European Committee of Social Rights: State reporting procedure

Applies to/Se aplica a

State practice
State law
Individual cases
For Urgent Action
Only under 18-s

Summary

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) is a treaty-based mechanism where a group of 15 human rights experts examines annual reports of States Parties to the European Social Charter. The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe treaty (adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996) which guarantees rights such as non-discrimination. The European Social Charter does not protect the right to conscientious objection, and is therefore irrelevant to the question of recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service. However, it can be relevant in cases of a punitive substitute civilian service in countries where conscientious objection is recognised.
The Committee determines whether or not national law and practice in the States Parties are in conformity with the Charter and renders so-called conclusions for national reports.

1. Likely result from the use of mechanism

The European Committee of Social Rights evaluates the report of States Parties to the European Social Charter of 1961, the 1998 Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter, or the revised European Social Charter from 1995. Following a decision by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in 2006, under the current reporting system the provisions of both the 1961 European Social Charter and the 1996 Revised European Social Charter have been divided into four thematic groups: “Employment, training and equal opportunities” (which includes article 1 para 2, mostly relevant for substitute service of conscientious objectors), “Health, social security and social protection”, “Labour rights”, “Children, families, migrants”. States present a report on the provisions relating to one of the four thematic groups on an annual basis. Consequently each provision of the Charter is reported on once very four years. A calendar of reporting cycles is available at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/ReportCalendar/Calend....

The European Committee of Social Rights evaluates a State's report in light of the relevant provisions of the European Social Charter, and publishes its evaluations and conclusions in a report, which is made available at the end of the reporting cycle on the website of the European Committee of Social Rights (see http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/Conclusions/Conclusio...).

2. To which States does this mechanism apply

The mechanism applies to States that have ratified one of the relevant revisions of the European Social Charter, plus possibly additional protocols:

3. Who can submit information?

International NGOs with participatory status of the Council of Europe and national trade unions can submit information to the European Committee of Social Rights.
The procedure for obtaining participatory status is set out in Council of Europe Committee of Ministers resolution Res(2003)8 (see http://www.coe.int/t/ngo/Articles/Resolution_2003_8_en.asp).
In addition, States Parties are requested to forward a copy of their report to national organisations that are members of the international organisations of employers and trade unions invited, under Article 27, paragraph 2, to be represented at meetings of the Governmental Committee.

4. When to submit information?

It is advisable to submit information after submission of a State's report.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

Since 2006, reporting has been split into four thematic areas. It is important that a submission refers to the report of the State in question, and is limited to the provisions of the European Social Charter which are being addressed in the relevant reporting cycle.
States are required to submit their reports by 31 October of each year, and the European Committee for Social Rights is supposed to publish its conclusions by the end of the following year.

The reporting calendar is available at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/ReportCalendar/Calend....

6. What happens to a submission (how long will it take)?

The European Committee of Social Rights will designate a Rapporteur following the submission of a State's report, whose task it is to prepare for the examination of a State's report.
As part of the reporting procedure, the Committee of Social Rights or a sub-committee set up to do so might organise a meeting with representatives of the State concerned, to which international organisations and international trade unions may be invited, as well as – if the State concerned agrees – representatives of national trade unions of the State concerned. The Executive Secretary will then draft provisional conclusions.
Following the session, the European Committee of Social Rights will adopt its conclusions at the end of each supervision cycle.

If a state takes no action on a Committee decision to the effect that it does not comply with the Charter, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers addresses a recommendation to that state, asking it to change the situation in law and/or in practice.

7. History of the use of this mechanism

The authors are not aware that conscientious objector organisations or human rights NGOs have raised the issue of a punitive substitute service within the state reporting procedure of the European Committee of Social Rights. Nevertheless, the ECSR has addressed the issue in several reports, based on article 1 para 2 of the European Social Charter – The right to work, or more specifically the commitment “to protect effectively the right of the worker to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon”. The ECSR sees a punitive length of substitute service as a “disproportionate restriction on 'the right of the worker to earn his living in an occupation freely entered upon'”, and therefore as a violation of article 1 para 2 of the European Social Charter.

Contact Details: 
Secretariat of the European Social Charter Council of Europe Directorate general of Human Rights and Legal Affairs Directorate of Monitoring F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex Tel. +33-3-88 41 32 58 Fax. +33-3-88 41 37 00
Conclusions
Title Date
European Committee of Social Rights: Conclusions 2006 (Moldova) 14/03/2007

“Service in place of military service
According to the report the length of alternative service is 24 months, while the length of military service is 12 months.
The Committee recalls that under Article 1§2 the duration of alternative service may not exceed one and a half times the length of military service. The Committee therefore finds that the situation is not in conformity with Article 1§2 of the Revised Charter.”

European Committee of Social Rights: Conclusions 2006 (Romania) 14/03/2007

“Service to replace military service
In its previous conclusions, the Committee considered that the situation was not in conformity because the length of the alternative service to military service, 24 months instead of 12, was excessive. It took the view that the additional 12 months, during which the persons concerned were deprived of the right to earn a living through freely undertaken work, went beyond reasonable limits in relation to the length of military service.
There has been no change to this situation therefore the Committee concludes that the situation is not in conformity with the Revised Charter in this respect.”

European Committee of Social Rights: Conclusions 2004 (Cyprus) 01/07/2004

“Service required to replace military service
In its last conclusion, the Committee considered that the duration of the service that replaced compulsory military service was excessive (Conclusions XVI-1, pp. 98). The report refers in this respect to a document that was to have been forwarded to the Committee by the Ministry of Defence but of which there is no trace. It therefore considers that the situation has not changed.”

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