Launch of a handbook for parliamentarians on the Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs

PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier today underlined the essential role of parliamentarians in promoting the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, which entered into force in March 2018. “Our work continues far beyond the ratification process to ensure that the Convention is properly implemented on the ground,” said Ms Maury Pasquier at the opening of a meeting of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which has produced a Handbook for parliamentarians on this Convention.

“This handbook provides a clear explanation of the added value of the Convention, presents its provisions in detail and suggests many ways to help put an end to these heinous crimes,” she added. “Stopping organ trafficking is our duty, especially since we have excellent tools at our disposal to achieve this objective,” the President said.

Presenting the structure and content of the handbook, Kristof Van Assche, a research professor in health law and studies on family relationships at the University of Antwerp, highlighted the extent of the black market in organ trafficking, which is difficult to eradicate because of its lucrative nature, the shortage of organs, and the legal gaps in many countries.

Mr Van Assche said that the Convention harmonised all the criminal law provisions in member States, providing for criminalisation and prosecution for the entire chain of illegal removal and transplantation, making it possible to hold health-care professionals liable. He added that the Convention left it to the Parties whether or not to apply penalties on organ donors and recipients, encouraged international co-operation, guaranteed the protection of victims, and provided for a monitoring body for its implementation with effect from the 10th ratification.

Jan Kleijssen, Director - Directorate of the Information Society and Action against Crime at the Council of Europe, referred to the implementation of the Convention through intergovernmental co-operation. He said that 10,000 kidneys were trafficked worldwide each year, and that waiting times could last up to four years in developed countries. Mr Kleijssen also said that ratification of the Convention by a member State meant adapting not only criminal law but also the provisions on lawful transplants, so that patients did not turn to the black market.

Marta Lopez Fraga, from the Healthcare Section at the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and Healthcare (Council of Europe), who was also taking part in this hearing, said that the 136,000 transplants performed in 2016 covered less than 10% of needs and that waiting times were particularly long. “Organ trafficking feeds on this discrepancy,” she said. “Organ trafficking is highly mobile and therefore action must be taken at international level”, concluded Ms Lopez Fraga, stressing the international scope of the Convention, which is “essential to combat such trafficking”.