Tiny Kox, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made the following statement to mark the Day of Political Prisoners (30 October):
“30 October marks the Day of Political Prisoners. On this day in 1974, political prisoners in the USSR held a general hunger strike in protest against their detention. In 2023, this day remains highly significant.
Human rights defenders, civil society actors, political opponents, journalists, persons who practice their religion and many more committed to human rights, democracy and the rule of law are imprisoned and continue to be detained in Europe. This is simply unacceptable.
Our Assembly is at the forefront of the condemnation of detentions for political motives. Just this year, I have repeatedly denounced the continued imprisonment of Václav Havel Human Rights Prize laureates Osman Kavala, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Maria Kalesnikava, and Ales Bialiatski. Our General Rapporteurs on Political Prisoners and on Human Rights Defenders have called for the release of Alexei Navalny and others.
Our Assembly has also reminded member States of their obligation to implement the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, as too many of those that remain unimplemented condemn arbitrary detentions and demand the release of persons detained for political motives. It is unacceptable that member States do not respect the rulings of the Court and infringement proceedings, and our Assembly Resolution 2518 (2023) calling for the immediate release of Osman Kavala expressed this in the strongest terms. I also recall our Assembly’s strong condemnation of the situation of political prisoners in the Russian Federation and in Azerbaijan, in 2022 and 2020 respectively.
A political prisoner, following the definition set out in Assembly Resolution 1900 (2012), is one whose detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols; or for purely political reasons, without connection to any offence; if the length of such detention or its conditions are clearly out of proportion or discriminatory; or if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair, and this appears to be connected with political motives.
The point of detentions for political motives today is clearly to quash opposition and voices discordant with the official State position, as we continue to see in the case of anti-war protesters in the Russian Federation and Belarus, amongst others.
Today, as on every other day, I condemn detentions for political motives and call for the immediate release of all those in jail for speaking their mind, having an opinion, and advocating for the values that this organisation stands for.”