Mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary General

on Antisemitic, Anti-Muslim and other forms of religious intolerance and hate crimes

The Council of Europe’s expertise in fighting discrimination

The fight against discrimination, including on grounds of religion or belief, has been at the core of the Council of Europe’s mission from the outset.Various Council of Europe bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) have developed an invaluable level of knowledge and expertise in this field. The Organisation also maintains a long tradition of supporting and contributing to Holocaust remembrance.

At their meeting in Helsinki on 17 May 2019 (129th Session of the Committee of Ministers; CM/Del/Dec(2019)129/2a), Council of Europe Ministers underlined “the need to address increasing inequality, racism, xenophobia, hate speech and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief or any other ground”.

ECRI has since decided to revise its General Policy Recommendations No. 5 on hatred against Muslims and No. 9 on antisemitism. The new Steering Committee on Anti-discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI) will reinforce the Organisation’s intergovernmental work in this area.

Increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim acts and other forms of religious intolerance

Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe. In response to recent antisemitic attacks, the Secretary General has stated on several occasions that the Council of Europe will step up efforts to counter antisemitic hatred and hate crimes.

Anti-Muslim attacks are also on the increase. Like Judaism, Islam is part of Europe today and the Council of Europe is therefore dedicated to combating all forms of anti-Muslim prejudice and hate. In view of the growing number of acts committed, the prevention of antisemitism and anti-Muslimism is a key priority for the Organisation today.

Likewise, the Council of Europe’s member states are concerned with multiple incidents of antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of religious hatred have in recent years set up specialist bodies, or appointed special representatives, as a reaction to the growing threat.

The need to enhance co-operation with member states

Since these attacks are no longer isolated events, but an emerging European phenomenon, often incited and aggravated by hate speech online, it is vital to enhance the Council of Europe’s action in co-operation with its member states. Indeed, many governments, NGOs, media and large parts of the general public expect the Organisation to be strong and vocal in its response.

The role of the Special Representative

The Secretary General has decided to appoint a Special Representative on Antisemitic, Anti-Muslim and other forms of religious intolerance and hate crimes to facilitate the development of a complementary, flexible and rapid response to work towards effective counter strategies at European level. The Special Representative will support the Secretary General by ensuring internal co-ordination and enhancing co-operation with the member states in their common effort to prevent antisemitic and anti-Muslim acts. The Special Representative will liaise with counterparts in the member states, the EU and international organisations as well as with Jewish and Muslim institutions and will report significant developments directly to the Secretary General. Communication will be a key activity of the role.

The mandate of the Special Representative includes the following actions:

·              raise awareness and visibility by actively communicating the Organisation’s work and the Secretary General’s priorities to governments, relevant international organisations, religious organisations in the member states, political leaders, influencers and the general public, and enhance the Council of Europe’s regular dialogue with the above-mentioned stakeholders by working closely with all relevant structures within the Organisation;

·              develop a comprehensive response of the Council of Europe to antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of hate crimes by working closely with all relevant structures within the Organisation, including the CDADI and ECRI;

·              put forward specific proposals to the Secretary General on ways to strengthen Council of Europe assistance and advice to member states on how to combat antisemitic, anti-Muslim and other forms of religious hatred and hate crimes in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe relevant standards. 

The Secretary General may, either of her own account or at the Special Representative’s recommendation, mandate her Special Representative to carry out a variety of tasks. These include preparing discussion papers and opinion editorials and representing her in international fora and in dialogue with national authorities. The Special Representative may also be tasked with co-ordinating the preparation of strategic documents including proposals for action to be undertaken by the Council of Europe.

The Special Representative will report to the Secretary General.