Logo Assembly Logo Hemicycle

The definition of political prisoner

Doc. 13011: compendium of written amendments | Doc. 13011 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly recalls that the notion of political prisoners was elaborated within the Council of Europe in 2001 by the independent experts of the Secretary General, mandated to assess cases of alleged political prisoners in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the context of the accession of the two States to the Organisation.
2It notes with satisfaction that the general criteria put forward by the independent experts were approved by all stakeholders at the time, including the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.

02 October 2012

Tabled by Mr Patrick MORIAU, Mr Pasquale NESSA, Mr Younal LOUTFI, Mr Agustín CONDE, Mr Øyvind VAKSDAL, Mr George LOUCAIDES

Votes: 152 in favor 21 against 8 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 2 with the following paragraph:

"The Parliamentary Assembly notes that the criteria put forward by the above-mentioned experts were based on the specific circumstances of the civil war in Namibia in 1989. Whereas they were applied to individual cases with regard to two countries during their accession to the Council of Europe, they have never been subject to comprehensive debate or approval by the Parliamentary Assembly."

Explanatory note

Paragraph 2 of the draft resolution is factually inaccurate. The general criteria and the related document referred to were never approved by the Parliamentary Assembly. Neither a debate nor a vote on this document has been held since 2001.

03 October 2012

Tabled by Mr Christoph STRÄSSER, Mr Jerzy MONTAG, Mr Michael MCNAMARA, Ms Tineke STRIK, Mr René ROUQUET, Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Mr Kimmo SASI

Votes: 108 in favor 53 against 16 abstentions

In the proposed amendment, in the first sentence, replace the words "were based on" with the following words: "were inspired by, inter alia,"

Explanatory note

The text as it stands is factually wrong. In actual fact, only one of the Secretary General's Independent Experts who participated in formulating the criteria developed for the Council of Europe had previously worked with an expert who had acted as the UN Security Council's expert on the situation of political prisoners in Namibia.

In the proposed amendment, replace the second sentence with the following sentence: "They were applied to cases with regard to two countries during their accession to the Council of Europe and have not until now been subject to comprehensive debate or explicit approval by the Parliamentary Assembly."

Explanatory note

The sub-amendment aims to correct a factual inaccuracy whilst maintaining as much as possible of the text. The criteria were applied to well over 800 cases during the accession of two countries to the Council of Europe, and were subject to implicit approval by the Parliamentary Assembly when it approved the two previous reports on political prisoners.

3The Assembly reaffirms its support for these criteria, summed up as follows: “A person deprived of his or her personal liberty is to be regarded as a 'political prisoner': a. if the detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols (ECHR), in particular freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association; b. if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons without connection to any offence; c. if, for political motives, the length of the detention or its conditions are clearly out of proportion to the offence the person has been found guilty of or is suspected of; d. if, for political motives, he or she is detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons; or, e. if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair and this appears to be connected with political motives of the authorities.” (SG/Inf(2001)34, paragraph 10)

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 3 with the following paragraph:

"The Parliamentary Assembly confirms that the interpretation and application of any criteria defining a political prisoner are the exclusive competence of the European Court of Human Rights, which is the only authority to assess violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, as stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols."

Explanatory note

A civil war in Southern Africa some 25 years ago should not form the basis of objective standards for all Council of Europe member States in the present day. Only the current case-law of the European Court of Human Rights should be considered as the 'gold standard' in this regard.

4Those deprived of their personal liberty for terrorist crimes shall not be considered political prisoners if they have been prosecuted and sentenced for such crimes according to national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5).
5The Assembly invites the competent authorities of all the member States of the Council of Europe to reassess the cases of any alleged political prisoners by application of the above-mentioned criteria and to release or retry any such prisoners as appropriate.