The discussion at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of a report on the incompatibility of the Sharia law with Human Rights is long overdue. Introduced in January 2016, it was on the agenda on 25 April 2018,[1]but was cancelled that very morning. Dilatory strategies have been used for two years to avoid this debate, in the context of a corruption scandal involving Azerbaijan, accomplice of Turkey.

The report denounces the application of Sharia law in several countries, regions and neighbourhoods in Europe. It particularly denounces the double membership of some States to both the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as their ratification of the Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) which subjects the rights and freedoms “to the Islamic Shariah,” which is “the only source of reference”.[2] The draft report confirms, like the European Court of Human Rights,[3] the existence of structural incompatibilities between Islam and the Convention which, as far as Sharia law is concerned, are sometimes absolute and sometimes relative” (Report, §29). Among those incompatibilities there are the assertion of the superiority of men over women, the rules governing marriage, the inhuman punishment for certain crimes, the absence of freedom of religion and the discriminatory status of Christians and Jews.

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What consequences should the Member States draw from this observation of incompatibility while Sharia is “the law to be obeyed by every Muslim” (Coran, 5, 48)? How should Europe act with regard to Turkey, Albania and Azerbaijan, signatories to both the Cairo Declaration and the European Convention?

It is in order to avoid opening these debates that the rapporteur Antonio Gutierrez postpones the discussion from meeting to meeting. This evasion is not surprising: the Portuguese socialist was appointed rapporteur with the support of the deputies of Turkey and Azerbaijan[4] instead of the Dutch Parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt (EPP/CD), initiator of the report and known to be critical of Islam. It is also Mr. Omtzigt who initiated the investigation showing the direct involvement of Azerbaijan in a system of influence and massive corruption of members of the PACE.[5] The Council of Europe is also under pressure from the Turkish government, which not only tramples on its values, but also drastically reduced its contribution to the organization’s budget, plunging it into an unprecedented financial crisis.

In this tense environment, the European Court of Human Rights must also make crucial judgments on the application of Sharia law in the Greek region of Western Thrace,[6][7] as well as on the right to criticize and caricature Muhammad. The ECLJ intervened before the Court in one of these cases.[8]
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[1] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Draft Agenda, AS/Jur (2018) OJ 03 Rev, 19 April 2018.
[2] Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, issued by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and adopted in Cairo on 5 August 1990.
[3] CECHR, Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98, and 41344/98, 13 February 2003.
[4] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “Compatibility of Sharia law with the European Convention on Human Rights: can States parties to the Convention be signatories of the “Cairo Declaration”?”, Doc. 13965, 27 January 2016.
[5] Council of Europe, Report of the “Independent Investigation Body on PACE,” 15 April 2018:
[6] In accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923 and entered into force on 6 August 1924.
[7] Application no. 20452/14, Molla Sali v. Greece, filed with the Court on 5 March 2014.
[8] Application no. 38450/12, E. S. v. Austria, 16 December 2015.
The European Centre for Law and Justice is an international, Non-Governmental Organization created in 1998 and dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide.