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PACE needs investigative body to protect integrity of its mission

Recent investigative reporting highlights that recommendations in response to the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ have not yet been fully implemented

As members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) prepare to discuss the Assembly's role and mission in Berlin this week, Transparency International urges them to recommend a permanent investigative body to examine allegations of corruption and murky lobbying undermining its mission. If PACE is to fulfil its mandate of protecting human rights and upholding rule of law in Europe, it must prioritise measures to ensure the integrity of its actions.

Last week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published an investigation into senior European politicians’ alleged receipt of payments from a Ukrainian politician, Serhiy Lovochkin, via the notorious US political operative Paul Manafort. Included in the report are claims that the current Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, a former PACE President, was “on Lovochkin’s payroll” during his membership of PACE and “secretly lobbying while serving as a member of a PACE mission to observe Ukraine’s 2012 parliamentary elections.”

“The mandate of PACE delegates to support human rights and democracy demands that their actions be above reproach,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International. “There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation into whether Çavuşoğlu breached his duties as a PACE delegate and whether any breach was connected to the payments he reportedly received from Lovochkin.”

Çavuşoğlu is the second former PACE president to be implicated in a scandal related to whitewashing a country’s reputation. In 2017, PACE President Pedro Agramunt resigned before he could be stripped of his leadership over suspected corrupt activity. “The Council of Europe needs to establish a permanent, independent and well-equipped investigative body to uncover wrongdoing, refer prosecution to national authorities and propose sanctions within the CoE framework,” Moreira continued.

In June 2018, the PACE Committee on Rules of Procedure banned 14 former members from the Council of Europe premises for serious breaches of Council of Europe codes of conduct in the context of so-called ‘Caviar Diplomacy’ by Azerbaijan. In March 2019, Transparency International Germany submitted a criminal complaint against two such delegates from Germany.

Transparency International also reiterates its call that allegations of corruption by PACE members that were mentioned but not pursued in an April 2018 independent investigative report be thoroughly investigated.

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