The definition of political prisoner
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on
3 October 2012 (33rd Sitting) (see Doc. 13011, report of the Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Strässer). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 3 October 2012 (33rd Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls
that the definition of “political prisoner” 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.
2. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that the criteria put forward
by the above-mentioned experts were inspired by, inter alia, the specific circumstances
of the civil war in Namibia in 1989. 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.
The 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
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).
4. Those 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).
5. The 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.