURG21 from 24 September 2009 describes how Council of Europe Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg was 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.
Filed under: Guantanamo