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The Gender of Treaty Withdrawal: Lessons from the Istanbul Convention

In the early hours of 20 March 2021 the Turkish Official Gazette announced—in a one sentence statement that offered no explanation—that the President Erdoğan had decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe treaty on preventing and combating violence against women. Two days later, the Communication Directorate of the President offered this justification: “The Istanbul Convention, originally intended to promote women’s rights, was hijacked by a group of people attempting to normalize homosexuality – which is incompatible with Türkiye’s social and family values.” The precipitous and unexpected unilateral presidential decision at the start of a weekend triggered outrage, protests, and litigation by women’s rights groups in Turkey. Outside of the country, the response by the organs and member states of the Council of Europe was mostly handwringing and commiseration—but no meaningful challenge to the denunciation’s legality. This post evaluates the responses to the nearly unprecedented exit from a major European regional human rights agreement, one that establishes comprehensive legal standards to effectively implement women’s right to be free from…

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Setting the Cat amongst Pigeons: Kosovo’s Application for Membership of the Council of Europe

Kosovo is one of the few places in Europe not party to the European Convention on Human Rights due to a legacy conflict with Serbia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 after a bloody war followed by a period of international administration, but this is strongly disputed by Serbia which claims exclusive sovereignty over the entire territory. The conflict…

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The Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property eventually enters into force:  A new tool to the arsenal of international criminal law responses to the trafficking of cultural property

In the face of the dramatic events taking place over the last few weeks as a result of the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, it is hard to trace any positive developments in the field of international law. This being so, taking into account that cultural property is often a target during armed conflicts, either deliberately or as a…

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Europe’s Kairos? The Role of the Council of Europe under a Negotiated Peace in Ukraine

In a seminal speech to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1954, Germany’s Federal Chancellor and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Konrad Adenauer, exhorted member states to respond to matters of common concern with courage and confidence, and insisted that ‘any weakening in our zeal, in our striving to fulfil what we have…

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Russia and the European human rights system: Doing the right thing … but for the right legal reason?

Less than a month after its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Federation has ceased to be a member of the Council of Europe. On 16 March 2022, the Committee of Ministers decided to expel Russia from the regional organization with immediate effect, although without resolving the many legal consequences of this decision. Perhaps the most important…

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