PACE reaffirms its support for criteria defining the notion of political prisoners

Strasbourg, 03.10.2012 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has reaffirmed its support for general criteria put forward by independent experts in 2001 to define the notion of political prisoners and called on all Council of Europe member States to reassess the cases of any alleged political prisoners by applying these criteria and release or retry any such prisoners as appropriate.

Adopting a resolution based on a report by Christoph Strässer (Germany, SOC), the Assembly said the criteria are summed up as follows:

“A person deprived of his or her personal liberty is to be regarded as a ‘political prisoner’:

a. if the detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols (ECHR), in particular freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association;

b. if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons without connection to any offence;

c. if, for political motives, the length of the detention or its conditions are clearly out of proportion to the offence the person has been found guilty of or is suspected of;

d. if, for political motives, he or she is detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons; or,

e. if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair and this appears to be connected with political motives of the authorities.”

The Assembly added that those deprived of their personal liberty for terrorist crimes shall not be considered political prisoners if they have been prosecuted and sentenced for such crimes according to national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.