AS (2013) CR 06



(First part)


Sixth sitting

Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 3.30 p.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.

3.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

4.       Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.

The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.

      (Mr Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.35 p.m.)

      THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.

1. Changes in the membership of committees

THE PRESIDENT* – Our first business is to consider the changes to the membership of committees set out in Document Commissions (2013) 01 Addendum 7.

Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?

They are agreed to.

2. The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan and the follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

THE PRESIDENT* – The first business this afternoon is a joint debate on the report “The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan” presented by Mr Pedro Agramunt and Mr Joseph Debono Grech on behalf of the Monitoring Committee, Document 13084 and the report “The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan” presented by Mr Christoph Strässer on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Document 13079 and Addendum.

To leave sufficient time for the next debate and to allow time for responses in this debate and for voting, we will have to interrupt the list of speakers in this debate at about 6.10 p.m.

Is that agreed?

It is agreed.

I first call Mr Agramunt, co-rapporteur. You and Mr Debono Grech have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

      Mr AGRAMUNT (Spain)* – The draft report, which was adopted at the December meeting of the Monitoring Committee in Paris, is the report you now have before you, with one minor amendment that was adopted by the Committee this afternoon. We have produced a report that I think is well balanced and to which no one has seriously objected. Mr Debono Grech and I are very happy with the report, which is why we would like you strongly to support it. It is the first for some five or six years on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan. You know very well the text of the draft resolution, as we have discussed it many times. We will keep some time aside to respond to questions and comments.

Incidentally, the rapporteurs’ decision was not to accept any amendments. There were 13 – 10 from Azerbaijan, one from the Armenian delegation and two from five others. We decided not to accept any of them because we wanted to keep the report intact, precisely because we felt that it was well balanced. Obviously, amendments can be accepted but they would not help us a great deal, and I do not want an extensive debate. I will take questions or remarks at the end of the debate during my remaining time, and Mr Debono Grech will speak later.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Agramunt. You have 10 minutes and 30 seconds remaining.

      I call Mr Strässer.

      Mr STRÄSSER (Germany)* – We are discussing two reports. In 2009, I was appointed rapporteur for following up the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The task has certainly not been straightforward, but I will not talk about the reasons for that. I do, however, want to talk about a couple of issues of principle.

It might be asked why the committee is addressing Azerbaijan alone in this regard, and not other countries, too. I asked that question before working on the topic, but I quickly realised why it is the case. The title of our report is “the follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan”, which serves to highlight that we have been working over the same ground since 2001 and have produced four texts on the subject.

There is an important political message that we must send out. At the time of the last report in 2005, we adopted a resolution. The report stated at paragraph 11: “In the light of the commitments entered into and the assurances given by the Azerbaijani authorities that the issue would be dealt with to the Assembly’s satisfaction by the autumn 2004 session, the Assembly cannot consider the issue of political prisoners to have been finally resolved”. We in the Parliamentary Assembly must take our own commitments seriously. We have committed ourselves to follow up the process, so we have a responsibility to do so.

Only a few months ago, we agreed a definition of “political prisoner”. We do not want to pillory any country in particular, and that definition applies to all 47 member States of the Council of Europe. We must, therefore, discuss this issue in the context of other countries, too.

      What is the current situation? Unfortunately, on the basis of information gained via co-operation with a number of Azerbaijani non-governmental organisations, it is clear that this issue has not been addressed since our last report. Only a few weeks ago, there was a presidential amnesty for more than 40 detainees, 14 of whom appeared on the list I submitted, but others who are clearly political prisoners are still in prison in Azerbaijan, so we must get to grips with this issue yet again.

Irrespective of the outcome of the vote, a further report on this subject will be required, and I hope we will then finally be able to conclude that the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, and in other member States, has finally been resolved. That is our hope, and we all have a responsibility to help to achieve it. I hope we will have a constructive discussion and arrive at a positive result. I appeal to members to vote in favour of the report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Strässer. You have eight and a half minutes remaining to reply to the debate.

There is a three-minute time limit on speeches in the general debate.

I call Ms Brasseur, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – I thank our rapporteurs for their excellent work. I know that conditions were often difficult, especially for Mr Strässer. ALDE unanimously supports the two reports. They show where Azerbaijan has made progress, but also agree that there is much more to do. Indeed, in some areas, including freedom of expression, thought and opinion and independence for the judiciary, things have got worse.

We have received information that many of the political prisoners on the list have been freed. We welcome that, of course, but others remain behind bars, and further names need to be added to the list, so we need to continue to follow-up this issue. People must not be subjected to discrimination and thrown into prison merely for their political opinions.

Over the period in which the reports were being written, there was considerable political tension. Visas were refused to members of our Organisation who wanted to visit Azerbaijan to do this work, and they were accused of being anti-Azerbaijan. That is unacceptable; it is more than regrettable. We should sit down and talk things through as equals and as fellow parliamentarians, and make sure that Azerbaijan, along with other countries, fulfils all its commitments to the Council of Europe. That is in the interests of all the 800 million Europeans this Organisation represents. We must make it clear that much remains to be done. It is unacceptable for a rapporteur to be prevented from entering the country.

Instead of attacking and blaming each other, we should make it clear that we share a mission. We should work together for the good of all the citizens of the Council of Europe area.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Brasseur. I call Mr Walter to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Mr WALTER (United Kingdom) – In 1813, what is today Azerbaijan was formally incorporated into the Russian empire. The tsars were not known for their respect for human rights and democracy. There was a brief period of 23 months between 1918 and 1920 when the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic became the first Muslim country to grant women the vote, but that was short-lived, because Lenin could not live without Baku’s oil, and Soviet rule continued until 1991. After a series of coups, Azerbaijan has enjoyed probably no more than 20 years of what resembles democracy. It is therefore a young democracy. None of us is perfect, but Azerbaijan has serious questions to answer in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The Monitoring Committee’s excellent report asks serious questions about elections, the separation of powers, corruption, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. It also asks questions about political prisoners. According to the report, which cites Amnesty International’s figures, today there are eight political prisoners in Azerbaijan. That is eight too many. It is totally unacceptable to have political prisoners in any member State of the Council of Europe. To the credit of the Monitoring Committee’s two rapporteurs, they and OSCE engaged with the Ministry of Justice in Azerbaijan and visited prisons and prisoners in Azerbaijan. Sadly, the rapporteur for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Mr Strässer, who is passionate about this issue, has not done so. Unfortunately, he passed judgment on the conclusions of his report before ever attempting to go to Azerbaijan. He based his report on blogs, non-governmental organisation reports and hearsay. I believe that, unfortunately, our Monitoring Committee’s report now discredits his somewhat confused report and its addendum.

The European Democrat Group spent considerable time looking at both reports. Even with our Azeri and Armenian colleagues present, we decided that we would support wholeheartedly the Monitoring Committee’s report, but I am afraid that we decided that we would reject Mr Strässer’s report on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

The PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Werner, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Ms WERNER (Germany)* – On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, I, too, thank our two rapporteurs for their work. Today we are discussing once again the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The situation seems to have stalled, so any objective discussion may prove difficult. Nevertheless, when they accede to the Council of Europe, member States commit themselves to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights and to submit to scrutiny in that regard. It is therefore wrong that a rapporteur appointed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be denied a visa, even if there was justified criticism. In spite of differing historical understandings of democracy, we have to share a common core in terms of what that means. We believe that the issue of political prisoners is part of that common core. There should not be political prisoners in any member State of the Council of Europe. It is obvious to us that all political prisoners should be released, whether in a Council of Europe member State or beyond.

We have two reports on this subject. The report of our colleague Mr Strässer uses a broader definition of political prisoners. However, the method used in the report, which produces figures on political prisoners, raises a number of questions. Alongside it, we have the Monitoring Committee’s report. Its recommendations transcend the issue of political prisoners. Early this morning, the UEL decided, after intense discussion, that a majority of its members would abstain on Christoph Strässer’s report but would vote in favour of the Monitoring Committee’s report, as we feel that the Monitoring Committee’s report is consistent with its brief.

It is important that we discuss with the government and the opposition in Azerbaijan the institutional reforms that are required to strengthen fundamental democratic rights. We pay tribute to the efforts and progress made in Azerbaijan on economic, social and cultural rights, but there is huge room for improvement on civil and political rights such as the right of assembly, the right of association, press freedom and the independence of the judiciary. The Monitoring Committee has made appropriate proposals for grappling with a complex situation and it does not produce a blanket judgment of the country, which is why the UEL will vote for its report.

The PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Volontè, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr VOLONTÈ (Italy)* – We have a joint debate this afternoon on two important reports. Our group is very much in favour of the text that has been submitted by the Monitoring Committee and has allowed a free vote to members on the report dealing with political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

On the Monitoring Committee’s report, our rapporteurs have done excellent work and we congratulate them on that. As they say, progress has been made but there are growing concerns in a number of regards, such as the independence of the judiciary and the rights of association and assembly. We have also seen measures to curb press freedoms. There are political prisoners and people are deprived of their freedom for reasons of conscience. There are cases of torture and abuse on the part of law enforcement agents. Our co-rapporteurs delved into all those issues on their fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan and through the various exchanges they had, including at international level, for which I thank them. The EPP speaks with one voice on that.

As I said, our members have a free vote on the second report, on political prisoners; there is no whip. Some of our members were in favour of the report, while others, including me, were against, but no one called into question the reality of political prisoners. The work that has been done is an important complement to the thinking done by the Monitoring Committee. Some of us have worked for many years alongside Mr Strässer. Others feel that the Monitoring Committee deals with the issue of political prisoners and that, because its recommendations are made in the light of fact-finding missions, its proposals are more relevant and up to date.

Mr Strässer said that we need to take out the issue of political prisoners. Having spoken about my group’s position, perhaps I may say in a more personal capacity that, as Mr Strässer argued, we have to revisit the issue of political prisoners. We have adopted a resolution defining what constitutes a political prisoner and that has to apply to the 47 member States. In the context of any monitoring report, it is important that we concentrate on the situation of such persons in all member States of the Council of Europe. It is important that we do all in our power to seek the release of any political prisoners wherever they are in all Council of Europe member countries.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms von Cramon-Taubadel, who speaks on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Ms von CRAMON-TAUBADEL (Germany)* – We, too, warmly thank the rapporteurs. Both reports seek to shore up the rule of law in Azerbaijan and not in any way to stigmatise one particular country. As Mr Volontè has just said, Christoph Strässer’s report in particular is part of the tradition of the Council of Europe, and it continues the work on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by the Belgian and United Kingdom rapporteurs who preceded him. Mr Strässer has done no more and no less than what he was requested to do regarding the criteria for political prisoners, which he applied to Azerbaijan in October. Unfortunately, many of the problems have not been solved, which is why the Assembly is obliged to work on behalf of the people in that situation. The international community and civil society in Azerbaijan – especially family and friends, those campaigning for them and youth activists – will be looking closely at what we do and decide in Strasbourg.

There is no dichotomy between the Monitoring Committee and the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, or at least not in how they have taken decisions. There is a natural division of labour between the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights – or the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy – and the Monitoring Committee. To its great merit, the Monitoring Committee has taken up general problems relating to Azerbaijan, but it cannot go into as much detail as the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. We saw that in relation to the Magnitsky case and Mr Marty’s investigations about the North Caucasus. It is important that the committees stick to that division of labour.

      The problem of political imprisonment in Azerbaijan has still not been solved, even following the amnesty of 26 December. Fourteen people on the list have indeed been released, as were 21 people between June and December 2012, but the problem is that those releases are still pending. Some of those people were released only because they had served their entire sentence, and some are on parole, while, unfortunately, an opposition politician died in prison in August. The addendum on new cases shows that a revolving door policy is being used as a tactic to silence independent journalists. It is a cat-and-mouse game, in which they are arrested, released and then re-arrested shortly afterwards. Everybody clearly knows that next time it could be them, which is a tactic of intimidation.

      As an Assembly, we are the watchdogs of human rights in the Council of Europe. We have the right and the duty to point out violations of human rights. Another important point is that the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights report has a humanitarian concern. Such punishments in Azerbaijan do not correspond to the principles of the Council of Europe, which should be repeated again and again in our reports.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms von Cramon-Taubadel. The rapporteurs will reply at the end of the debate, so we will continue with the general debate.

I call Ms Christoffersen.

Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – Yesterday, our Secretary General spoke about member States that have problems fulfilling their obligations on human rights, democracy and rule of law. Some of them are willing to work on their problems, but some are not. For the latter, he prescribed harder pressure from this Organisation.

What kind of member State is Azerbaijan? Let me quote one phrase from each of the two reports: “growing concern with regard to the rule of law and respect for human rights”, and “The issue of political prisoners is still not resolved”. I could give more statements from the reports about limitations on freedom of expression and of assembly, the lack of access to public media, the fact that there is no separation of powers, fabricated charges against human rights activists and journalists, unfair trials, the systematic detention of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the pressure on defence lawyers, corruption and organised crime, torture and ill treatment, impunity for abusers and uninvestigated murders.

Yesterday, I met representatives of Azerbaijani NGOs and Amnesty International. They told me the same stories, but also others about killings and ill treatment in the army, constant threats against NGOs that oppose the regime, the seizure of what NGOs use in their activities, the forced closure of the Azerbaijan Human Rights House, sexual blackmail and arrests for Internet activism. Their stories are even stronger because victims are given not only names, but faces.

As some of you may remember, I have often spoken about the situation of the human rights activist and journalist Malahat Nasibova and her two children, who are now refugees in Norway, and that, in this Assembly, I have begged the authorities to leave their little sister alone – well, they have not done so. Once again, I appeal to the head of the Azerbaijani delegation: “Stop threatening young girls.” The outcome of such activity serves only to dishonour your own country. I also remind you of the Iranian-Norwegian reporter Amir Asgharnejad, who is still waiting for an apology after having been held and threatened at Baku airport during last year’s song contest.

From May 2014, Azerbaijan will chair the Committee of Ministers. In my opinion, that severely threatens the credibility of this Organisation. On the other hand, the Azerbaijani authorities really ought carefully to think through whether they will be able to bear scrutiny in that situation. The good thing is that you still have time to change, and reopening the Human Rights House would be a good starting point.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Christoffersen. I call Mr Bockel.

Mr BOCKEL (France)* – I certainly do not underestimate the progress yet to be made by the Azerbaijani authorities in more fully complying with the criteria defined by our Organisation on democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. There is room for improvement, if I can put it that way, in the democratic process in Azerbaijan, as the Monitoring Committee says.

I will not give in to the temptation to draw too black a picture of the country, because I am sure that it will move closer to the democratic ideal in years to come. The country’s economic potential will promote aspirations towards democracy and be a driver of political change. For example, roads, schools and hospitals have been modernised thanks to the oil bonanza. Looking back over the past 10 years, there has been significant progress, with the population benefiting from greater prosperity, which can only foster the emergence of democracy.

Another issue is the sensitive and delicate question of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a brake on efforts to aspire to greater democracy. Some 10% of the population are concerned and the situation of refugees can only foster resentment. We must try to resolve the conflict, not least by supporting the efforts of the Minsk Group. Our forums bring together the two belligerents, and parliamentary democracy should enable us to achieve tangible results.

The European Union is pulling in the same direction: it recently called for speedier negotiations. Tomorrow, we will hear from the European Commissioner with responsibility for enlargement. He has underscored the efforts being made to consolidate and ensure democracy in Azerbaijan. At the same time, he has welcomed the strengthened co-operation between Brussels and Baku in the energy sector, an agreement that will not be without political consequences. The prospect of membership of the World Trade Organization is also being held out to Azerbaijan, with the support of Brussels.

This joint debate also affords an opportunity to discuss the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights report, which I am sure we all welcome. It can only foster and further promote democracy, but unfortunately, it might give the impression that we are marginalising Azerbaijan. We should not stigmatise the country but welcome its efforts. We should not forget Azerbaijan’s specific geopolitical position. Although the situation could be improved in many respects, we would do well to look at what is working effectively in there. For example, there is a secular tradition. Although there is a Muslim majority, there is peaceful coexistence of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, which we should underscore.

In the light of all those matters, I shall vote unreservedly for the first report, but that is not compatible with voting in favour of the other report, which is incomplete and partial.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Rouquet.

      Mr ROUQUET (France)* – I support the rapporteurs and, in the light of everything that has been said since the start of the sitting, give special thanks to Christoph Strässer. I wholeheartedly support the comments of Ms von Cramon-Taubadel on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      I turn to the question of IDPs in Azerbaijan, as the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, of which I am a member, has appointed me rapporteur on holding centres in Europe. According to figures published recently by the World Bank and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the military conflict with Armenia has given rise to some 595 000 IDPs in Azerbaijan, which is particularly high in relation to the country’s population. Although a cease-fire was declared back in 1994, the future of these individuals remains uncertain. People accommodated in holding centres live in conditions that are an affront to dignity and to the values defended in this forum. Despite a booming economy, IDPs remain among the most vulnerable social groups and are largely dependent on external assistance. As with many other conflicts, women and children are the first to be affected, and most live in parlous conditions and are deprived of economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to housing, jobs, education and personal development. For most IDPs, especially women, their only resource is in the form of government hand-outs, which, notwithstanding oil revenues, cannot be deemed a long-term solution.

IDPs are entitled to become fully fledged members of Azerbaijani society, and discriminatory practices must be combated. Barriers include the inflexible registration system for IDPs according to their place of origin rather than their place of residence, as well as segregated schools and the building of new housing estates in remote areas. Without a resolve to integrate on the part of the political leadership, most of the people uprooted will, like their Armenian counterparts, become hostages of a conflict that has been frozen for 15 years. Solutions must be found to improve their lot, and alternatives to holding centres should be established. In the context of my report, I wish to visit Azerbaijan to have discussions with the Azeri authorities and representatives of the NGOs and IDPs.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Rouquet. I call Mr Rzayev.

Mr RZAYEV (Azerbaijan)* – I, too, thank the rapporteurs for their work, which is of great significance. However, I cannot agree with some elements of the second report. Why are there two different attitudes to Azerbaijan?

The work of the rapporteurs shows clearly the percentage of Azerbaijani territory that is under occupation and the fact that 1 million Azerbaijanis – one in nine – have become refugees. No other country has such a high figure.

In Azerbaijan, it is not a crime to express one’s opinion. Today, I have heard us accused not entirely fairly: Azerbaijan is, after all, a young country that is only on the road to creating the rule of law and civil society. The Monitoring Committee’s report talks about 22 political prisoners arrested, according to the Amnesty International lists and other NGOs, but Mr Strässer gives a figure of 85 in his report. Why is there a difference between the two figures? People find themselves in prison for all sorts of reasons, but it is strange how many of them end up on lists of political prisoners. Mr Strässer should answer that question. He should visit Azerbaijan and see with his own eyes what is happening in the country.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Rzayev. I call Ms Schuster.

Ms SCHUSTER (Germany)* – I thank the three rapporteurs for presenting the two reports. Leaving aside the Monitoring Committee’s report for the moment, we all know that monitoring is at the heart of the Assembly’s activities, as it is about examining the extent to which states are fulfilling their obligations. Monitoring is less about individual cases than about the human rights situation in a country. Any country that accedes, as Azerbaijan did in 1992, must be subjected to full monitoring.

The findings of the Monitoring Committee’s report give rise to concern. There is a lack of independence of the judiciary, with judges put under pressure. Page 27 details disturbing reports from NGOs of torture. There is a lack of freedom of the media, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. There are no free and fair elections, and journalists and opposition politicians are intimidated at every turn.

Turning to the second report, people are asking why there is a report on the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, but not about the situation of political prisoners in other countries. The reason is simple: the Assembly decided to commission Mr Strässer to produce a report on the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. On the situation of political prisoners, we should look carefully at all member States, and table motions on other countries as well.

The second criticism is that Mr Strässer produced different figures. I do not know whether the previous speaker looked at the addendum, because Mr Strässer has investigated the situation and updated the figures accordingly. Unfortunately, Mr Strässer could not even visit Azerbaijan. The Assembly should not tolerate our rapporteurs being denied access to a country, as it is essential to be able to see the situation on the ground.

The reports complement each other, and we should adopt both draft resolutions, which concern our core job in the Council of Europe. The monitoring of a country does not preclude the discussion of other subjects.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Schuster. I call Mr Shlegel.

Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – I, too, will discuss monitoring. Half the countries that are being monitored by the Parliamentary Assembly are former Soviet States. However, as we know, the Soviet Union collapsed more than 20 years ago. The move towards democracy does not happen overnight, but is gradual. It is not possible to miss the fact that it is happening in the countries that are under monitoring.

The Government of Azerbaijan has demonstrated its readiness to follow the course of democratic change. In that country, human rights organisations are constantly active, the parliament works, there are regular elections, there is a constitution and so on. It is important to note that there is no clear definition of what a political prisoner is, which leaves room for a lot of speculation, especially in respect of Azerbaijan. In 2012 alone, more than 87 people were granted amnesty in Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, it remains under monitoring and we hear calls for that monitoring to be stepped up.

At the same time, the old democracies are considered shining examples of human rights. I do not think that that is the case. For instance, everyone knows that the Governments of Germany and France, in their so-called war against terrorism, regularly have recourse to torture to get information. The French Government is allowed to accuse people of criminal plotting to engage in terrorist activity on the basis of very little evidence. In Germany, Britain and Spain, peaceful protestors are dispersed with great violence, even though there is no legislation to ban meetings. We see that throughout old Europe.

For some reason, all the attention is on eastern Europe and the former USSR. The idea seems to be to let your friends do what they want, but to come down on your enemies with the full force of the law. An egregious example of that is the way in which the situation in the Baltic States is completely ignored. Hundreds of thousands of people still have no citizenship and no basic rights, such as the right to education, the right to a job and the right to participate in the political process, and yet that is ignored. In Latvia and Estonia, there are SS veterans who are marching.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Legendre.

      Mr LEGENDRE (France)* – On 14 March last year, in an interview with a German newspaper, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister denounced the criticisms levelled against the repeated infringements of fundamental rights in his country. He pointed out that there were no political prisoners in Azerbaijan and that nobody could be imprisoned there for expressing an offending opinion.

The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan added that there was no valid international definition of a political prisoner. This debate should allow him to become more familiar with the work done by the Council of Europe more than 10 years ago. The concept of the political prisoner was developed by our Organisation in 2011 in order to determine whether such prisoners were being held in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The lack of awareness of that work in Azerbaijan is worrying.

Amnesty International notes that there are currently 14 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The arrests were relatively recent. The people who were arrested wished to exercise their right to freedom of speech – an elementary right in a member State of the Council of Europe. These are young people. I am thinking in particular of the blogger, Tural Abbasli, and the former ministers Farhad Aliyev and Ali Insanov.

We should not be accused of focusing only on one country. In June 2012, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights had already denounced the hurdles encountered in dealing with human rights offences in other member States. We discussed the case of Russia at length in October last year and we could also talk about Turkey. However, I do not want to get involved in the never-ending debate on the status on the PKK. I just want to recall the case of Halil Savda, who was sentenced to 100 days of imprisonment for publicly coming out in favour of conscientious objection. The same can be said of Pinar Selek, the writer and sociologist, and many others. On 20 July last year, the Armenian justice system sentenced four members of the opposition to prison: Tigran Arakelyan for six years, Artak Karapetyan for three years, and David Kiramijyan and Sargis Gevorgyan for two years.

The many cases demonstrate that our monitoring procedure remains imperfect. We cannot continue adopting resolutions and recommendations on the defence of human rights on our continent and around the Mediterranean basin when we are incapable of securing compliance with elementary principles within our member States. We, as parliamentarians, should not become complicit in the cynicism and violence of the State.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Iwiński.

      Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland) – Since its accession to the Council of Europe 12 years ago, the most populous South Caucasian country has undergone important changes. It is in a peculiar geopolitical situation and has had to wrestle with difficult challenges, such as the loss of 20% of its occupied territory, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and the existence of a great number of refugees and IDPs.

      Azerbaijan has achieved a lot in the fields of education, the economy, social welfare and in fighting poverty and terrorism. On the other hand, there are still many shortcomings and deficiencies, including in the functioning of a pluralist democracy and a multi-party system and in the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. In Document 13084, all those issues are presented in a holistic and balanced manner. Appendix 1 is particularly valuable as it presents a table of the legislation introduced by Azerbaijan that is relevant to the fulfilment of its commitments.

The issue of political prisoners is sensitive, contentious and controversial. This Assembly discussed it in the previous part-session. During the visit of the Sub-Committee on External Relations of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy to New York, we met Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson, the professor of law and former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the headquarters of the UN. He admitted that there are no formally approved criteria for identifying political prisoners. Sometimes, for example, people who are actively involved in terrorism are numbered among political prisoners.

Thanks to the Council of Europe, many of the prisoners named in the two reports have already been released. The last pardoning decree in Azerbaijan was issued over Christmas 2012. Before that, the most well-known prisoner, the journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, was also released. The release of those prisoners does not change the fact that the judicial process in Azerbaijan must be improved significantly. The lack of judicial independence is a serious concern. I share the opinion of Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech that despite the progress achieved in the introduction of the legislative framework aimed at corruption and organised crime, the main challenge lies in the effective application of that legislation.

I am convinced that Azerbaijan will continue to meet its commitments and obligations. I hope that the presidential elections in the autumn will be credible and will contribute to further co-operation with our Organisation.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin.

      Ms de POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – I can imagine what a challenge it must be to be a rapporteur for a country such as Azerbaijan. I therefore thank the rapporteurs for the reports that we have before us.

      Corruption; torture; no independent judiciary; impunity; political prisoners; restriction of the freedoms of assembly, association and expression; no respect for human rights, democracy or the rule of law; no separation of power – I could go on. The list is very long. Azerbaijan is still a State under authoritarian rule.

      My own experience of Azerbaijan was of the elections in 2010, when we were at the counting. We closed the door, but suddenly someone knocked very hard on it, and although they should not have opened it, somebody did. In rushed a man claiming to be from the regional election commission, who started interfering with the counting, the protocol and everything else. That is just an example of the experience in Azerbaijan. Then I had a couple of free hours in Baku, so I walked around that beautiful city. I always take photos. I was there for two hours and was stopped three times by police wanting to see my camera and what photos I had taken. I had taken photos of ordinary buildings, including the hotel I stayed in. If I had not finally shown my diplomatic passport, I would have been arrested for taking photos in the streets of Azerbaijan.

      Why do I tell you this? To me, it shows the conditions in that State and its shortcomings. When Azerbaijan won the Eurovision song contest in 2011, I laughed to myself. I thought, “Now there will be big problems. A lot of journalists and photographers will come to Azerbaijan; how will the authorities look after all of them?” It was good that Azerbaijan won, so that a lot of journalists and photographers went there. The Swedish singer Loreen, who won the Eurovision song contest at Baku in 2012, met a lot of non-governmental organisations and human rights organisations, which was courageous of her. She tried to make a difference, and she did. I hope that the two reports will also make a difference for the citizens of Azerbaijan, but I have my doubts. Those in power seem to lack the political will to comply with the obligations and commitments that they signed when they entered the Council of Europe.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Slutsky.

      Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation)* – Like many others who have spoken, I ask you to support the report of Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech on the monitoring of Azerbaijan. There has been much criticism of Azerbaijan, but just as in sport, we should compare Azerbaijan today with Azerbaijan 10 years ago. Then, Mr Aliyev was our colleague, as head of the Azerbaijan delegation here. After learning the lessons of the Council of Europe, he is now in charge of Azerbaijan, leading it inexorably towards democracy.

      Human rights are upheld in Azerbaijan. Of course many complaints might be expressed, but Azerbaijan is successfully developing its economy and society and combating poverty. It is now energy independent, and much else has been achieved. What about the difference in the number of political prisoners? Are there eight, 22 or none? On the other report that we are discussing, I support Mr Strässer and have all due respect for him, but unfortunately, like many in my political group, I cannot support his report. For instance, the definition of a political prisoner that we are offered is very vague and approximate. We must consider how things stand for political prisoners throughout the Council of Europe area. We must see what the European Court of Human Rights says, because it is one of the most authoritative bodies in international law in Europe. Why can we not ask the Court to give us a definition of a political prisoner? If we try to define it for ourselves, we find that it becomes yet another instrument of political pressure.

      If the report is approved, then Mr Breivik, those who deal in human organs and those who deal drugs to fund terrorism can all announce themselves to be political prisoners. Criminal elements declaring themselves political prisoners has happened in the Council of Europe, because there is no clear definition. That is why different countries have different numbers of political prisoners. The work is not completed. We must continue it. We must bring in the greatest experts in international law, particularly experts from the European Court of Human Rights, in order to create a definition. For that reason, we are not able at this stage to support the resolution in the second report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Hovhannisyan.

      Ms A. HOVHANNISYAN (Armenia) – I am greatly disappointed by the first report’s failure to reflect and address impartially and objectively the situation on the ground with regards to the obligations and commitments undertaken by Azerbaijan on its accession to this Organisation. Instead, it feebly attempts to cover up and justify the deficiencies of the Azerbaijani authorities with external issues and factors.

      To substantiate that, let me remind you of the outrageous Safarov case in which a person sentenced to life imprisonment for a hate crime by the Hungarian court was transferred to Azerbaijan and, immediately upon arrival, pardoned and set free. Moreover, his heinous crime has been glorified, justified and generously rewarded by the Azerbaijani authorities. How was that addressed in the report? In one absolutely neutral, meaningless statement in paragraph 5: “In October 2012, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held a current affairs debate on the Safarov case.” There was nothing else – not a single word about the harsh and unequivocal condemnation of that case by the international community and this Assembly.

      Surprisingly, the co-rapporteurs hardly referred to the 2011 report on Azerbaijan by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which is mentioned slightly in paragraph 194. The authors noted only that the ECRI report “raised some concerns about freedom of religion”. Surprisingly, the long list of serious concerns and recommendations in the ECRI report was not quoted. The co-rapporteurs failed to notice that the ECRI report reflected state-sponsored racism towards those of Armenian ethnicity and an unprecedented growth in anti-Armenian sentiments. In the light of the Safarov case, that is very alarming.

The rapporteurs are repeating the position of the Azerbaijani authorities, who use the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to justify their failure to implement their commitments on human rights, the rule of law and democracy. I quote paragraph 40: “Much of Azerbaijan’s future democratic progress will depend on the success of a peaceful settlement of this conflict.” The existence of a conflict cannot justify a lack of progress in other fields. We believe that the co-rapporteurs should not follow the reasoning of the Azerbaijani Government, but rather insist that no pretext can justify their failure to deliver on their commitments. In fact, the current government is prolonging the conflict in order to use it as a consolidation mechanism and a tool of oppression to prevent any movement towards democratic and social reforms. There are several cases of successful democratisation in States involved in conflict, including Cyprus and India. I stress my deep belief that strengthening democracy and respect for human rights are prerequisites for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Jakič.

Mr JAKIČ (Slovenia) – Fundamental freedoms and universal human rights must be respected everywhere and at all times if we wish to achieve our primary goal of a free, democratic and development-orientated society. It is imperative that national authorities show, not only at the declaratory level but also through implementation, a firm intention to apply the general principles relating to respect for human rights. In joining the Council of Europe, all the countries represented here agreed to respect the principles of this Organisation.

The path towards the achievement of the above goal may of course differ from country to country, taking into account the historical, geopolitical, economic and other circumstances that shape the legal and social norms of a State. Hence, it is understandable that the path is short in some countries, and longer and with more curves in others. The Council of Europe and this Assembly are here to help countries fulfil the principles as soon as possible.

      The Council of Europe’s aim is also to foster understanding that more democracy does not mean less power, but rather the opposite. Occasionally, some of our partners misinterpret such help as interference with their internal affairs, but it is wrong for them to limit their understanding of the activity of the Council of Europe. It is the duty of the Council of Europe to intervene whenever and wherever violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms are reported.

      I therefore share the positive sentiment that has built up following the news last December that the President of Azerbaijan, İlham Aliyev, had pardoned the 89 people remaining, including journalists, rights activists and political opponents. President Aliyev, a former member of this Assembly and also my friend, has always been among those Azerbaijani representatives who demonstrate a European orientation. I hope that the trend of democratisation will continue in all areas underlined in the monitoring report, so that, in the future, this Assembly will no longer need to address issues concerning political prisoners and respect for human rights.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Seyidov.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – My advice to my Armenian colleagues is that instead of criticising Azerbaijan and looking for problems with political prisoners in the country, they should release the witnesses on the list presented to their authorities by the Helsinki Association for Human Rights. On that list are more than 65 citizens of Armenia who do not want to go to war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

      I have been working in the Council of Europe for 12 years, and this is the first time I have known two reports about one problematic issue be presented to the Parliamentary Assembly in this way. We should think about how we are dealing with the issue. Azerbaijan is a country that is being monitored. We are doing our best to follow the monitoring procedures, which we respect, despite the fact that the Monitoring Committee report is very critical. I cannot agree with some points in the report, but we have to communicate and establish dialogue with the Monitoring Committee because it is our obligation as a member of the Council of Europe.

      The Council of Europe was created for countries, not against them. How can we vote for Mr Strässer’s report if we can see in it facts that are, if I may say so, strange? In the list presented by Mr Strässer you can find the names of people who do not exist. Forty people have already been released, and 10 are subject to the procedures of the Court. Only a few hours ago, Mr Strässer presented to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights a so-called updated list. That is why, as Azerbaijanis, we are unable to make a decision on the report. We are not against Mr Strässer, who is a respectable member of the Assembly who has been to Azerbaijan, but we are against this approach of blaming one country and presenting facts that we cannot understand. Our only option is to vote in favour of the Monitoring Committee report, but not in favour of the report presented by Mr Strässer. I hope that we will find the courage to understand that the credibility of our values, not our Organisation, is the most important thing. In Mr Strässer’s report you can find the credibility of the Organisation, but I am thinking about the values of the family of Europe.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Rustamyan.

      Mr RUSTAMYAN (Armenia)* – I say to my colleagues from Azerbaijan that you are the ones who want a war over Nagorno-Karabakh; no one in Armenia does.

      As far as the first report is concerned, it is difficult to congratulate the rapporteurs on their work because they have completely rejected all the Armenian amendments and disregarded our comments, despite saying they were ready to accommodate our proposals. That is why we appended to the report our dissenting opinion. The report reiterates unreservedly the position of Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Other matters have been overlooked by the rapporteurs, including the inhuman and provocative attitude of the Azerbaijani authorities with respect to attacks on civilian aircraft in Nagorno-Karabakh. The rapporteurs have comfortably explained all the problems in Azerbaijan as being the result of that conflict, but how can one explain that since it joined the Council of Europe Azerbaijan has been unable to rid itself of the problem of political prisoners? Everyone except Azerbaijan agrees that the problem has nothing to do with that conflict. I congratulate Mr Strässer on that point because he has managed to discharge his mission, notwithstanding all the pressure he has been put under.

      If a country genuinely wishes to develop democracy, pluralism and human rights, as the other rapporteurs seek to claim, it should not erect any hurdles to the definitive resolution of the political prisoner problem because the absence of political prisoners and the existence of a political system that allows for a change of government are the true attributes of a genuinely democratic system. That is true for all States. Every time there is an unacceptable report for Azerbaijan, our European values and our Organisation face an ordeal. The number of political prisoners has no importance in a State headed by such a regime. That is why it is essential that we reject the report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Čigāne.

      Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – Elections are the focus of the Monitoring Committee’s report, which concludes that no recent elections in Azerbaijan have been assessed as having met international standards for democratic elections. Presidential elections will be held in October, and I very much hope that the Azerbaijani authorities can express their political will to conduct a free and fair election in accordance with international standards. During elections, all basic fundamental freedoms – of speech, assembly, association and pluralism – are tested, so I hope that the upcoming presidential elections will be an improvement on the previous ones.

      There has been a great deal of discussion about political prisoners because the Monitoring Committee has drawn the Assembly’s attention to the issue, as well as to that of elections. Mr Strässer’s report expands on the issue and states several caveats, reminding us that it is not always easy to define what a political prisoner is. I am proud that in the last part-session of the Assembly we agreed to a report that tries to define the term.

In the same manner, I completely reject the statements made by Mr Shlegel about many so-called western democracies having the same issues. I remind members that in 2011 there was widespread rioting and looting in the city of London. However, all people who participated in this looting and rioting have been processed in a timely manner by the courts of the United Kingdom, and most of them were sentenced to public benefit works – sentences that they served long ago. This is the practice in many other countries, including my country, Latvia. I also reject Mr Shlegel’s comments about the non-citizen situation in the Baltic States: they do have access to education and to social rights, and their fundamental freedoms – freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech – are being observed. So his comments were unjust.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Chisu, Observer from Canada.

Mr CHISU (Canada) – I thank the Assembly for this opportunity to speak on Azerbaijan's commitments to the Council of Europe. The well-reasoned, exhaustive report of the committee sets out a litany of concerns about Azerbaijan’s commitment to the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Its recommendations are generally consistent with Canada's position in respect of Azerbaijan.

It is troubling that no parliamentary elections or presidential elections held since Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council of Europe have been deemed free and fair. We share the concern over the possibility of unlimited presidential terms, the inability of opposition parties to form a parliamentary bloc with less than 25 MPs and the restrictions on the activities of Azerbaijan’s extra-parliamentary opposition. Revisions are urgently required to the electoral code. Without it, the current legislative electoral framework will continue to taint the electoral process and the outcome of presidential elections in October 2013.

Another important area of reform is judicial independence. The president’s office continues to exert improper influence on particular cases of interest to the executive. Individual judges continue to rely on executive favour for appointments and job security. Criminal justice proceedings continue to be susceptible to corruption and abuse, despite the enactment of legislation creating the judicial legal council. Canada concurs with the report’s recommendation that revisions to the constitution and the judicial legal council legislation are necessary as a first step towards the establishment of an independent judiciary.

In transparency in public institutions, Azerbaijan continues to have a dismal record, with Transparency International ranking it in the lowest 25% in its corruption index. Canada continues to see corruption as a significant impediment to greater commercial co-operation.

In human rights, Azerbaijan’s record remains a cause for concern, including on press freedom – particularly State control of broadcast media – freedom of assembly, and limitations on the activities of NGOs. This seriously impedes the progress toward a truly free democratic society. The detention of activists and journalists is particularly problematic.

Canada has backed up its support in principle for broad human rights protection with financial aid for a number of NGOs in Azerbaijan. We support the resolution aimed at facilitating the work of NGOs. Canada has a history of encouraging civil society to contribute to, promote and defend respect for human rights. Canada will continue to call on Azerbaijan to take meaningful steps towards democratisation and the protection of human rights. Canada will closely monitor restrictions on press freedom, peaceful assembly, and the activities of NGOs.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Gaudi Nagy.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – I should like to explain my opinion on political prisoners. As a human rights lawyer, I feel that it is important to be precise in this field. If we are to charge any member State on this issue, such reports and allegations should be well established.

I tried to do my best to get an overview about this problem – I consulted legal defence organisations and read current reports – and I tried to get information from Azerbaijan directly. I conclude that the major concern is that the report relating to the obligations and commitments of Azerbaijan was well established and based on undisputed facts. That is why the Monitoring Committee concluded as it did about the progress made by Azerbaijan since its accession to the Council of Europe with regard to the establishment of a legislative framework, which in some areas is crucial for the functioning of democratic institutions. However, restrictive application or violations of some laws are resulting in growing concern with regard to the rule of law and respect for human rights.

There are some fields where Azerbaijan has to improve, of course, to reach the standards of the Council of Europe. But do not forget that enough time is needed during all these stages to be able to follow the prescriptions of the Council of Europe. Many States cannot produce the maximum standards that are prescribed by the Council of Europe, which is not good, of course.

On the other report, the data produced by Mr Strässer have been heavily debated. It would be good to review all the data relating to political prisoners, and when a report highlights this problem the facts should be indisputably established. That is why this second report should not be adopted.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Mariani.

Mr MARIANI* (France) – We are discussing two reports on Azerbaijan that are markedly different. Our colleagues from the Monitoring Committee have done a balanced job. While recording the problems that persist, they have honestly highlighted progress that has been achieved since Azerbaijan’s independence. Mr Strässer chose a different path. He allows no credit for the clear progress that has been achieved by this country.

I am a deputy in the French parliament representing a constituency of French people abroad, so I regularly go to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has succeeded, in spite of its problematical geopolitical situation, in resisting extremism and preserving a practical, modern form of Islam. That is not so easy when Iran is its neighbour. Those who advocate the establishment of an Islamicist regime – those who are calling for a coup d’état – cannot be seen simply as prisoners of conscience. Each country has the right to defend itself against activities of extremists. This is a country where even the Israeli embassy does not need a policeman to protect it. Azerbaijan is a normal country.

Mr Strässer’s report lacks precision. I know that an extra list was added yesterday, and that brings the list up to date as of December, which is welcome in respect of figures that are difficult to accept. There are still too many divergences between these figures and those of Amnesty International, which are mentioned in the Monitoring Committee’s report, and those from Azerbaijani NGOs. He says that the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan provided acceptable replies, but is this not a little naïve?

Azerbaijan has been targeted over and over again in previous reports. It has been said that the rapporteur could not get a visa for Azerbaijan, which is regrettable, but the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee had no problems. In fact, they stressed the high quality of their contacts and of the responses from the Azerbaijani authorities. They even visited prisoners. The President has made frozen conflicts one of his priorities, so we should co-operate with Azerbaijan, rather than make it a pariah. I support the draft resolution, but will vote against Mr Strässer’s report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr McNamara.

      Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – I commend all three rapporteurs for their excellent reports.

Much has been made of the different emphases of the reports, but that is a perfectly normal division of labour between the Monitoring Committee and the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. As the committee specifically responsible for the issue of political prisoners, the Monitoring Committee has done outstanding work in describing the issues that Azerbaijan must overcome and the progress it has made in meeting its commitments, but was unable to go into as much detail about individual cases as the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

That division of labour is not unique to Azerbaijan. A similar division existed between the rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee on Russia and Mr Marty, who carried out a much more detailed examination of the situation in the North Caucasus, a follow-up report to which, incidentally, might be conducted in the future. A similar approach was taken to the investigation of the Magnitsky case in Russia, for which the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights recently appointed a rapporteur.

Previous speakers expressed the fear that, as a result of Mr Strässer’s report, terrorists could claim to be political prisoners, but a close reading of the report would do a lot to dispel that fear. He makes it clear that the definition of a political prisoner adopted for the report is based on the definition and criteria used by the three independent experts appointed by the Committee of Ministers on 31 January 2001.

Judge Trechsel, who chaired that meeting, was invited to a hearing of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, where he outlined their work and where “agreement was reached among the experts that persons convicted of violent crimes such as acts of terrorism cannot claim to be ‘political prisoners’ even if they purport that they have acted for ‘political’ motives.”

I particularly draw members’ attention to paragraph 2.5 of Mr Strässer’s report, where he goes into great detail about the definition of a political prisoner and the methodology of his report, with which nobody has taken issue, notwithstanding the criticisms. He points out that an “allegation that a person is a ‘political prisoner’ must be supported by prima facie evidence; it is then for the detaining State to prove that the detention is in full conformity with requirements of the Convention as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights in so far as the merits are concerned, that the requirements of proportionality and non-discrimination have been respected and that the deprivation of liberty is the result of fair proceedings.” In the great majority of cases, the detaining State would be able to meet those criteria.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Dişli.

      Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – I thank the rapporteurs for their difficult work. In October 2012, the Assembly had a controversial debate on the definition of political prisoners. As we all know, Mr Strässer’s report has been received with much doubt and concern. Although rejected, the amendment from the Azerbaijanis aiming to confirm that the interpretation and application of criteria defining a political prisoner are in the exclusive competence of the European Court of Human Rights set out a balanced approach. That the vote was drawn – 89 for and 89 against – showed the division within the Assembly.

      Today, we are again debating political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, we have been obsessed with the political prisoners who might, or might not be, in prison in Azerbaijan, even though the Assembly knows that many other countries have political prisoners. This issue has been on the Assembly’s agenda since 2001, which is a clear sign that our policy is not working and only leading to fruitless political debate. It would be inappropriate to call for the reassessment of the cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, as stated in the draft resolution, the effect of which would be to dictate to the judiciary how it should exercise its powers.

      If there are deficiencies in the judicial system or any other issues relating to Council of Europe standards, the rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee will tackle them, as has happened in the report. That avoids duplicating work. Furthermore, the consolidated list referred to in the draft resolution is outdated and inaccurate, according to the Azerbaijani authorities. Last but not least, the subjectivity and imprecision of the existing definition implies much fruitless political debate and loss of energy and time in taking the necessary steps. If we want to solve the problem of political prisoners, we need to find a consensus on basic principles and stop targeting specific countries that are trying to deal with what is a worldwide problem.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Hancock.

      Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – If we are not careful, we risk setting an undesirable precedent. To have a monitoring report on a country and then to take out of it a specific topic and make it the subject of a separate report, as we see today, raises the question: is this the norm? Will all those countries listed on Human Rights Watch’s website – including Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, all of which are members here – be subjected to the same scrutiny from a distance and through non-governmental organisations and websites?

That is what Mr Strässer has done. Are we satisfied that this is a quality document based on facts? Just three hours ago, Amnesty International’s website ran a headline saying that it was cutting ties with a formerly jailed Azerbaijani supposed political prisoner – a journalist – because he wanted to investigate crimes that Germany was committing. Amnesty said that there was doubt about some of the allegations this man was making and some confusion about how he was being funded. That was Amnesty, three hours ago, talking about one of the very people described in the report.

      We have to be extremely cautious if we are properly to evaluate these reports. Mr Strässer’s report uses the word “presumed”. Given the dictionary definition, it would be interesting to know how the word could mean “definite”. You have changed something from being presumed into a definite state of affairs, Mr Strässer, and that cannot be right. It is a misuse of the English language, if that is what you intended.

      What can we do today? The Monitoring Committee report is much harder hitting than many monitoring reports on other countries. It pulls no punches and goes into detail on many issues, far in excess of what we have done in other countries. Today, we risk putting Azerbaijan in double jeopardy. If we vote for Mr Strässer’s report – goodness me, I hope we do not – we cannot stop there. This report will need to be duplicated time after time, and quickly, because otherwise Azerbaijan and the next country will feel, rightly, that they are being in some way targeted. That cannot be fair, it cannot be right and it should not be tolerated in the Assembly.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Fataliyeva.

      Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Speaking about the situation in Azerbaijan, I would like to remind you, first of all, that we are talking about a country that is 21 years old. It is a young country, which is building a democratic, civil society, with people of many nationalities living in peace and brotherhood. It is a country that, as Mr Walter said, gave women the right to vote and to be elected even before some European countries, and which is now conducting a balanced gender policy. It is a country that is a member of a number of international organisations as well as the Council of Europe, and which has always followed the values of this Organisation.

Over the past decade, our country has evolved significantly, as evidenced not only by macroeconomic indicators but by the ratings of leading international rating agencies. Undoubtedly, the main source of income for the State is the fuel sector, but much depends on the use of those revenues. According to foreign experts, a good diversification of oil revenues has had a positive impact on the economy during the global financial crisis. During that period there was a prompt decrease in poverty, which contributed to the formation of the middle class. In that regard, the decrease in poverty can be regarded as a high achievement promoting the development of the middle class. In Azerbaijan, much attention is paid to private sector development, in particular to small and medium-sized businesses, and to the opening of new workplaces, generally in the non-oil sector of the economy. Thus, Azerbaijan created a model of economic development thanks to which in the foreseeable future the level of income per capita may reach $20 000.

Azerbaijan is a middle-income country, which every year moves several places up the list of such countries. With such a pace, at the beginning of the next decade, Azerbaijan has a good chance of joining the group of countries with a high per capita income. The solution of socio-economic problems in Azerbaijan takes place in the context of a complex geopolitical situation where the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's territory – does not allow us to implement a strategy of economic development for the entire country. In Azerbaijan, as you know, there still exists an issue of refugees and displaced persons. We understand that the integration of those people into normal life is possible only if they return to their homes, from which they were forcibly expelled. We regret to note that during all last year in the Karabakh settlement process there was an observable stagnation, and parties in support of the OSCE Minsk Group have not made progress towards the peaceful settlement of the question. The whole situation has the greatest negative impact on the political processes taking place in the region and creates risks for foreign and domestic policies of the South Caucasus States.

In his report, Mr Strässer gives a list of so-called political prisoners. His list includes 85 people who, in his opinion, are serving sentences in Azerbaijan because of their political beliefs. At the same time, we must recognise that in compiling this list, Mr Strässer used only the subjective assessment of certain representatives of civil society in Azerbaijan without taking into account the records of investigations and court decisions, according to which the vast majority of these people are accused of committing illegal criminal acts. Suspicion also creeps in about the impartiality of the report as to the political situation in our country. Today, Azerbaijan is on the eve of a presidential campaign, and a fair and unbiased assessment of the situation in the country is important not only for the European and international community, but for all of us. I hope that in future we will all understand the situation and we will avoid double standards.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Mr Conde.

Mr CONDE (Spain) – With all due respect to our colleague, Mr Strässer’s list includes several men who can in no way be considered political prisoners, and the experts excluded them on that account. Cases 71 and 73 in the report were both, in the words of the rapporteur in paragraph 178, “convicted of violent, ‘non-political’ crimes, including the premeditated murder of a prosecutor.” Similarly, the men in Cases 66, 79 and 85 were convicted for participation in a violent, premeditated murder, and the experts also deny them the status of political prisoners. A killer – a murderer – is not, and should never be considered, a political prisoner. According to the resolution by the Assembly last October, a terrorist is not a political prisoner, and for that reason, I cannot support Mr Strässer’s report.

In the addendum, we also have the case of Araz Guliyev, who, in the company of other Muslim activists, attacked a folklore festival because he was against the performance of half-naked women dancing on stage. It is with such cases that Mr Strässer has expanded Amnesty International’s list of eight political prisoners into his own list of 85. If you want to send a serious warning to Azerbaijan about the respect of human rights, vote for the report of Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech. If you do not want to endorse terrorists and Islamists, vote no to Mr Strässer’s report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Ghiletchi.

Mr GHILETCHI – (Republic of Moldova) Today is an important day for Azerbaijan. Two significant reports are being debated. It is hard to say which is more important, but I will mainly refer to the first. Both the draft resolution and the explanatory memorandum of the report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan are relatively balanced and well presented, which does not necessarily mean that they are completely objective. Coming from a former Soviet country, I understand the difficulties and challenges that Azerbaijan is confronted with. For that reason, I congratulate our Azeri colleagues on their progress so far. The adoption of important laws and the ratification of Council of Europe legal instruments are good signs of substantial progress. The implementation of adopted legislation is of no less importance. Based on the experience of my country, I know how difficult and painful the implementation process is. It requires time, strong political will and perseverance. Because of this, I encourage the Azerbaijani Government to step up its efforts to implement legislation and not to deviate or step back.

Azerbaijan’s pro-European aspirations deserve our full support, and I believe they are the future of this great country. While Moldova is considered the leader in the Eastern Partnership – forgive me for the lack of modesty – Azerbaijan is playing a very active role in Euronest. European aspiration and, eventually, European integration will help Azerbaijan to become an authentic European democracy. In order to help Azerbaijan to reach that status, the draft resolution addresses several important areas such as judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience and religion. They are all important, but since religious freedom is an issue that I follow closely in this Assembly, I encourage our Azerbaijani friends to pay special attention to that area, particularly when it comes to minority religious groups. I think it will be extremely important for the Azerbaijani Government to go another mile and to make this list much shorter when the next report is presented. I am sure that if that is the case, the full support of the Assembly for Azerbaijan is guaranteed.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Nessa.

Mr NESSA (Italy)* – I congratulate the rapporteurs and support the Monitoring Committee’s report, but I have reservations about Mr Strässer’s report and his proposals. I am concerned and I do not understand a number of his declarations, especially when we consider the recent developments in Algeria and Mali. The rapporteur defines armed persons belonging to extremist and fundamentalist groups as political prisoners and says that the aim of such groups is to introduce Sharia Law. He does not take on board the fact that that could lead to the dismantling of all the rights established under the various Geneva conventions. Does Mr Strässer know that Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that every State has the right to defend its own constitutional order against groups that wish to overthrow it?

Mr Strässer considers members of radical Islamic groups who have been sentenced for mounting a coup to be political prisoners, and has called for their immediate release. Why? Mr Samedov, chair of the Islamic party of Azerbaijan, has publicly said he wants to introduce Sharia. Mr Strässer says he is a political prisoner, yet says at paragraph 100 that he and eight other members of his party had been caught in possession of Kalashnikovs, grenades and munitions. Sanctions have been imposed against Iran, a country that neighbours Azerbaijan. Does Mr Strässer not think it is dangerous to encourage the spread of fundamentalism in what is a complex region? Do you really think such policies will foster better human rights in Azerbaijan? The opposite is the case, I think.

The Council of Europe’s purpose is to uphold democracy and secularism in our member States. I am opposed to the rapporteur’s position on this important issue. It addresses a delicate topic in a dangerous way, so I shall vote against the report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Zohrabyan.

Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia)* – I will not talk about my own observations, as I do not want to be accused yet again of besmirching democratic Azerbaijan’s good name. Instead I shall only refer to the reports of the few independent representatives of Azerbaijani civil society who have not yet been thrown in jail by the Aliyev regime.

The co-rapporteurs’ report should prompt many questions both here in the Assembly and in Azerbaijan, and especially among those few political opponents whom the Aliyev regime has not yet managed to corrupt and turn into fake opponents. Leyla Yunus is a well-known political activist and director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy. She says this report seems to have been written by the Azerbaijani Government and thinks it must have bought off the co-rapporteurs. She says they have disregarded the violations of human rights in Azerbaijan, the mafia-type structure of the government, the pressure exerted on the free press, the threats against citizens and several cases of opponents being bumped off. She says the issue of political prisoners is important, but the rapporteurs fail to address it. She mentions that in Azerbaijan there are more than 89 people in jail because of their political opinions, although sentenced on other charges.

The co-rapporteurs have also introduced a shameful novelty: they have tried to redraft the standards of international law with respect to Nagorno-Karabakh and the conclusions and assessments of the organisation mandated to resolve that conflict. It is no accident that no proposal on Nagorno-Karabakh from the Armenian delegation was accepted. Perhaps it was not included in the price. An overdose of caviar is damaging for the health. Please think of your health, even if your reputation matters not a jot to you.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Gafarova.

Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – I thank Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech for their work. Producing such a report on any country is difficult, and demands not only precision but responsibility. However, some aspects of the report do not accurately reflect the reality of the situation in Azerbaijan.

Let me give some facts. Azerbaijan is a young democratic country, yet already different religions and peoples are represented peacefully. The Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities of Azerbaijan enjoy equal rights. They can establish or join any public organisation or establish any print media title. There are no restrictions. People can engage in any lawful activity, including political activity. In general, all our citizens – Azerbaijanis, Russians, Jews, Georgians, Armenians and others – share common values and concerns. That is why world leaders consider Azerbaijan an example of tolerance and deem our political model progressive.

Another fact is that 20% of Azerbaijani land is under Armenian occupation. For 22 years, Nagorno-Karabakh and other regions have been subjected to aggression from the Armenian armed forces. That is stated in the documents of all international organisations, including the Council of Europe. But there was no progress for 19 years following the declaration of the cease-fire because the organisations whose aim is to establish peace and justice in the world were being manipulated. We welcome the position of the Assembly on this issue and hope that it will continue along this path.

Turning to the other report, it is unclear who is and who is not a political prisoner in international legal terms. Even the Council of Europe has no clear opinion. What criteria are we to judge these matters on, therefore?

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Sobolev.

Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – The issue under discussion is complex, and similar questions could be asked about Azerbaijan and Ukraine. We both gained independence in 1991, and ever since it has been possible to draw comparisons between our two countries. Mr Agramunt’s excellent report highlights that there are lots of problems with Azerbaijani elections. In the last Ukrainian elections, there were count inaccuracies that disadvantaged the opposition in 25 districts, and the opposition lost five districts that it actually won by between 3 000 and 12 000 votes.

Comparisons can also be drawn in respect of political prisoners. Mr Agramunt’s report highlights the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The Court in Strasbourg has declared that the previous Internal Affairs Minister in Ukraine, Mr Lutsenko, is a political prisoner, yet he is still in jail. Also, former Ukraine Supreme Court Judge Volkov is still not in his position. I can see the comparison with this.

We are still waiting for the latest decisions in the Tymoshenko case, which may be announced soon. Two days ago, the general prosecutor announced that Tymoshenko is detained because of killings 16 years ago. When we analyse the situation, we see that both those killers were killed in jail in the region where Yanukovych was governor and where the present general prosecutor was a prosecutor. The enterprises of the people who were killed in the Donetsk region are now in the hands of Yanukovych and his team. That is about political prisoners and political pressure.

Both reports deal with political prisoners. Whether the number is one, 20 or 100, it does not matter. Even one political prisoner in a member country is a shadow on our face. If we do not vote for Mr Strässer’s report, that will not send a good signal. My proposition is that, in each case where we have monitoring, the obligation of each country should be to have a report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on political prisoners. That would mean that we would not have such cases in future. If we free even one person, that will be freedom for the whole European community.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Huseynov.

Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Today, Azerbaijan is reporting on its 12th year or, in the view expressed in the preface, 15th year of co-operation with the Council of Europe. That makes necessary a review not only of the recent period but of the whole path that has been travelled.

In the early 20th century, the builders of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan defined the ways to be followed by the country and its nation through the three colours of our national flag. Symbolically, red indicates national identity and fidelity to our national origin, green indicates the relationship with our national spiritual values and blue signifies Europeanisation and modernisation.

I recall the years when Azerbaijan was taking its first initiatives for joining the Council of Europe. At that time, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev stated, in his meetings with Council of Europe experts and media representatives, that the head of one of the States that had acceded to the Council of Europe long before Azerbaijan had asked him the reason for Azerbaijan’s great interest in and aspiration to join the Council of Europe. That person added that, having acceded to the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan would be subject to various critiques and pressures.

Recalling this story, I thought that Heydar Aliyev expressed a significant idea, which represented the philosophy behind the relations between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe. He said that Azerbaijan was a country newly liberated from the fetters of a totalitarian regime and that our objective was to build a modern and democratic State and subsequently to develop it. That is why, in order to make a success of that, we will tolerate any hardship and criticism. The Council of Europe is a school of democracy.

The years since have obviously proved the extent of Azerbaijan’s loyalty to its choice. Since January 2001, within its 12-year membership of this Organisation, Azerbaijan has covered a much longer distance and made serious progress. That relates above all to the democratisation of society and state, a stronger respect for human rights and the establishment of a range of democratic institutions and successful activities.

Criticisms will always be made – that is in the order of things. Even France, the United Kingdom, Italy and other founder States of the Council of Europe are not guaranteed freedom from criticism from the Council of Europe today and might be the subject of criticisms relating to various problems. From that point of view, it is not unexpected that Azerbaijan should share a similar fate. Healthy criticism is always necessary. In fact, it is a tool that facilitates making common cause. We simply wish it not to be illogically based, as we have frequently observed, on double standards and that it will not serve dirty intentions.

That is why we fully support the report of the Monitoring Committee and are against the second report. Azerbaijan is abiding by the commitments that it made to the Council of Europe. It is constantly implementing them and it will constantly advance in this way. The values whose realisation is required by the Council of Europe were previously reflected by the philosophy of statehood symbolised in the national flag of our country.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Harutyunyan.

Mr HARUTYUNYAN (Armenia) – I will not address the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan but limit myself to briefly analysing those parts of the Monitoring Committee report that relate to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as the information presented in the report is one-sided, mostly echoing the Azerbaijani Government’s propaganda. For those reasons, I had no choice but to present to the Monitoring Committee my dissenting opinion, which is attached to the memorandum as annexe 2.

All countries and international institutions recognise the OSCE Minsk Group as the only mandated mediator in negotiations. No country or organisation has ever contested the OSCE Minsk Group format. On several occasions, the President of our Assembly and the Secretary General have stressed that the documents adopted by our Organisation should not contradict those of the Minsk Group, as that might harm the negotiation process. However, the terminology used by rapporteurs when describing this conflict contradicts the language agreed and used by the Minsk Group. One may ask whether it matters. The answer is definitively yes. The terminology matters. It is not a simple contradiction; it is a deliberate usage of wording that perverts the essence of the conflict, trying to present it as a territorial one.

The negotiation process on this conflict is based, inter alia, on two main principles of international law: the right to self-determination and territorial integrity. The Minsk Group has always used the term “Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”, not “conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh”, to maintain balance between those principles and to avoid any misinterpretation of the conflict and the negotiation process. We believe that our Organisation should avoid any misrepresentation and modification of internationally agreed terminology, particularly when addressing such complex and highly political issues.

I bring to your attention, as another example of the rapporteurs’ failure to reflect and address in an impartial, unbiased and objective manner the situation on the ground, a serious inaccuracy in the report over the number of displaced persons. Inflated numbers were always used by Azerbaijan for propaganda purposes – that is understandable. Instead of seeing an unbiased and objective assessment in the report, we see a misleading pattern that uses imaginary numbers. That raises concern about the highly biased character of the report. In conclusion, the one-sided approach on very sensitive issues may unfortunately cast a shadow on the whole idea of monitoring.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Bakoyannis.

Ms BAKOYANNIS (Greece) – I agree with the colleague who said that it is difficult to be a rapporteur on Azerbaijan, so I congratulate all our colleagues on their efforts. I am sure that they tried their best. I am new here and do not really understand why we should have two reports. I do not understand why the decision was taken, but now we have two reports. Mr Agramunt and his colleague did a very good job and their report for the Monitoring Committee is well balanced. Unfortunately, because of the second report, we have not spoken about the essence of the first report. In his report, Mr Agramunt speaks about press freedom, the justice system and everything that has to be improved in Azerbaijan, but we have lost sight of that because we have spoken only about political prisoners.

I am lost. I will take just half a minute to tell you my personal story. I was a political prisoner when I was 14. This was at the time of the Greek dictatorship. I did not plant any bombs, but my father was a politician and, because of him, I was a political prisoner. When I grew up, terrorists killed my husband. A few years later, we saw the murderers. There were three murderers, and about 10 others told them to execute him. The former committed the crime; the latter did not commit the crime, but took the decision, and they are now applying to be named as political prisoners. I am therefore very careful, Mr Strässer, because I know Azerbaijan. Yes, a lot of things have to be done, but it is a country where women can walk around, where there is religious freedom and where its neighbours do not like it to be like that. According to my data, eight people are prisoners – I think that you also mentioned them – because they wanted Sharia Law.

      I therefore think that we should stick to and vote for the Monitoring Committee’s report. I understand that our Armenian friends are disappointed, but the report is very tough on Azerbaijan. If we follow and monitor the process, we will have better results. We will get better results from co-operating with the Azerbaijanis and making them free people than by just putting them out of our club.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Bakoyannis. I call Mr Ariev.

Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – Both reports on the situation in Azerbaijan are serious and comprehensive. As a Ukrainian, I think that three quarters of the reports echo the similar situation in Ukraine. I hope that I am not mistaken in assuming that many in this Chamber maintain widespread stereotypes about the post-Soviet republics. I do not usually support such stereotypes, but in this case there is a lot in common in relation to political prisoners in Ukraine and Azerbaijan, as in Armenia, Belarus, Russia and, unfortunately, Georgia, which recently joined this club.

The general post-Soviet context is perhaps best understood in the light of recent events in Ukraine. The situation there is deteriorating rapidly and in a negative way. Let me focus your attention on a comparison between Ukraine and Azerbaijan. A week ago, two young men were imprisoned for one and two years for having painted graffiti against President Yanukovych. Under the criteria of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, those men are political prisoners. In all, there are 21 such political prisoners in Ukraine. The case of another political prisoner, the former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko against Ukraine, has not yet been decided by the European Court of Human Rights, and his right to refer his case to the Court of Cassation was completely ignored. The Ukrainian Government continues to torture the opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose daughter is at the Council of Europe today. We are concerned to observe that Georgia is taking steps in the same direction, and there is a real threat that it might follow the Ukrainian example.

I can only congratulate the Azerbaijani President on his decision to release many political prisoners immediately after the agreement about the criteria last October and on the fact that he did not wait for the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. That testifies to his political will to move his country towards democratic transference, which is not the same in Ukraine. On the other hand, Azerbaijan still has dozens of political prisoners waiting to be released. The opening of 10 new cases involving activists and journalists is another big concern.

Post-Soviet countries cannot make democratic changes without assistance. The problem is not only about judicial systems; it is a systematic problem of leaders’ misunderstanding what democracy is. I therefore call on the whole international democratic community to implement personal sanctions against all post-Soviet individuals who brutally violate the human rights of political prisoners. It is probably time to undertake special consideration of the widespread cases of political persecution in member States of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Belarus.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Ariev. I want everyone to be able to speak, but there are still a dozen speakers left. You will have to be scrupulous in sticking to your time if we are to get through them. I call Mr Pintado.

      Mr PINTADO (Spain)* – I endorse what Ms Bakoyannis said about the two reports, in that Mr Strässer’s report may have affected our reception of a magnificent report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan. That report covers everything that has happened in that country in recent years, and its major efforts to establish a truly democratic system. It is true that the question of political prisoners is very worrying, but we are none the less being assailed from all directions by opinions that pit one side against the other, whether that is in relation to the Monitoring Committee’s report or Mr Strässer’s report. Without any ill will, we have been doing the Assembly a disfavour this afternoon, because Mr Strässer’s very harsh report has prevented us from having an in-depth discussion of the Monitoring Committee’s report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Pintado. I am sorry, Ms Orobets; I should have called you before the previous speaker. I call Ms Orobets.

      Ms OROBETS (Ukraine) – I thank the rapporteurs who have given their time and efforts to find out the truth. The problem of political persecution in post-Soviet countries is crucial, even if we do not link it to a specific country.

I want to specify how we can counteract political persecution in future. You may have noticed that this issue is critical for our delegation, because some of the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition are still imprisoned and their rights have been abused. Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko and dozens of others are prisoners of the Yanukovych regime. Our main goal is not only to end such cases, which would be shameful for any European country, but to find a method of stopping this practice by punishing the guilty. The question is how to put pressure on a government that uses political imprisonment without penalising a society that is already being punished by having such authorities.

Except through the Assembly’s resolutions and recommendations, the only way out is to take targeted and personalised action against government officials. For me, the best example of that is the Magnitsky Act. Each judge, corrupted policeman or politician who makes their subordinates commit political crimes should be made to feel that Europe will one day close its doors against them. I am sure that, if that was the case, Judge Kireev, Deputy Prosecutor General Kuzmin and similar figures in any European country would think twice before becoming a screw in a totalitarian regime and thoughtlessly performing somebody else’s orders. I believe that the use of personalised sanctions against State officials could cure the threat of political prosecution in post-Soviet countries.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Orobets. I call Mr Xuclà.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – I do not agree with Mr Strässer’s definition of political prisoners, as I said in the October part-session. His definition expressly omits terrorists, and is left to the assessment of each member State. In doing so, Mr Strässer does us a disservice, because as the years pass there will be no political prisoners in some countries, but only people given the name of terrorists.

I want you to think advisedly about this question: do you believe that, among the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, the only political prisoners are in Azerbaijan? If you consciously answer in the affirmative, perhaps it is appropriate to have an ad hoc report on political prisoners in one specific member State. However, if you think there are political prisoners in other countries, why should there be a separate report on political prisoners in one member State only? The competence is clearly defined in the Monitoring Committee and in relation to countries subjected to monitoring.

Perhaps the debate has made insufficient reference to the report by Mr Debono Grech and Mr Agramunt – a broad, comprehensive and, without doubt, a rather severe report. Pages 26 and 27 of the report refer to political prisoners by name. The second report, however, lacks rigour, for two reasons. First, as several speakers have highlighted, the term “political prisoners” is being used for individuals who, under the criminal code of their country, could not possibly be defined as such. Secondly, the report is overburdened by intentions and motivations. To present a list of possible future political prisoners, as Mr Strässer does in the supplement to the report, is not worthy of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights or of the rule of law. It is ill intentioned and too lacking in rigour.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Xuclà. I call Mr Huseynli.

Mr HUSEYNLI (Azerbaijan) – The position of my country has always been clear and fair with regard to the implementation of the commitments it made on accession to the Council of Europe. The political will for full implementation of those obligations and commitments has always prevailed. We should all realise that the development of democracy, the rule of law and human rights is a continuous process.

On our legislative obligations, I especially underline the fruitful co-operation between Azerbaijan and the Venice Commission in drafting a new law of defamation. Unfortunately, the process of elaboration of a new draft law on alternative service has not been finalised because of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia. I hope, however, we will continue our co-operation with Council of Europe experts on the elaboration of the new draft law.

I thank the co-rapporteurs for their balanced report, but I want to say a few words about the second report. As a lawyer, I find the use of the term “political prisoner” vis-à-vis a country that is fully exercising legal instruments absurd and unacceptable. The serious mistakes and deliberate distortion of facts in the report once more confirm our concerns about the biased approach demonstrated by the rapporteur. I kindly ask Mr Strässer to show the true, unbiased position based on facts. I call colleagues to vote against the second report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Huseynli. I call Ms Wohlwend.

Ms WOHLWEND (Liechtenstein) – In recent days I have heard time and again that the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has been resolved, and that at the end of December the president gave an amnesty to the persons who figure in the report, but in fact the problem has not been solved by that or by earlier amnesties, because a dozen opposition politicians, journalists, bloggers and peaceful demonstrators currently sit in prison.

The day before yesterday, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights approved an addendum to the report, which we adopted in June last year. In that addendum, the rapporteur, in exemplary fashion, lists some 10 new cases, showing that a revolving door policy is being implemented. To intimidate opposition figures, critical journalists and youth activists, the submissive legal system picks on them with varying degrees of severity. They are released, and then shortly afterwards put in prison again. The issue of political prisoners will only be resolved once we put an end to the revolving door policy, as the committee’s report rightly says. To that end, it deserves our support.

I am very disappointed that some of my group colleagues have quoted selectively from the report of our colleague Mr Strässer in order to slant the debate. Despite what some previous speakers have led us to believe, there is no contradiction with the draft resolution of the Monitoring Committee. On the contrary, paragraph 18.4.4 of that draft resolution calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to “fully implement the resolutions of the Assembly related to alleged political prisoners in Azerbaijan”, which, logically, presupposes that the draft resolution of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights will be adopted.

The report of Mr Strässer is not superfluous. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights was asked to produce a report on the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. We are grateful to Mr Strässer for having shouldered that responsibility and for producing the report. We would do a disservice to the Assembly if we forgot what we have done in past years. We should give our support to all three rapporteurs and the draft resolutions that they have presented.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Wohlwend. I call Mr Leyden.

Mr LEYDEN (Ireland) – This is one of the most interesting debates that has been held in the Assembly for some time, as the attendance makes obvious.

I commend the Monitoring Committee, of which I am a member, on its report. I fully support the views of Mr Debono Grech and Mr Agramunt on the report, and I commend them on its detailed, comprehensive and far-reaching nature. I am very impressed that our friends from Azerbaijan are prepared to go along with the report without major amendments. It is vital that the Monitoring Committee continue to monitor Azerbaijan and ensure that the report is fully implemented by the Government of Azerbaijan.

I suppose I am one of the few people here who have never been in Azerbaijan, but if I do go there, I intend to meet some of these political prisoners and find out for myself the truth of Mr Strässer’s report, which I will be voting against. In all my time in the Council of Europe, in this century and the last century, I have never come across a parallel report before. The fact that this other report is being debated undermines the strength of the Monitoring Committee’s report.

I therefore urge colleagues to vote for, endorse and implement the monitoring report, but to vote down the other report, which is totally inaccurate. There are not 85 political prisoners, as has been proven. Hopefully, our Commissioner for Human Rights will take an interest in the second report and go to Azerbaijan. I presume that he has been there already. You probably know all about that, Mr President. However, I have not heard his voice in this debate. I am not sure what the protocol is in that regard.

      Many of the countries represented here have pretty bad human rights records. Let those without sin throw the first stone. Very few of the countries here could throw the first stone, because many of them have pretty poor records in this regard. I hope that the vote will go in favour of the report by the Monitoring Committee, of which I am a full member, and that the other report will be rejected. However, some parts of it should be considered by the Commissioner for Human Rights.

As a representative of Ireland, one of the founding member States, I am delighted to be here for such an interesting debate. I wish Azerbaijan well in the future. It is doing its best. It is a young republic. It was under the USSR for its whole life until 21 years ago. What it has achieved in such a short time does it credit.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Leyden. I call Mr Valentino.

      Mr VALENTINO (Italy)* – I appreciated the report by the Monitoring Committee, which welcomes the efforts of a young democracy to explore democracy and tighten up its democratic rules. All that is happening in a tense geopolitical context. Azerbaijan must stick firmly to the rules in order to give its society the best possible living standards – not only for the many different minorities, but for all men and women in Azerbaijan.

      The criticisms in the Strässer report are rather unfounded. It does not justify why it is critical and does not analyse the situation. One has the impression that the report is the fruit of a theory. The difficulties behind the arrests of certain dissidents and the impossibility of meeting them probably led to the fear that there was an attempt to disguise human rights violations. However, as the rapporteur acknowledges, the situation that has arisen between himself and the Azeri authorities cannot lead to a presumption that there has been a violation of the law. There are no facts at hand about the circumstances of the arrests or the motivation of the State, and there are no known violations of the rights of these people who have been subjected to the rigour of the law.

The Strässer report is emotive but lacks facts and certainties. I am therefore critical of it and will vote against it, whereas I commend the Monitoring Committee report to the Assembly.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Valentino. I call Ms Mateu Pi.

      Ms MATEU PI (Andorra)* – I pay homage to the rapporteurs of both reports. Their task was not easy. However, it is difficult to understand why we need the second report, given that the Monitoring Committee’s report covers political prisoners, alongside other subjects such as society and religion. Why should we get mixed up in a war of figures over the number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan? If there is just one political prisoner, surely that is too many.

Who would deny the existence of political prisoners in the other 46 States of the Council of Europe? If there are political prisoners in other countries, why should we pillory Azerbaijan alone? If we use the definition of political prisoners approved by this Assembly a few months ago, there might be political prisoners everywhere – even in western Europe. To take the kind of overview that Mr Strässer calls for would be to take the view that there may be political prisoners in all of our countries. I do not think that anybody will ever admit to that, because we have a double standard. These matters always depend on the power and influence of the country concerned. It would be wonderful for the citizens of the countries concerned if that changed, but that is not likely.

Therefore, I will support the Monitoring Committee’s report, but cannot support Mr Strässer’s report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Mateu Pi. I call Mr Sidyakin.

      Mr SIDYAKIN (Russian Federation)* – I, too, thank all those who were involved in producing the reports. I will set out my attitude towards the report on political prisoners.

      All members will remember that not long ago, we had an even vote with 89 members for and 89 against. If the one person who had gone off for a cup of coffee had come back in time, we would not have had the current definition of political prisoners.

      We should all look to our own affairs. We have trampled on the doctrine of the separation of powers. Montesquieu would be turning in his grave if he knew about all the ways in which the executive is dictating to the other branches of power what they should do. Are we going to tackle that with amendments, sub-amendments, oral sub-amendments and oral sub-sub-sub-amendments? Is that how to decide who is or who is not a political prisoner?

      Many examples have been offered by the representatives of various countries of who does and who does not fit the definition of a political prisoner. I can give examples from my country. I am sure that many members consider the Yukos case to be politically motivated and consider Mr Khodorkovsky to be a political prisoner. However, the head of his security service ordered the murder of the mayor of a city the size of Strasbourg. Is that man a political prisoner? He worked in Yukos, remember.

      I will give another example. A member of the opposition recently said that his wife had left home and he could not find her. It turned out that he had killed her, dismembered her and put the pieces on the balcony. Many people in the opposition said that that was a political arrest. Does that mean that somebody who supports the government and votes for it cannot be a political prisoner, but an opponent of the government obviously is a political prisoner?

We should leave all that to the European Court of Human Rights. It is the Court’s business to make decisions on individual cases. It is the Court’s business to decide on matters of criminal procedure, and to decide who is and who is not a political prisoner.

I support the report of the Monitoring Committee, but do not think that we should support the report on political prisoners.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Reimann.

      Mr REIMANN (Switzerland)* – Today, the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos kicks off. A sizeable delegation from Azerbaijan is attending that forum, headed by President Aliyev. We in Switzerland, of course, are particularly pleased about that. It is unusual for a State to buy advertising space on buses and the public transport system in Davos, but Azerbaijan has done so, and I am sure that the public transport network’s coffers are benefiting.

      Public opinion in Switzerland and beyond is informed that Azerbaijan is the land of the future; that is what we are led to believe. That is all very well and good, but today’s debate on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, a member State of the Council of Europe, strikes a discordant note with Azerbaijan’s self-advertisement. The country could give itself a positive impetus, at least at the international political level here at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, if it stopped unlawfully imprisoning opponents of the regime in their own homes. They must have a future. Justice must be done and the law must be enforced. That is the message that I send out to Azerbaijan and its president, Mr Aliyev, in Baku. It is also the message that I send to my colleagues from Azerbaijan here in the Parliamentary Assembly. It is important that you deal with the issue of political prisoners. It is a sorry business. Solve that issue, and then you can talk about Azerbaijan as the country of the future and ensure that that promise governs all citizens of Azerbaijan.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Aleksandrov.

      Mr ALEKSANDROV (Russian Federation)* – This is a very interesting meeting. It is an analysis of the work that we do together, and it shows that not everything is in order in the State of Denmark. This is basically a parliamentary inquiry, but without rules. We have no rules according to which people go to a place and examine what is going on there. We have no rules for conducting inquiries and finding out where the evidence is. Because we do not have any rules, the person carrying out the inquiry does not say what his position is until the very last moment. We cannot settle legal issues without courts.

On the main issue of determining the definition, what about somebody who steals from the bank and then uses the money for a political party? If he is in jail, is he a political prisoner? From the point of view of political lists, he would be. Without solving those issues, we cannot tackle the main question of ensuring justice, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, above all. We certainly all have an interest in ensuring that the law is observed by law enforcement agencies, but this has nothing to do with the so-called lists, which do not carry any legal weight. They are subjective rumours and political questions. You cannot undermine the rulings of legal bodies in democratic States. If we recognise Azerbaijan as a democratic State, we must be very careful in studying its legal and judicial system and not draw conclusions that are not legal in nature and not correct. We need to analyse the legality of our working methods carefully and bring in lawyers to examine them. I will vote against the Strässer report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Ahmet Kutalmiş Türkeş.

Mr A. TÜRKEŞ (Turkey) – I thank Mr Strässer for his efforts on political prisoners. Unfortunately, it has been a controversial subject, and the work of the Parliamentary Assembly since 2001 has not resulted in a compromise. The report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan contains two major problems. Not only is it based on a notion that cannot be precisely defined, but there are also many question marks about the list in the explanatory memorandum. In committee meetings, Azerbaijani members stated many times that the report contains factual mistakes. The list of alleged political prisoners in the explanatory memorandum includes persons already released, persons sentenced for terrorist acts, murder or corruption and even the names of persons who do not exist at all. One person had set off an explosion in an underground station in Baku, resulting in the deaths of 14 people and the injury of more than 20 children. The existence of an inaccurate list in the explanatory memorandum is a major problem, as the draft resolution that we will be voting on refers to that inaccurate list.

Furthermore, the report is a duplication, as the Monitoring Committee is already considering the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Some of our friends voiced their concerns about human rights violations, underlining that the core activity of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly is to denounce them. Of course the Assembly cannot remain silent when the Council of Europe’s values are not respected, but it also cannot vote on a resolution based on false information that would seriously harm its credibility. The Assembly cannot contribute to the politicisation of human rights problems, and it should take seriously the lack of compromise between its members in order to preserve its integrity and coherence.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. That concludes the list of speakers. I am happy that the 50 speakers on the list had a chance to take the floor. This has been a good debate. I have heard several of you say that you regret that it has been a joint debate. That was not the question, but I will reply to it anyway: I think you are right, and that it would have been a better idea to have separate debates. That would have made it possible for us to focus more on the substance of the two issues.

I call Mr Strässer. You have eight minutes and 30 seconds remaining for your contribution.

Mr STRÄSSER (Germany)* – I thank you all for this discussion, which marks the end of a very long process. I am pleased that we have had a constructive debate, but some of the contributions and assessments were far removed from my remit. I ask the many speakers who criticised how I dealt with Azerbaijan where the report came from. It came from the fact that this Parliamentary Assembly can trust me with that remit. I simply tried to carry it out, and I still feel strongly about it. That is why it is important and a good thing for us to continue to pursue this topic.

My second comment is also difficult to comprehend. Once again, a topic is being opened up that has already been settled within this Assembly: the topic of defining political prisoners in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights. Thankfully, Ms Wohlwend quoted from the monitoring report. Let us look at paragraph 18.4 in the monitoring report. I want to say this clearly so that no one has any doubts. Even in the monitoring report, we read the following point: “With regard to alleged political prisoners and prisoners of conscience…fully implement the resolutions of the Assembly related to alleged political prisoners in Azerbaijan”. That is the key content of the monitoring report, and I fully endorse it. Attempts have been made to open up a discussion that has already been resolved, which from a political point of view is not a constructive thing to do in the Assembly. I think something else lies behind it.

      Turning to the procedure to be followed, my experience is that there has been co-operation within the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe. In 2010 I was given the remit to carry out a fact-finding mission in Azerbaijan. I should have been invited to the country, and when, in mid-2011, I was still waiting for an invitation, I contacted the Azerbaijani embassy in Germany to get a visa, but the request was turned down on the ground that there was no need for a discussion on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. I say that to explain to you clearly that we are hearing some strange arguments and accusations. I was prevented from travelling to that country, and some people’s arguments are far removed from the actual situation.

      Criticism has been levelled at the report, but it is based on solid research. National and international human rights organisations, which are very well informed and work on the front line, provided me with information. It would have been better if I had been able to travel to the country, but there have been many incidents in Azerbaijan in the past months and years, including during the Eurovision song contest, and we have tried very hard to come up with an accurate picture of the situation in Azerbaijan on which to base our resolution.

      I say this to those of you who have criticised me: Amnesty International, the most valuable human rights organisation in the world, has taken a clear position on a number of points in my report. Colleagues such as Mr Hancock have said that Amnesty International says that everything is okay regarding prisoners of conscience. Well, that is not true. Colleagues should look at the memorandum that has been signed by a plethora of human rights organisations.

      I understand what our colleague was saying about terrorism, but I would like you to look at the exact drafting of the report, where the different points that you made are clearly characterised. There are prisoners whom I do not consider political prisoners. You have said exactly the opposite of what is in my report, and I do not think that we can accept that in this Chamber. You mentioned Sharia and Islamism. I would like you to read my report again. No one in this Chamber will say that someone who uses violence or introduces Sharia Law could be considered a political prisoner.

There is another side to the story – the rule of law. Even someone accused of terrorism is entitled to the rule of law, due process and full compliance with human rights. That is what we in the Parliamentary Assembly are here to tackle. I have done no more and no less than to point that out in the report. If we do not underline that point, we conflict with all the values we want to defend. That is why I would like our colleague to think clearly about this matter. I understand some of the things you said, but my work is not designed to open the door to political terrorism; quite the opposite.

I want finally to make some important personal remarks. We have information from several different sources, and we worked very hard. The discussions concerning the values of the Council of Europe need to be looked at very closely, in terms of what arguments we are using today and what decisions we will make. We need to give thought to what will happen as a result of our decisions. If it is a positive result, we feel a sense of triumph; if it is negative, we are dismayed or downcast. After a process lasting a few years, one wants a positive result, but I will not feel any sense of triumph if that is the case. I want us, in the near future, to have no more discussion on this matter in Azerbaijan.

There should not be feelings of triumph or disappointment in the Chamber. What is important is not what I think, or what you think, but the people who are in prison who are not being released. Let me say three names that we talk about: Yulia Tymoshenko, Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot. It is a very good thing that we talk about them, and it is important, but please let us talk about people who are languishing in prison whose names are not known. My list is a reflection of that situation, and I would like you to take that on board.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Does the Chairperson of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee wish to speak?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – I thank Mr Strässer, who has dealt with this report in torrid circumstances. He does himself an injustice by saying that he will be disappointed if the report is not accepted because, by his work on the report, he has influenced the work of the Monitoring Committee, as reflected in its report, particularly in the recommendations in paragraphs 14 and 18. More significantly, his work has resulted in the release of a number of political prisoners whom he identified. That is really good news for everyone here. Whatever happens in the voting, tribute should be paid to what Mr Strässer has done for this Assembly in his work on the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

I remind members that paragraph 14 of the Monitoring Committee report says, “The combination of the restrictive implementation of freedoms with unfair trials and the undue influence of the executive results in the systemic detention of people who may be considered prisoners of conscience.” That is a really serious allegation against the Azerbaijani authorities. It is endorsed by the Monitoring Committee, and reflects strongly the content of Mr Strässer’s report. Likewise, as Mr Strässer himself said, paragraphs 18.4.1 to 18.4.4 contain specific recommendations relating to political prisoners. I have heard the reservations about Mr Strässer’s report, but whatever the voting outcome, let us not forget that the effort he has put into the report will be reflected in the outcome if the Monitoring Committee’s report is accepted.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Debono Grech to reply. You and Mr Agramunt have ten and a half minutes to share.

Mr DEBONO GRECH (Malta) – I thank you all for this very useful debate. The Council of Europe has come a long way since it was founded. I have been a member of parliament for the last 40 years. I was thrown in prison by the British Government when we were fighting for independence, so I know what a political prisoner really is. What we have done is not entirely my work or Mr Agramunt’s. The work was started years ago in Azerbaijan. I thank Mr Herkel: he and I started together. Azerbaijan has come a long way since that time.

Nobody buys my integrity. What we have done is for the future of the Azerbaijani people. When we were there, we had everybody’s co-operation, including members of parliament, the president of the parliament, and most of the ministers. We met them and talked to them. We also talked to the many NGOs. I think that what we have done is fruitful.

We have a long way to go. It is not as if everything will be okay in Azerbaijan if our report passes. Instead of everybody just complaining and accusing one man or some others, I believe in dialogue. The Council of Europe has achieved a lot, through what its rapporteurs have done, including those before me and Mr Agramunt.

There are still prisoners of conscience or political prisoners. This cannot be dealt with by doing this or doing that and by criticising everybody. We must have dialogue, and not only with Azerbaijan. The real Azerbaijan is only 20 years old. It passed through many governments under the Soviet Union and now it is helping and working with the Council of Europe.

With the help of the Council of Europe, and with all good intentions, I think that Azerbaijan will be a country where there is democracy and freedom for the people. I think that what we have done – my colleague and myself, and the former rapporteurs – will bear fruit. Our job is to help these people – to help the new democracies. These people need our help. Even the government needs our help. However, we have to keep in mind that they have come a long way. We still have a long way to go, but with everybody’s help – the Council of Europe and all its members – between us, in co-operation with the Committee of Ministers and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, we will find that the time will come when Azerbaijan will be a real democracy.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Agramunt has the floor.

Mr AGRAMUNT (Spain)* – I agree with my co-rapporteur. We have done a lot of good work and we are proud and satisfied with the result. When the report was adopted during the Monitoring Committee meeting in December, there were only two votes against – by the representatives of Armenia.

Azerbaijan is not a perfect democracy. As many people have said here, it has a long way to go. The report mentions a number of issues that we have not been able to analyse in depth, but we do mention what needs to be done. We must also recognise that, over these 20 years, Azerbaijan has made a lot of progress. We cannot just look at the negative. Certainly, it is not in a worse situation than other countries that are members of the Council of Europe, especially remembering that it is in a complex geographical situation, as was mentioned. I want to stress this. Iran is not a good neighbour. Iran wants to establish an Islamic republic in Azerbaijan and wants to establish Sharia Law. Azerbaijan is 97% Muslim, but it is a secular State. We need to bear this in mind and provide support.

Another issue that was mentioned is problems related to energy – oil, gas, Nabucco and the oil pipelines – that are created in the region.

I regret it if some do not like to hear it, but there is an ongoing war between two countries, one of which – Armenia – occupies 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory and has caused about 1 million persons to be internally displaced. When I said this during the Monitoring Committee’s discussion of the report a few weeks ago, colleagues from Armenia politely said that I was using figures provided by the Azerbaijani Government. They said that it is not true. They said that Armenia was occupying not 20%, but 13% and that there were only 900 000 displaced people, not 1 million. That is in the minutes of the Monitoring Committee meeting. It is not worth discussing whether it is 20% or 13%. The fact is that territory of Azerbaijan is under military occupation by Armenia, and that is a recognised fact.

In drafting this report there was a lot of pressure. We had problems. Even today there have been attempts to challenge both rapporteurs. I thank all the speakers. We can draw lessons from everything said and we have learned a great deal. Except for the members of the Armenian delegation – I completely understand it – all the other parliamentarians who took the floor stated their support for the report. I thank them for their opinions, particularly the five statements made on behalf of the political groups.

I say to Ms Brasseur that we are going to continue working on the issue of political prisoners. That is an obligation. We thank other speakers for their support. We are not asking for the monitoring to end. We are asking for it to continue.

Mr Volontè was right to say that perhaps we should draw up a report on political prisoners in all the member States of the Council of Europe, not only in one country.

The report on political prisoners, for obvious reasons – contradicts what we say in our report about political prisoners – I regret that I cannot support Mr Strässer’s report. We established that there are 14 people in prisons and nine that had already been released when the report was drawn up. That figure is more than was defined by Amnesty. Apparently, there is only one left and I have been promised that that individual will be released quickly. I also have a commitment from the government that the nine that were free when I drew up the report will not be put back in prison.

These are cases that I have checked, which could be prisoners of conscience. In all the other cases, other crimes are involved – murder, terrorism, and so on – including cases of former ministers, which were mentioned here, convicted for economic crimes, such as stealing and corruption. Of course, I do not consider these to be political prisoners. I may be wrong, but as a European and a Spaniard I think we have to be careful when we protest.

      Why do we speak only of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, not in Russia, Armenia and other countries that have them? I ask members to support the first report, but I will vote against Mr Strässer’s report, for obvious reasons: it contradicts our report and encroaches on the authority of the Monitoring Committee. In the cases of Armenia, Ukraine and Russia, the Monitoring Committee is in charge of this issue, and that should also be the case with Azerbaijan, on which we have also drawn up a monitoring report. It is our remit.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Herkel, Chairman of the Monitoring Committee.

      Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – I thank the rapporteurs and staff of both committees, the Azerbaijani delegation and everybody here, including you, Mr President – your continuous presence is a sign of how important this topic is.

      I ask everybody to support both reports – the monitoring report and the report on political prisoners. In my opinion, as Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, this division of labour is necessary when faced with a problem as difficult as that of political prisoners. Of course, the rapporteur must have access to the country, and yes, we probably need greater expertise. This is not an easy topic, but our ultimate challenge is to have a Council of Europe without political prisoners. It is extremely important that we achieve that. Not a single political prisoner should exist in any State belonging to the house of democracy.

      The reports are pre-election. As Ms Čigāne mentioned, there are presidential elections this year, and the reports reflect the situation in the country. We probably did not pay enough attention to the freedom of media, assembly and association, but all the problems in those fields do not bode well for good elections. Azerbaijan is the only country in the Council of Europe to permit more than two consecutive terms as president. This is a difficult situation, so we should support the reports in this election year.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Herkel. I call Ms Wohlwend on a point of order.

      Ms WOHLWEND (Liechtenstein)* – I have been a member for almost 20 years, and this is the first time I have known a rapporteur to disagree with a report by a colleague. I am sorry, but this is impossible.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The debate is closed.

      The Monitoring Committee has presented a draft resolution, to which 13 amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium and the Organisation of Debates.

      I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

We come to Amendment 11, tabled by Mr Davit Harutyunyan, Ms Naira Zohrabyan, Mr Vahe Hovhannisyan, Mr Arpine Hovhannisyan, Mr Levon Zourabian, Ms Naira Karapetyan and Mr Armen Rustamyan, which is, in the draft resolution, in paragraph 3, replace the words “ongoing conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh” with the following words: “Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”.

I call Mr Harutyunyan to support Amendment 11.

Mr HARUTYUNYAN (Armenia) – The essence of the proposal is to stick to international agreed terms. If we do not, we will undermine one of the main principles of the negotiations. Let us not harm the negotiation process, but stick to the terminology used by the Minsk Group.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – This is not the first time our colleagues from Armenia have tried to change the essence of some paragraphs. Negotiations between President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and President Sargsyan of Armenia are ongoing, and it is the Minsk Group that decides the terms of the negotiations in the conflict. We are here to explain our position, and I am completely against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 11 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8, after the words “Since Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council of Europe,” insert the following words: “despite certain progress achieved,”.

I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 1.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – The Council of Europe has previously adopted an election report on Azerbaijan containing the words: “certain progress achieved”. That is the wording in the amendment, so I ask you to vote in favour of it.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 1 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 2, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 10, after the word “Regrettably,” insert the following words: “despite the repeated invitations by the majority political party,”.

I call Mr Seyidov to support the Amendment 2.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I withdraw the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 2 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 3, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 13, replace the second sentence with the following sentence: “Further strengthening the independence of the judiciary is a priority in Azerbaijan.”

I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 3.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – The judicial system in Azerbaijan is being strengthened – it is a priority for us – so I ask my colleagues to support the amendment. It reflects the reality in Azerbaijan.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 3 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 10, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 13, in the third sentence, replace the words “constitute other major concerns” with the following words: “in some cases raise concerns”.

      I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 10.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – We should understand that not all, but only some, cases raise concerns, so we ask colleagues to support the amendment. Only in some cases do we find irregularities, so our amendment more accurately reflects the situation in Azerbaijan.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 10 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 4, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 14, before the words “prisoners of conscience”, insert the following word: “alleged”.

      I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 4.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – We use the word “alleged” in all our reports, which is why we insist on adding it. I ask my colleagues to vote in favour of the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 4 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 5, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa, Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 18.1.2, delete the words “establish a meaningful dialogue with the extra-parliamentary opposition”.

I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 5.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Various dialogues between different representatives of society are going on in Azerbaijan. For us, it is not so easy to understand what “meaningful dialogue” means, because dialogue is special negotiations and special contact between the representatives of the different political parties. That is why we have proposed the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr HERKEL (Estonia)* – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 5 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 6, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 18.1.3.

      I call Mr Seyidov to support the amendment.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I withdraw the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 6 is not moved.

      We come to Amendment 7, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, replace paragraph 18.2.2 with the following paragraph:

“effectively implement the provision of legislation concerning the role of the Judicial Legal Council as guarantor of the independence of judges;”.

      I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 7.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – This amendment reflects more accurately the situation with the judicial system in Azerbaijan. The draft resolution would be much better with our suggested wording, which is why I ask the Assembly to vote in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr HERKEL (Estonia)* – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 7 is rejected.

      THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Amendment 8, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 18.2.6.

      I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 8.

      Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I withdraw Amendment 8.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 8 is not moved.

      We come to Amendment 12, tabled by Ms Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Björn von Sydow, Mr Andreas Gross, Ms Anne Brasseur and Mr Mats Johansson, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 18.2.7, insert the following words: “in accordance with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

I call Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin to support the amendment.

Ms de POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – I want us to be more precise by adding this amendment. You will never believe it, but the Monitoring Committee was in favour of it.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Amendment 9, tabled by Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sabir Hajiyev, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Rovshan Rzayev, Ms Sahiba Gafarova, Ms Sevinj Fataliyeva, Ms Ganira Pashayeva, Mr Fazil Mustafa and Mr Elkhan Suleymanov, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 18.3.2, replace the word “fulfil” with the following words: “continue implementation of”.

I call Mr Seyidov to support Amendment 9.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – The aim of the report is to implement the ideas that we have just heard about. The amendment reflects the situation, and it reflects the mood of the Parliamentary Assembly, much more accurately than the original text.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 9 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 13, tabled by Ms Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Björn von Sydow, Mr Andreas Gross, Ms Anne Brasseur and Mr Mats Johansson, which is, in the draft resolution, at the beginning of paragraph 19, insert the following words:

“Azerbaijan is still a state under authoritarian rule that is not compatible with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

I call Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin to support Amendment 13.

Ms de POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – We think that somewhere in the resolution there needs to be a clear summary, which is why we wanted to add the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Walter.

Mr WALTER (United Kingdom) – Azerbaijan is in the monitoring procedure, so it has yet to comply with all its obligations under the Convention; that is a given. I think the report and the resolution are well balanced, and to add such language at the end will destroy the credibility of a well-balanced report that uses moderate language but none the less expresses a clear message.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr HERKEL (Estonia)* – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 13 is rejected.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13084, as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

The Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee has presented a draft resolution, to which five amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium and the Organisation of Debates.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Michael McNamara, Lord John E. Tomlinson, Mr Jean-Pierre Michel, Mr Stefan Schennach and Mr Björn von Sydow, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 3, insert the following paragraph:

“It regrets that the Azerbaijani authorities prevented the Rapporteur from carrying out a fact-finding visit to Azerbaijan, which had been duly authorised by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.”

I call Mr McNamara to support Amendment 1.

Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – Are we, as an Assembly, about to ask our rapporteurs to do a job and then remain silent when obstacles are put in their way that prevent them from carrying out that task? Is that really the value that we, as an Assembly, place on our own work and that which we task others to do? I hope not, and I ask you to support the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – We did not suggest any amendments to this report, because it is difficult to do so and to clarify the report. This is the first time I have seen an explanatory note to an amendment, and we believe it is a sign of the amendment’s weakness. Azerbaijan never said that we were not ready to accept, but previously the rapporteur, a priori, criticised Azerbaijan. That is why I am against the amendment completely.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

We come to Amendment 2, tabled by Mr Michael McNamara, Lord John E. Tomlinson, Mr Jean-Pierre Michel, Mr Stefan Schennach and Mr Björn von Sydow, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 4, insert the following paragraph:

“Whilst the vast majority or the persons on the original list of 716 alleged political prisoners assessed by the Independent Experts is no longer in prison, several cases are still not resolved, including three in which the Independent Experts' conclusion was that they were indeed political prisoners.”

I call Mr McNamara to support Amendment 2.

Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – The amendment refers not to the work of Mr Strässer but to the work of independent experts, two of whom were members of the European Court of Human Rights, who travelled to Azerbaijan. They were tasked to do so by the Committee of Ministers in 2001. Are we not to mention their work in this resolution?

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – We released all so-called alleged political prisoners several years ago when the experts were working. The information in the amendment is not accurate, because those experts said that some people whom they had mentioned were not political prisoners. These people are accepted by experts as not being political prisoners, so it is very strange to see them in the list of political prisoners that Mr Strässer presented. That is why I am against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 2 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 3, tabled by Mr Michael McNamara, Lord John E. Tomlinson, Mr Jean-Pierre Michel, Mr Stefan Schennach and Mr Björn von Sydow, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 6, insert the following paragraph:

“In yet another group of cases, persons are still in prison, who were convicted as lowly accessories in illegal acts whose organisers and leaders have long been set free after they had been recognised as political prisoners by the Independent Experts. Some of these cases had inadvertently not been brought to the attention of the Independent Experts; others were arrested only after the completion of the Experts’ work.”

      I call Mr McNamara to support Amendment 3.

Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – This amendment refers to accessories to those who were identified as political prisoners by the independent experts appointed in 2001. It addresses situations where the political prisoner has been released but the accessory remains in prison.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I have received an oral sub-amendment to Amendment 3 from Mr McNamara, which reads as follows: “In amendment 3, delete the words ‘Some of these cases’ and replace with ‘Some cases’”.

      I remind the Assembly of Rule 33.7.a which enables the President to accept an oral amendment or sub-amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy or conciliation and if there is not opposition from 10 or more members to its being debated.

      In my opinion the oral sub-amendment meets the criteria of Rule 33.7.a. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

      That is not the case.

      I call Mr McNamara to support the oral sub-amendment.

      Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – The purpose of the oral sub-amendment is merely to ensure that the amendment makes grammatical sense. It does not alter the amendment’s meaning at all.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I am completely against it. Games with words are irrelevant. The amendment is completely wrong and does not reflect reality.

THE PRESIDENT* – The mover of the amendment is obviously in favour. What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is rejected.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 3? I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – As I have said, this amendment is wrong and does not reflect the realities of the situation.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 3 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 4, tabled by Mr Michael McNamara, Lord John E. Tomlinson, Mr Jean-Pierre Michel, Mr Stefan Schennach and Mr Björn von Sydow, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 10, insert the following paragraph:

“It notes that the Rapporteur has carefully studied well over one hundred cases included on a consolidated list of presumed political prisoners prepared in cooperation with a number of Azerbaijani and international non-governmental organisations, lawyers and prisoners’ family members.”

I call Mr McNamara to support Amendment 4.

Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – This amendment relates to the methodology followed by Mr Strässer, as is set out in detail in the report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 4? I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – My dear friends, I do not understand why we should trouble ourselves by making clear some ideas in the report that do not reflect the realities. To do so would be ridiculous. Of course I am against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 4 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 5, tabled by Mr Michael McNamara, Lord John E. Tomlinson, Mr Jean-Pierre Michel, Mr Stefan Schennach and Mr Björn von Sydow, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 10, insert the following paragraph:

“The Assembly notes that, in a large number of these cases, the Azerbaijani courts have clearly violated fundamental fair trial rules. These transgressions include failures to react to alleged ill-treatment of accused persons during pre-trial detention, to hear witnesses called by the defence, to respect the presumption of innocence, as well as discriminatory, excessively harsh, treatment of accused persons linked to opposition groups.”

I call Mr McNamara to support Amendment 5.

Mr McNAMARA (Ireland) – This is the final amendment of five that were moved in committee, when there was considerable confusion about which members had voting rights. There were no more removals after that was clarified. It refers to court cases not involving political prisoners where there was abuse of fair trial processes.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 5? I call Mr Seyidov.

Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I am against, because my sons and daughters fight with your sons and daughters against terror in Afghanistan. We are suffering from terror, and we suffer from reports like this one. I am completely against the approach it takes to Azerbaijan, but I will still be a member of the Assembly because this is not Mr Strässer’s Council of Europe; it is my Council of Europe, just as it is my Azerbaijan, as it will be for ever. I am in favour of the Monitoring Committee report, but I am totally against Mr Strässer’s report.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 5 is rejected.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13079, as amended.

The draft resolution in Document 13079, as amended, is rejected, with 79 votes for, 125 against and 20 abstentions.

(Ms Memecan, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Mignon.)

3. Towards a Council of Europe convention to combat trafficking in organs, tissues and cells of human origin

THE PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled “Towards a Council of Europe convention to combat trafficking in organs, tissues and cells of human origin”, Document 13082 and Addendum to be presented by Mr Bernard Marquet on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

In order to finish by 8.00 p.m. we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 7.45 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the votes.

Is this agreed? It is agreed.

I call Mr Marquet, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

Mr MARQUET (Monaco)* – This is not the first time that the question of trafficking in organs has been the subject of debate in this Chamber. In 2008, our Assembly initiated an inquiry into the allegation of organ trafficking in Kosovo and it concluded that, inter alia, there was a need to produce an international legal instrument on the trafficking of organs – that was Resolution 1782 of 2011 on the investigation of allegations of inhuman treatment. In 2009, the joint study of the Council of Europe and the United Nations on organ trafficking came to the same conclusions. We found when we were researching this that in June 2003 our committee produced a report on organ trafficking. Two Swiss colleagues who are no longer with us – Ms Vermot-Mangold and Dick Marty – led on that report.

Today I am happy to announce that once again the Council of Europe is moving forward and serving as an example to other regions of the world by finalising a draft convention against trafficking in human organs. Having been present at the work on the draft for the convention, I congratulate those delegates who participated in the negotiations and colleagues in the intergovernmental sector on their remarkable work. Furthermore, I thank them for taking into account the proposals from our committee, which from the outset was associated with this process.

The draft recommendation concerns the draft convention against trafficking in human organs. Despite all its assets, it has certain lacunae, which I think need a remedy. I underscore that in this configuration we are privileged as parliamentarians, as the draft convention has not yet been submitted to the Committee of Ministers and thus we have a chance to intervene beforehand and not a posteriori as we usually do.

Organ trafficking is contrary to the basic norms of human rights and human dignity, but alas, as we know, it exists throughout the world. As initiators of the first international legally binding instrument entirely devoted to organ trafficking, we have a responsibility that cannot be denied. We have to ensure that the convention is as exhaustive and effective as possible. That means that we cannot satisfy ourselves just by putting sanctions on organ trafficking; we should also prevent it. We should protect its victims and co-operate as effectively as possible to combat trafficking. It has to be noted that, unfortunately, the draft convention as it stands does not give enough weight to the protection of victims, to co-operation and to prevention. In this context, I am persuaded that a system of presumed consent for the taking of organs from deceased persons is one of the best means of combating the lack of available organs, which is the origin of this trafficking.

When we talk about the trafficking of organs, we cannot detach ourselves from the reality of people who are totally desperate because their children, their parents, their friends or they themselves are in the anguish of living their last days, as they believe. We also cannot ignore the despair of those people who sacrifice a part of their body by selling an organ to be able to meet the needs of their families. The extreme vulnerability of these people should be included in the convention.

In talking about realities, we cannot ignore the existence of the sinister phenomenon that is often called transplant tourism. Indeed, some patients travel abroad, notably but not only to Asia, to obtain organs against payment. These organs often come from people who, as I said, live in great poverty; they see no other choice but to sell their organs to survive. There are also serious allegations concerning the taking of organs from prisoners, in respect of whom it is difficult to talk about free consent to such an intervention.

We cannot wash our hands and say that this happens elsewhere or, in legalese, that it does not fall within our jurisdiction. It is our responsibility to avoid areas where rights do not apply if we want the convention to have a genuine impact in combating organ trafficking. It is also our responsibility to avoid the propagation of practices that may have disastrous implications for public health. The convention should also contain provisions concerning those matters.

I shall not limit myself to proposals aimed at perfecting the content of the convention. As I stressed, we are responsible for ensuring that the convention is not only as exhaustive as possible but as effective as possible. If we talk about effectiveness, we also talk about a monitoring mechanism, but I think that we are all agreed that the Council of Europe already has a sufficient number of conventions that are stillborn because their follow-up mechanism is not vigorous or effective enough. Despite the budgetary restrictions on this Organisation, we should have a follow-up mechanism that has a genuine impact on the trafficking of organs. Our credibility is at stake.

We always underscore the added value of the work that we do, so it is crucial not to stop at a convention against organ trafficking but to extend the work to combat the trafficking of tissues and cells, which constitutes as grave a threat to human rights and public and individual health as organ trafficking does. The Council of Europe has other pertinent instruments in this field, such as the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine – the Oviedo Convention – and its additional protocol on the transplantation of organs and tissues of human origin, as well as the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Assembly should plead in favour of the ratification of these other instruments that are important in the combating of trafficking in organs by those States that have not yet done so.

I thank all colleagues who contributed to the report. In the Council of Europe, there are intergovernmental bodies that are remarkable on this matter. I have worked with them on the Medicrime Convention on the quality of medicines and they have made important contributions with regard to blood products. The Committee on Crime Problems, the CDPC, has followed our work, while the bioethics division, thanks to the Oviedo Convention, has assisted us considerably. I am rather disappointed to see that the defenders of human rights are not numerous this evening in the Chamber, because in my view anything that deals with the integrity of persons constitutes the genuine defence of human rights. Colleagues, I thank you for your attention. I will take the floor again to respond to your interventions.

The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Marquet. You have five and a half minutes left. I now call Ms Borzova, who speaks in the debate on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Ms BORZOVA (Russian Federation)* – I thank the rapporteur, Mr Marquet, for a job well done. We need to understand that the new Council of Europe convention aims to become the first international document to establish a legal approach to regulating activities relating to the removal and use of human organs. We need also to understand how timely and relevant it is to solve this problem. The transplant of organs and tissues is sometimes the only way of treating people who are very seriously ill. It improves the quality of their lives and sometimes saves their lives. At the same time, we need to understand that there is an international criminal market in the trafficking of organs. That is due not only to a shortage in organs for transplant but to gaps in legislation in some States. Of course, there are economic reasons for this problem, such as low incomes and economic inequality. According to World Health Organization figures, every year more than 10 000 transplants from living donors, specifically of kidneys, are conducted illegally. To date, international law has lacked clear, legally binding standards. We should thank the rapporteur for his consistent support for a convention.

We support the draft recommendation, particularly the proposals to exclude the principle of dual criminality; to give specific protection to children and people lacking legal capacity; to open the convention for signature by non-member States; and the additional protocol to expand the convention to tissues and cells. It is important that we endorse the convention, and we should vote in its favour because it will contribute to national and international co-operation in combating illegal trafficking in organs, preventing transplant tourism and, most importantly, protecting human rights. The Assembly should do more work on this issue.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Borzova. I call Ms Kyriakides, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The report by our colleague, Mr Marquet, involves a variety of issues and repercussions related to the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the dignity of all people. We have adopted several resolutions and the Oviedo Convention, which emphasises the principle that human body parts should never be a source of financial gain, but many problems and many unethical practices still exist. We therefore agree with the rapporteur that it is of paramount importance that this convention becomes a beacon for the Council of Europe and all member States.

Practices such as so-called transplant tourism, and the trade in organs removed from prisoners, executed detainees, children, the mentally handicapped or people without full legal capacity, are vital factors that must be addressed effectively by the convention. We recognise that organ donors and recipients may sometimes be vulnerable and we agree with the rapporteur that that must be addressed in the convention’s provisions on penalties, but it should none the less be clearly understood that, in the vast majority of cases, such practices contravene and violate the fundamental rules and principles of human well-being and dignity.

We in the EPP agree with the rapporteur – we sincerely congratulate him on this important report – and want to express our deep satisfaction that the draft convention addresses the exploitation of children in such cases, in that the commission of that offence against a child will be described as an aggravating circumstance. I therefore advocate that in the final text the protection of children should remain as firm as possible. Children are especially vulnerable in such situations. I know that this is to state the obvious, but we must be clear and specific where the protection and rights of children are concerned.

We look forward with interest to the preparation of the additional protocol against trafficking in human tissues and cells, which will make the scope of the convention more solid and effective. It is only through working together that we can combat this most serious issue.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Kyriakides. I call Mr Jáuregui, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr JÁUREGUI (Spain)* – Every year, about 1 million people in the world would like to have an organ transplant, but only 100 000 people have one. About 900 000 people are therefore seeking an organ transplant, in many cases to save their lives. What is happening? Unfortunately, the difference between supply and demand is creating a market. That market is opprobrious, but we must recognise that human beings are trafficked for the purpose of extracting or transplanting their organs. That is what is going on: as the rapporteur said, there is a transplant market, with what is sometimes called “transport tourism” and the direct sale of kidneys and other organs.

We face an inequality and an injustice that is most offensive to human dignity – not only to human rights, but to dignity itself – because the poor of the world find themselves obliged to sell their kidneys so that they can eat, and they sell them to the rich, who can pay for them. Things are as rough as that. It is worth recalling that at one time – the time of slavery – human beings used to sell each other’s freedom: they were sold into the work force at a period when workers were exploited. In the 21st century, human beings now sell their organs. That is the harsh reality, and it raises tough questions.

The rapporteur, Mr Marquet, has done a very good piece of work. The Assembly should approve the report, which is necessary and opportune. The ways of confronting this problem are to improve transplantation, increase organ donations and set in order the legality of such matters, because trafficking is a crime. Spain has the highest statistics in the world for the number of transplants, with 30 transplants per 1 million people, and we must pursue that trend by increasing the number of donations from people who have died. The report covers the prevention and combating of trafficking in human organs through the criminalisation of such practices and the improvement of protection for victims internationally. We hope that the Committee of Ministers will take good notice of the report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Jáuregui. I call Ms Schuster, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms SCHUSTER (Germany)* – I thank the rapporteur not only for the report, but for his dedication and unflagging efforts over the years. The report is a step in the right direction, and we can be proud that a member of the Parliamentary Assembly has made such unstinting efforts to promote this important subject. I am disappointed that the Chamber is not full, because we are all affected by this issue and should take it seriously.

Our aim should be to have as comprehensive and effective a convention as possible, so that we can clamp down resolutely on organ trafficking. As the rapporteur has rightly said, the convention should apply not only to the member States of the Council of Europe but have a geographical perimeter that is as wide as possible to include other States. Let us not forget that the whole organ trafficking market is worth billions of euros. Some people are waiting for a legal organ transplant, while some of the very poor are thinking about donating an organ to help their family and improve their financial situation. For the organ traffickers, surgeons and smugglers involved, this business is a very cynical one.

      I remind members of Dick Marty’s report on the subject, and I also remind you of the figures. Based on United Nations estimates, 10 000 kidneys are illegally harvested every year, although the actual figures are probably far higher. In Europe alone, 40 000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant, so this topic should be addressed very seriously. Progress could be made, for instance, on people carrying organ donor cards.

      We should think about how to protect people who are in danger from organ traffickers: children, babies, people with disabilities, and prisoners. We should also ensure that a report is produced on implementation, and that we consider the issue of tissues and cells. I hope the draft recommendation will be adopted.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Schuster. I call Ms Virolainen.

      Ms VIROLAINEN (Finland) – I thank the rapporteur for an excellent report and recommendations. I agree with Mr Marquet that the text for the convention should be as comprehensive as possible, to fight this repulsive phenomenon.

      The trade in organs is a form of human trafficking, which is a serious violation of human rights and human integrity. Organ traffickers ruthlessly exploit people in vulnerable situations by offering money, or at worst simply abduct people, even children, to take their organs. In some countries, kidneys are treated like merchandise – something you can sell when you need money. All human organs are vital parts of the human body, not something that can or should be bought during a holiday trip. The mere fact that we are talking about transplant tourism is disgusting.

      The main reason for trafficking is the shortage of organs of human origin. I sympathise with anyone who is suffering because of a failed organ, without knowledge of when or if a transplant operation will become a reality. We all have a responsibility to do all that we can to help such patients. To increase supply, we must ensure that we have effective systems in place. Finland has adopted a law of presumed consent, and I am glad that that is included in the recommendation. Our focus should be on the quality and safety of transplantation. Proper registers and specified standards are necessary for all stages of the donation process. I also urge the Assembly to include in any convention an obligation for traceability of donated organs. In short, we must make it impossible for organ traffickers to operate.

      Trafficking in human organs is a global problem that mostly takes place outside our borders, but there are still cases within Council of Europe member States, which is completely unacceptable. Combating the problem requires reinforcement of international co-operation and the adoption of internationally binding legal instruments. Our Organisation plays a vital role in these normative processes.

      We also need more research. I am glad that the European Union is active in this field. The 2010 European Union directive obliges all of us to update our legislation. However, no legal remedy is sufficient without proper monitoring.

      Ultimately, this is a question of life and death. An organ is a gift of life – a second chance. No government, hospital or doctor – no one – should be allowed to make economic profit by trading in organs of human origin.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Virolainen. I call Ms Rupprecht.

      MS RUPPRECHT (Germany)* – Until 18 months ago, I would not have thought that organ trafficking would be such a major issue in my country, but I was horrified to find out that there was such distortion of data in a private hospital that patients who were willing to pay the right price could get an organ transplant. At first, we thought that these were just isolated cases, but further checks and investigations have shown that the problem is systemic. There are clear rules at European level, and they should be adhered to by patients.

As my Finnish colleague was saying, we need quality standards and proper checks, but we also need something else. The Council of Europe is responsible for human rights: every day, people should discover that they have rights that cannot be trampled on. We must fight on a daily basis, for civilisation, society, humanity and a proper legal framework. Human beings should not be used in this way, and raising awareness of the issue in society is also a way of combating the problem.

      Raising awareness and agreeing on rules are both vital, and that is why a convention is of such paramount importance. I thank Mr Marquet warmly, and I also thank his former colleague Ms Vermot-Mangold from Switzerland, for his work on the subject of organ trafficking in children in particular. The people who are addressing this topic say that one solution is a convention and better rules. However, any convention must also be implemented by countries. Signing agreements can take a long time, but agreements also need to be ratified. We should do everything we can to ensure that the convention is properly implemented and transposed into national law. I hope that the Assembly will adopt the draft recommendation.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Rupprecht. I call Mr Moreno Palanques.

      Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain)* – This debate on the need to adopt a legally binding international instrument on trafficking in organs is an important step. Such an instrument should be put into effect as quickly as possible. The Council of Europe convention should be both well designed and legally binding.

Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells is a serious international problem that should not be underestimated. The last United Nations report on people trafficking, which came out in December, highlighted the fact that organ harvesting represented an important share of various types of exploitation in Europe and other parts of the world. Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of harvesting organs was detected in five European countries, so it is not just a problem that happens in other regions of the world. The report states that on the European continent trafficking in human beings was particularly worrisome in the Balkans and Kosovo and, as members know, that issue led to a report and to the adoption of a Resolution 1782 in 2011.

As the draft recommendation mentions, trafficking in organs knows no borders. There are States that have trafficked the organs of prisoners and executed prisoners. That should be banned. The convention should be open to States that are not members of the Council of Europe as early as is possible.

      Mr Jáuregui, who like me represents Spain, mentioned that our country has the highest level of organ donation in the world, with 34.6 donors per million inhabitants. That compares to 14.9 per million in Australia, 26 per million in the United States and 7.5 per million in Latin America. It is essential to introduce measures to promote co-operation and reduce the shortage of organs. We do not need to invent anything spectacular. The Spanish model of organ transplants has been the most successful in the world. The more donations there are, the less risk there is of trafficking. There are programmes to increase the number of donors to 40 per million inhabitants. We introduced donor cards a long time ago to facilitate the donation of organs in cases of death.

      I support the draft recommendation and think that the convention should be based on the best available instruments to prevent and combat this scourge. I hope that the adoption of the convention will contribute to the eradication of transplant tourism.

      Finally, it is important that we move on quickly to preparing an additional protocol against the trafficking of tissues and cells, taking into account the relevant directives of the European Union.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Le Déaut.

      Mr LE DÉAUT (France)* – The dearth of organs globally is dramatic. In France, there are fewer than 3 000 transplants a year for the 10 000 people who have kidney deficiencies. Several hundred patients will die because of the lack of available organs. That has led to an increase in clandestine operations around the world, which are made possible by the abject merchandising of the human body, with organs being trafficked at prices of up to tens of thousands of euros.

      I welcome the initiative of the Council of Europe in the excellent work of Mr Bernard Marquet, the rapporteur. Organ donation is a symbol of human solidarity. Therefore, we should firmly condemn transplant tourism, whereby patients do not hesitate to buy the organs of people who are selling them in order to survive. The convention is an indispensable support for the establishment of criminal sanctions against organ trafficking.

The convention, as was discussed in committee, does not deal with tissues and cells of human origin. When we come to that matter, we will have to consider the matter of umbilical cords and tissues that are found in hospital waste. The proposed convention is of major importance because it proposes a policy that heads towards a multiplicity of legal sources of organ provision. That was expressly mentioned in the declaration of the Istanbul summit in May 2008, which had convened the world’s greatest specialists from 150 countries.

In France on 7 March, I shall chair a meeting to examine the possibility of collecting organs not only from people whose heart has ceased to beat, but persons whose cardiac arrest is controlled after encephalic death. That would align the position with the current practice in the United States, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In combating the dearth of organs, we must pursue all forms of fundamental clinical research, including the development of artificial organs. I am thinking in particular of Professor Carpentier’s artificial heart. I proposed amendments to that end that were adopted unanimously by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Through all these means, we will more effectively combat the trafficking of organs for transplant, which increases injustice and inequality in vulnerable populations.

It would do honour to the Assembly if it adopted the report unanimously.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Fataliyeva is not here, so I call Mr Schneider.

      Mr SCHNEIDER (France)* – I pay tribute to the remarkable work of our rapporteur. The draft convention is essential because it affects the most basic rights of human beings. Organ trafficking results in the commoditisation of human beings. It applies the abject law of supply and demand to the most fragile people.

Progress in medicine has caused a legitimate social demand for transplants for therapeutic purposes. Some 15% to 30% of people who are on a waiting list die before they have an organ transplant. Unfortunately, the dearth of organs has given rise to a lucrative traffic, organised by mafia-like networks, often in connection with the trafficking of drugs and human beings.

This repugnant practice is essentially trafficking in the spare parts of human beings. It exploits the most extreme human misery and causes horrors that are being reported in the media with increasing frequency. It is important that the convention protects the most vulnerable people and children in particular. In Africa, in particular in South Africa, the kidnapping and exploitation of children in order to sell their organs has overtaken arms trafficking. That is intolerable.

Transplant tourism should be condemned. It is not acceptable that richer patients take advantage of poor countries to go and buy kidneys, as though they were buying a spare part for their car. It is understandable that people are in distress when they are waiting for an organ transplant. Sometimes it is a question of life or death. However, that does not justify negating human dignity in such a way.

The convention represents essential progress because it will be the first international, legally binding instrument against such practices. We cannot allow the countries in Africa and Asia, and even within our Chamber, that are most affected by this traffic to fight this scourge alone. It is down to us in the richest countries to think carefully about the consequences of the laws that we adopt and the checks that we carry out in the field of organ trafficking and donation. If we really want to clamp down on the people who leave the field of legal organ donation to receive an organ at any price – even at the price of a child on the streets of Bogotá or Maputo – we need to carry out strict checks. For instance, there should be checks if the name of a patient is suddenly removed from a waiting list or if anti-rejection drugs are prescribed and sold. If we criminalise such practices and allow for better legal co-operation, this new convention of the Council of Europe will allow us to protect more effectively the people whose humanity we must not deny and ensure a better future for them all.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Recordon.

      Mr RECORDON (Switzerland)* – I thank Bernard Marquet for his excellent report and all his colleagues on the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development who contributed to the proposals. This is an important instrument that will help us to address a phenomenon of which, as Ms Rupprecht said, we are increasingly aware.

The extent of this scourge is not surprising. When it is a question of improving your health or saving your life, it is not surprising that such a traffic should arise. That has happened since the origins of time when money, sex, gambling, drug addiction or any other powerful vice within the human being is involved. We are dealing with a redoubtable adversary who is within the human heart. That is why we must deploy energetically all the means at hand to combat it.

On the other hand, given the origin of the problem, we should show some understanding. I welcome the fact that in paragraph 8.2 of the draft recommendation, there is an appeal for a degree of understanding towards the most vulnerable. We might even have to consider an exemption. Should we still prosecute persons in distress who have given up an organ, or people who are weak enough in their distress to accept an organ obtained in intolerable conditions? We must know how to put those questions.

      We do not have to go very far. Even in Europe, as Dick Marty’s report on Kosovo demonstrated, we can be faced with abominable cases. It is not just a question of north-south relations, although the greatest problems probably lie on that axis. I am inclined to ask for rigorous implementation with a degree of understanding for specific cases involving vulnerable people. Organ donations organised on a voluntary basis are a good way of responding to the different legitimate interests at stake.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Quintanilla.

      Ms QUINTANILLA (Spain)* – We are debating one of the great tragedies of our time: the traffic in organs, which involves the possible deaths of many children in Third World countries who are snatched from the streets for $10 and whose organs are harvested in the nearest hospital. It is a tragedy that people who live in poverty should sell their organs to save their lives.

      Like my colleagues, I congratulate Mr Marquet on this excellent report. When we speak of the traffic in organs, we are also speaking of slavery and poverty, and of the traffic in human beings for the purpose of sexual abuse, forced labour or forced begging. We are talking about a new type of slavery in which highly organised criminal organisations use human beings as merchandise, because we live in a society in which everything can be bought and sold. That is why today more than ever in the Parliamentary Assembly, even though few of us are left here for this debate, we must be aware of the need to support a more just and fair society where human rights are the basic principle on which human dignity rests.

It is courageous to present a report so late in the day on adopting a convention telling the poorest countries as well as the richest that they must enact laws to punish and criminalise the traffic in organs. We must also appeal in our countries for people to donate organs, just as people do in Spain, which is a leader in organ donations, as my fellow Spaniards have said, because of generous people who, when their family members die, donate their organs to save other people’s lives. The convention must contain a call on all the member States of the Council of Europe and other members of the international community to regulate themselves and condemn the traffic in organs. We must also appeal to the international community in the convention to make organ donation a reality in the lives of our citizens.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Miladinović.

Ms MILADINOVIĆ (Serbia) – All of us agree that the transplantation of human organs, tissues and cells represents one of the greatest advances in modern medicine. However, even such a remarkably humane achievement can easily lose its ethical foundation. Its negative aspects surface when it becomes entangled with trafficking and organised crime.

Cases of trafficking in human organs and tissues have been uncovered in some European countries over the past few years. Our Parliamentary Assembly addressed the issue in an excellent report prepared by Mr Dick Marty investigating allegations of inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo, confirming that neither individual countries’ responses nor the international community’s have been adequate so far in combating those crimes. It is therefore clear that the adoption of a Council of Europe convention, an internationally binding legal instrument, is much needed. I believe that the issue can be addressed properly only through the widest possible international harmonisation of legal instruments, criminal policies and penal sanctions.

Various cases of a practice widely referred to as transplant tourism have been uncovered in dozens of countries, demonstrating that the illegal trafficking of human organs is often a cross-border criminal activity. Worryingly, due to a lack of proof, only a few cases have proceeded in Europe. That does not mean that these crimes do not exist. Bearing in mind the rapid development of high-tech crime, we can expect a dramatic increase in the illegal trade in human organs, tissues and cells in the near future, as demand will continue to rise.

The adoption of the convention will prove that we are alert and ready to take action to address a global problem of the modern world and severe violations of fundamental human rights and human dignity. As a member of this Assembly, I strongly support the adoption of a convention to combat trafficking in human organs, tissues and cells and the widest possible harmonisation of national and international instruments regulating this issue.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Mr Beneyto is not here, so I call Mr Schennach.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – I express my deepest thanks and respect to Mr Marquet for the work that has been carried out and for the report. We need this convention and agreement on this urgent matter. In the 1970s, in a neighbouring country, a book was published on the value of human life. Now, in Brazil and Mexico and other countries from which people seek to migrate, there have arisen blood farms, where people who have no money give blood to supply industry demand. It is a major phenomenon.

We are also discussing organ trafficking, which functions similarly to the traffic in drugs, arms and human beings. It is a significant form of trafficking, and it has three different sources. The first is people who are forced to sell parts of their body to survive. I am not talking only about kidneys; other parts are sold too. The second source, as our colleague from Spain mentioned, is children snatched off the streets, who sometimes die as a result. The last is people on death row, for instance in China. The transplant industry in Korea has grown and grown. Similar to sex tourism, a phenomenon known as transplant tourism has developed.

When people sell parts of their bodies for money, what is the worth of a human being? This convention is important because it will clamp down on this appalling trafficking, which is a criminal way of making money out of people fast. This is an international convention because, let us not forget, this is an international issue, and it is now being addressed by the Council of Europe.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I should interrupt the list of speakers now, but I can give one minute each to the remaining three speakers. I call Mr Shipley, Observer from Canada.

      Mr SHIPLEY (Canada) – Organ trafficking is a difficult topic to talk about. It is an activity whereby the weak, the ill and the desperate fall prey to the unscrupulous. Those preyed upon are at both ends of the transaction: the person in need of a life-saving transplant, and the donor who needs money and will sell a part of his or her body. Some patients needing transplants may, in their desperation, be tempted to turn to the illicit market, and it is that desperation that drives the illegal organ market.

      Having a national co-ordinated organ and transplantation strategy can be a challenge, as the situation in Canada has shown. Lengthy consultations were required between government health agencies in each of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, and at the federal level, between medical specialists and the transplant hospitals. Canada has taken important steps, but as parliamentarians we need to play our part by raising public awareness and encouraging individuals to indicate their willingness to be a donor on relevant identification documents. Colleagues, we must stem the rising tide of this illegal trade.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Sheridan.

      Mr SHERIDAN (United Kingdom) – The trafficking of organs, tissues and cells of human origin is quite rare in the United Kingdom. In 2011, the two recorded cases were the first ever recorded in my country. We have important safeguards in place, in particular the Human Tissue Authority, which interviews all potential donors, including family members and friends, to ensure that they are consenting freely. One of the most significant initiatives in the United Kingdom is the fact that people applying for a driving licence sign a mandatory form to say whether they agree to be an organ donor. That taps into the 90% of British people who say in surveys that they support donation but have not signed up to the register. That will be extremely helpful, and it is a measure that we may be able to roll out in other member States of the Council of Europe.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Elhankouri from Morocco, Partner for Democracy.

      Mr ELHANKOURI (Morocco)* – I thank Mr Marquet for his excellent work. The problem is that there have been medical developments in the field of transplants, so there are many requests for organs, but they are not followed by the necessary offers. Criminal networks have therefore come into play. We have to involve everybody in tackling this problem: the recipient who wants to survive, the donor who wants to eat and, we must accept, the surgeons who sometimes act in good faith without taking into account the origin of the organs. Let us hope that the convention will be ratified by all. We in Morocco will do our best to do so.

      Finally, I want to briefly mention that there is also a problem with medically assisted procreation. We cannot yet talk about organ trafficking in this field, but it involves the gift of ovocytes, for which young people are paid. We have to be wary about that too.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. That concludes the list of speakers.

      I call Mr Marquet, rapporteur, to reply. You have five minutes.

      Mr MARQUET (Monaco)* – Thank you, Madam President. I would like to share your congratulations and encouragement with the secretariat, without whom this work could not have been done. We have been unanimous on this subject, and I shall just pick up on a few points.

Each speaker gave an example. Spain, indeed, is in the forefront of securing consent for organ donation and is an example to be followed. I say to our Canadian friend, Mr Shipley, that the fact that the task is difficult does not mean that we should not try to tackle it. Mr Sheridan says that organ trafficking is very rare in Great Britain, but I am not entirely sure about that. Thanks to the draft convention we will be able to educate everyone, whether politicians or citizens. I see my political involvement as being at the citizen level because the human being has to be at the heart of all our political activity, especially in the context of health security.

I am both optimistic and pessimistic. I am optimistic because the convention was launched by a mandate of the Committee of Ministers, which read this report, and because we have participated in that process. However, I am pessimistic because at the first meeting of the ad hoc committee for the purposes of producing a convention, all States were unanimous in withdrawing cells and tissues from the convention. I can understand that – the matter is very complex, and the Council of Europe has the advantage of bringing together people from 47 countries with different cultures, sensitivities and even creeds and religions. I want to be pragmatic. I welcome the first step that we have taken by producing this report, but I ask for there to be an additional protocol on tissues and cells, even if it is difficult to achieve.

There are within the Council of Europe different governmental organs that provide us with the added value that our Organisation provides through conventions that really concern European citizens. At this time of globalisation it is true that all forms of trafficking cover areas that are not criminalised. We saw that when we produced the report that gave rise to the Medicrime Convention, and I am working on a report on food security. Much trafficking goes on in countries that are at war, and we have to criminalise all that activity, and the mafia and terrorists who get their money from it.

This is an important report, but it is only a first step. Thanks to your encouragement, we will be able to pursue the task – whether it is performed by me or by another rapporteur. On 10 February, we have national elections and, as you know, if I am not elected in my country, I cannot come here. I encourage you unanimously to vote for the report, as you did earlier this afternoon. We are reasonable people who share a desire to move forward on an issue that concerns human beings intimately.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Does Ms Maury Pasquier, Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee, wish to speak?

Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – I add my voice to those that we have heard and express my gratitude to Mr Marquet, who has always been committed to major causes in defence of human rights. It is thanks to him that we can express our opinion on a draft convention, rather than on a convention whose text has already been adopted.

Those who have stayed in the Chamber until this late hour after a long day will, I think, agree that organ trafficking is an unacceptable and major violation of human rights, and the adoption of a Council of Europe convention – the first such international convention that makes it possible to combat this scourge – should be a source of great pride for us. We are proud of our Council of Europe, which carries high the banner of the defence of inalienable rights.

We are proud that we are adopting this convention and by combatting the trafficking of organs, and we feel a responsibility to ensure that this convention is implemented, so that our countries sign and ratify it and implement it on their territories. Health care systems should be equitable and accessible to everyone. Considerations of money and economic resources have no place. That means that there should be no sale and no purchase of organs and no commerce in organs.

We have responsibility for societies that have more solidarity, where people do not die because of a lack of organs. It is important that, beyond the vote tonight, we are committed to combatting the trafficking of organs.

THE PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft recommendation to which 17 amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the following amendments, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11. These are Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 to the draft recommendation. Amendments 5 and 12 were also unanimously agreed by the committee, but as they are linked to other amendments, they cannot be taken under Rule 3.11.

Is that so Ms Maury Pasquier?

Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Yes.

THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone object?

As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 to the draft recommendation are agreed.

The following amendments are adopted:

Amendment 1, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 1, replace the words “preliminary draft Council of Europe convention” with the following words: “draft Council of Europe convention”.

Amendment 2, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4, replace the words “preliminary draft convention” with the following words: “draft convention”.

Amendment 3, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, replace paragraph 5 with the following paragraph:

“The Assembly underlines the utmost importance of protecting vulnerable persons, in particular persons deprived of their liberty and persons who are unable to give full and valid consent to an intervention for reasons either of their age (in the case of minors) or their mental incapacity. In this connection, it welcomes the provision in the draft convention defining any removal of organs without the free, informed and specific consent of the living donor as illicit. This is in line with the provisions of the Convention of the Human Rights and Biomedecine (Oviedo Convention), which prohibit any organ removal from persons who do not have the capacity to consent, thereby affording special protection to that group of persons. The Assembly notes that, while it is possible for States to reserve the right not to apply this article, such a reservation would be accepted only in exceptional cases and in accordance with appropriate safeguards or consent provisions under their domestic law. The possibility of making a reservation is intended to facilitate access to the Convention for States whose legislation is less restrictive than the principles set out in the Oviedo Convention in relation to consent, while respecting the fundamental rights of the persons concerned.”

Amendment 4, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 7, replace the words “the Assembly calls for the future convention to have the broadest possible geographical scope” with the following words:

“the Assembly welcomes the provision made in the draft convention for its opening to signature by States that are not members of the Council of Europe, even prior to its entry into force, which will foster the broadest possible geographical scope”.

Amendment 6, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 8.4, replace the words “for transplantation purposes” with the following words: “for transplantation or other purposes”.

Amendment 7, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 8.5.

Amendment 8, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 8.6.

Amendment 9, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, replace paragraph 8.7 with the following paragraph:

      “provide for an independent strong and effective Committee of the Parties assigned a clear function of co-ordination and monitoring on the basis inter alia of reporting requirements for the Parties; while entrusting the competent committees – the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and the Committee of Bioethics (DH-BIO) – with a role in supervising the convention's implementation.”Am

Amendment 10, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 8.8, insert the following paragraph:

“call on those member States wishing to reserve the right not to apply the provision defining as illicit any removal of organs without the free, informed and specific consent of the living donor to instead revise their legislation in order to bring it into line with this provision and the Oviedo Convention.”

We will proceed to consider the remaining amendments in the order set out in the organisation of debates and compendium. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

      We come to Amendment 14, tabled by Mr Ramón Jáuregui, Ms Meritxell Batet, Ms Delia Blanco, Mr Arcadio Díaz Tejera and Mr Antonio Gutiérrez, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 2, after the words “and use of tissues and cells”, add the following words: “, except for European Union directives on the matter”.

I understand that Mr Jáuregui wishes not to move Amendment 14.

Mr JÁUREGUI (Spain)* – I do not intend to move Amendment 14, and the same applies to Amendments 15, 16 and 17. I submitted them to improve the report, to achieve unanimity and because much of their thrust and sense is already reflected in the documents. Consensus is more important than these specific points.

THE PRESIDENT – The following amendments are not moved:

Amendment 15, tabled by Mr Ramón Jáuregui, Ms Meritxell Batet, Ms Delia Blanco, Mr Arcadio Díaz Tejera and Mr Antonio Gutiérrez, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 3, add the following sentence: “It will be possible to explain the convention more clearly with other additional documents, in particular the explanatory document to be appended to it.”

Amendment 16, tabled by Mr Ramón Jáuregui, Ms Meritxell Batet, Ms Delia Blanco, Mr Arcadio Díaz Tejera and Mr Antonio Gutiérrez, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4, after the first sentence, add the following sentence: “However, this aim can be achieved with the explanatory document to be appended to the future convention.”

Amendment 17, tabled by Mr Ramón Jáuregui, Ms Meritxell Batet, Ms Delia Blanco, Mr Arcadio Díaz Tejera and Mr Antonio Gutiérrez, which is, in the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 8.1.

We come to Amendment 11, tabled by Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Mr Gérard Bapt, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Ms Foteini Pipili, Ms Maria Giannakaki, Mr Spyridon Taliadouros, Mr Hans Franken, Mr Ludo Sannen and Mr Dirk Van der Maelen, which is, in the draft recommendation, before paragraph 8.1, insert the following paragraph:

“include a provision whereby a human organ or a part thereof shall be defined as follows: a human body part that cannot regenerate and is essential to the integrity of the human body as a whole.”.

I understand that Mr Le Déaut wishes not to move Amendment 11. Does anyone wish to move it?

      That is not the case. Amendment 11 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 5, tabled by la Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 8.1, replace the words “preliminary draft convention” with the following words: “draft convention”.

I call Ms Maury Pasquier.

Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The amendment was adopted unanimously, but there was another amendment – and now that Amendment 17 is withdrawn, I think we can consider Amendment 5 as having been adopted by the committee.

      THE PRESIDENT – It was not considered unanimously, so it has to be voted on.

The vote is open.

We come to Amendment 12, tabled by Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Mr Gérard Bapt, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Ms Foteini Pipili, Ms Maria Giannakaki, Mr Spyridon Taliadouros, Mr Hans Franken, Mr Ludo Sannen and Mr Dirk Van der Maelen, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 8.1, after the words, “for that trafficking, in particular”, insert the following words: “by encouraging the parties to contribute, by all means at their disposal, to an increase in the supply of organs available for transplantation, in particular by seeking alternative methods and”.

I call Mr Le Déaut to support Amendment 12. He is not present, but I understand that Ms Maury Pasquier will move the amendment.

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Amendment 12 was also unanimously approved in the committee.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      We come to Amendment 13, tabled by Mr Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Mr Gérard Bapt, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Ms Foteini Pipili, Mr Spyridon Taliadouros, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 8.5, insert the following paragraph:

“include a fifth sub-paragraph in Article 4 of the convention providing that there is presumed consent to removal if the living donor agrees to sign a contract for long-term medical follow-up;”.

      I understand that Mr Le Déaut wishes not to move Amendment 13. Does anyone wish to move it?

That is not the case.

Amendment 13 is not moved.

We now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in document 13082, as amended.

The vote is open.

The draft recommendation contained in Document 13082, as amended, is unanimously adopted, with 49 votes.

4. Next public sitting

      THE PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10.00 a.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 8.20 p.m.)


1. Changes in the membership of committees

2. The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan and The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

Presentation by Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech of report of the Monitoring Committee, Doc. 13084

Presentation by Mr Strässer of report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Doc. 13079 and Addendum)


Ms Brasseur (Luxembourg)

Mr Walter (United Kingdom)

Ms Werner (Germany)

Mr Volontè (Italy)

Ms von Cramon-Taubadel (Germany)

Ms Christoffersen (Norway)

Mr Bockel (France)

Mr Rouquet (France)

Mr Rzayev (Azerbaijan)

Ms Schuster (Germany)

Mr Shlegel (Russian Federation)

Mr Legendre (France)

Mr Iwiński (Poland)

Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden)

Mr Slutsky (Russian Federation)

Ms A. Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

Mr Jakič (Slovenia)

Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan)

Mr Rustamyan (Armenia)

Ms Čigāne (Latvia)

Mr Chisu (Canada)

Mr Gaudi Nagy (Hungary)

Mr Mariani (France)

Mr McNamara (Ireland)

Mr Dişli (Turkey)

Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

Ms Fataliyeva (Azerbaijan)

Mr Conde (Spain)

Mr Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova)

Mr Nessa (Italy)

Ms Zohrabyan (Armenia)

Ms Gafarova (Azerbaijan)

Mr Sobolev (Ukraine)

Mr Huseynov (Azerbaijan)

Mr Harutyunyan (Armenia)

Ms Bakoyannis (Greece)

Mr Ariev (Ukraine)

Mr Pintado (Spain)

Ms Orobets (Ukraine)

Mr Xuclà (Spain)

Mr Huseynli (Azerbaijan)

Ms Wohlwend (Liechtenstein)

Mr Leyden (Ireland)

Mr Valentino (Italy)

Ms Mateu Pi (Andorra)

Mr Sidyakin (Russian Federation)

Mr Reimann (Switzerland)

Mr Aleksandrov (Russian Federation)

Mr A. Türkeş (Turkey)


Mr Strässer (Germany)

Mr Chope (United Kingdom)

Mr Debono Grech (Malta)

Mr Agramunt (Spain)

Mr Herkel (Estonia)

Amendment 12 adopted

Draft resolution in Document 13084, as amended, adopted

Amendment 1 adopted

Draft resolution in Document 13079, as amended, rejected

3. Towards a Council of Europe convention to combat trafficking in organs, tissues and cells of human origin

Presentation by Mr Marquet of report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, Doc. 13082 and Addendum.


Ms Borzova (Russian Federation)

Ms Kyriakides (Cyprus)

Mr Jáuregui (Spain)

Ms Schuster (Germany)

Ms Virolainen (Finland)

Ms Rupprecht (Germany)

Mr Moreno Palanques (Spain)

Mr Le Déaut (France)

Mr Schneider (France)

Mr Recordon (Switzerland)

Ms Quintanilla (Spain)

Ms Miladinović (Serbia)

Mr Schennach (Austria)

Mr Shipley (Canada)

Mr Sheridan (United Kingdom)

Mr Elhankouri (Morocco)

Ms Maury Pasquier (France)

Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 5, 12 adopted

Draft resolution, as amended, adopted

4. Next public sitting


Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk.

Francis AGIUS*





Lord Donald ANDERSON

Paride ANDREOLI/ Gerardo Giovagnoli

Khadija ARIB/Tineke Strik

Volodymyr ARIEV


Francisco ASSIS*

Danielle AUROI*



Viorel Riceard BADEA



Gérard BAPT



José Manuel BARREIRO/Ángel Pintado


Marieluise BECK*

José María BENEYTO





Brian BINLEY/Robert Neill

Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová


Jean-Marie BOCKEL



Mladen BOSIĆ/Ismeta Dervoz

António BRAGA


Márton BRAUN*

Federico BRICOLO/Rossana Boldi


Piet DE BRUYN/Ludo Sannen

Patrizia BUGNANO/Giuliana Carlino

André BUGNON/ Maximilian Reimann


Sylvia CANEL/ Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel


Mikael CEDERBRATT/Kerstin Lundgren

Otto CHALOUPKA/Pavel Lebeda


Vannino CHITI/Paolo Corsini

Christopher CHOPE


Desislav CHUKOLOV/Stanislav Ivanov



Henryk CIOCH*


Deirdre CLUNE/Terence Flanagan

Agustín CONDE





Giovanna DEBONO*

Armand De DECKER

Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA/Carmen Quintanilla

Peter van DIJK






Daphné DUMERY/Fatiha Saïdi

Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*

Josette DURRIEU*


Baroness Diana ECCLES




Vyacheslav FETISOV

Doris FIALA*



Jana FISCHEROVÁ/Rom Kostřica

Gvozden Srećko FLEGO*


Jean-Claude FRÉCON

Erich Georg FRITZ

Sir Roger GALE/Cheryl Gillan

Jean-Charles GARDETTO


Nadezda GERASIMOVA/Otari Arshba


Paolo GIARETTA/Renato Farina

Jean GLAVANY/Christian Bataille

Michael GLOS*

Pavol GOGA


Svetlana GORYACHEVA/Anton Belyakov

Martin GRAF


Andreas GROSS

Arlette GROSSKOST/Marie-Louise Fort


Attila GRUBER/Péter Hoppál

Gergely GULYÁS/László Koszorús


Antonio GUTIÉRREZ/ Jordi Xuclà


Carina HÄGG

Sabir HAJIYEV/Sevinj Fataliyeva

Andrzej HALICKI/Marek Borowski






Alfred HEER/Luc Recordon




Jim HOOD/Joe Benton



Anette HÜBINGER/Frank Schwabe

Andrej HUNKO*




Shpëtim IDRIZI/Kastriot Islami

Vladimir ILIČ*



Denis JACQUAT/Jacques Legendre




Michael Aastrup JENSEN*

Mogens JENSEN*


Jadranka JOKSIMOVIĆ/Aleksandra Djurović

Birkir Jón JÓNSSON

Čedomir JOVANOVIĆ/Svetislava Bulajić

Antti KAIKKONEN/Sirkka-Liisa Anttila


Božidar KALMETA*

Mariusz KAMIŃSKI/Łukasz Zbonikowski

Marietta KARAMANLI/Jean-Pierre Michel




Bogdan KLICH

Serhiy KLYUEV/Volodymyr Pylypenko

Haluk KOÇ



Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO



Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ


Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT

Igor LEBEDEV/Alexander Sidyakin






François LONCLE/André Schneider

Jean-Louis LORRAIN/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo

George LOUKAIDES/Stella Kyriakides




Philippe MAHOUX/ Philippe Blanchart


Nicole MANZONE-SAQUET/Bernard Marquet



Epameinondas MARIAS


Meritxell MATEU PI

Pirkko MATTILA/Riitta Myller



Michael McNAMARA

Sir Alan MEALE


Ivan MELNIKOV/Tamerlan Aguzarov



Jean-Claude MIGNON/Marie-Jo Zimmermann

Djordje MILIĆEVIĆ/Vesna Marjanović


Andrey MOLCHANOV/Alexander Ter-Avanesov



Patrick MORIAU


Arkadiusz MULARCZYK/Marek Krząkała




Philippe NACHBAR/ Bernard Fournier


Gebhard NEGELE

Aleksandar NENKOV

Pasquale NESSA


Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*

Elena NIKOLAEVA/Olga Kazakova

Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI

Mirosława NYKIEL*








Ganira PASHAYEVA/Sahiba Gafarova


Johannes PFLUG

Foteini PIPILI


Lisbeth Bech POULSEN*


Cezar Florin PREDA

John PRESCOTT/Michael Connarty

Jakob PRESEČNIK/Polonca Komar


Gabino PUCHE


Mailis REPS*

Eva RICHTROVÁ/Miroslav Krejča



Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*





Rovshan RZAYEV


Giuseppe SARO

Kimmo SASI









Boris SHPIGEL/Yury Solonin

Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Algis Kašėta

Ladislav SKOPAL/Kateřina Konečná





Christoph STRÄSSER




Björn von SYDOW

Petro SYMONENKO/Yevhen Marmazov

Vilmos SZABÓ

Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey


Vyacheslav TIMCHENKO/Robert Shlegel

Romana TOMC


Latchezar TOSHEV


Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ

Tuğrul TÜRKEŞ*

Theodora TZAKRI

Tomáš ÚLEHLA/Dana Váhalová

Ilyas UMAKHANOV/ Alexey Ivanovich Aleksandrov

Viktor USPASKICH/Egidijus Vareikis


Miltiadis VARVITSIOTIS/Liana Kanelli

Ljubica VASIĆ/Stefana Miladinović

Volodymyr VECHERKO/Larysa Melnychuk





Vladimir VORONIN/Grigore Petrenco


Tanja VRBAT*

Klaas de VRIES*



Piotr WACH







Gisela WURM


Svetlana ZHUROVA/Yury Shamkov

Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Guennady ZIUGANOV/Anvar Makhmutov


Levon ZOURABIAN/Armen Rustamyan

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, Montenegro*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote



Johannes HÜBNER







Corneliu CHISU

Sladan ĆOSIĆ


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