2nd April 2014: Yesterday afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked the following questions during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) after a presentation from three Greek ministers on the 'state of play' of the Greek Presidency of the Council*.
"The Minister of Justice mentioned the European habeas corpus** and referred to abuse of rights by state authorities. I must say that the European version of this instrument was something that had, until this afternoon, escaped my attention.
"Has he found any need to prevent member states from depriving their political opponents of their human rights and, in particular, their liberty?
"He mentioned the need to discuss the Rule of Law with the Commission. Did he have any country in mind? Have we seen people or perhaps parties punished, without, or in advance of, judicial processes?
"These issues are important because we would all deprecate people having their rights abused by state authorities. If it should happen in member states, that would be a matter of even greater concern.
"I am pleased to see that the Presidency of the Cradle of Democracy is of the same mind."
Reply from the Minister of Justice, Mr Athanassiou:
"Of course, we should protect the Rule of Law. I could not answer if I were aware of any state......... (that had broken the Rule of Law?)
The Rule of Law and Separation of Powers first started in in my country. In some countries, one branch (of government) interferes with the work of another branch. We cannot interfere with the Judiciary. Our guiding principle must always be the Rule of Law."
* A different member state takes over the Presidency of the Council ever six months for the following six months. The Greek Presidency of the Council began on 1st January 2014 and will last until 30th June 2014.
** Habeas corpus is a legal instrument (a prerogative writ) that might in England and Wales be sought from the High Court to force a person or institution to justify the detention of a person in custody