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Strengthening the role of CSOs in rule of law monitoring

It is impossible to fully monitor the rule of law protection without an active inclusion of the civil society organizations – urge Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Hungarian Helsinki Committee in their joint opinion on the latest EC’s Rule of Law Communication.

Rule of Law Communication

In April 2019, the European Commission presented the communication on further strengthening the rule of law within the Union. The European Commission sumarised the already existing mechanisms such as the Rule of Law Framework, infringement procedures or Article 7 procedure and suggested the new model of rule of law enforcement. According to the EC the model should be based on three pillars: promotion, prevention and response. Each of the pillars include closer cooperation with the international, European and national stakeholders in order to uphold the rule of law protection in the member states.

Rule of law crisis and the role of CSOs

Both Hungary and Poland face on-going rule of law crises which pose serious threats to the democratic functioning of the state and human rights protection. While independent institutions (including courts, public media and the office of the Ombudsman) have been effectively weakened, civil society has developed into an essential actor in monitoring and analysing the scope of the democratic crisis.

Civil society organizations have a unique expertise that combines both analyzing the systemic changes in the legal system and assessing how such changes weaken protection for victims of human rights violations before national courts or administrative authorities.

CSOs: Engage, support and protect

In their joint opinion, HHC and HFHR welcome the European Commission proposal towards strengthening the rule of law. However, based on their advocacy experience both organizations point out the deficiencies in the already existing mechanisms including lack of specific deadlines (especially visible in the Rule of Law Framework) and limited access for the civil society organizations to the monitoring mechanisms.

In their opinion, HHC and HFHR present specific recommendations on widening the access for CSOs to the monitoring mechanisms and setting up mechanisms for input from civil society. HHC and HFHR postulate replicating the mechanisms already existing in the monitoring mechanisms before the UN treaty bodies.

Recognizing the role of the CSOs should be also accompanied by specific measures undertaken to protect the civil society space. Once again, the organizations call upon the Commission to widen the support for civil society organizations working in the field of fundamental rights and widen the monitoring of the civic space.

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