The definition of a political prisoner

This Report (March 2018) has been developed on the basis of the criteria set by the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe Resolution No. 1900 of 3 October 2012.

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

  1. if the detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols, in particular freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association;
  2. if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons without connection to any offence;
  3. 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;
  4. if, for political motives, he or she is detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons; or,
  5. if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair and this appears to be connected with political motives of the authorities.”

In this resolution, PACE recalls that the definition of “political prisoner” was elaborated within the Council of Europe by the independent experts of the Secretary General, mandated to assess cases of alleged political prisoners in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the context of the accession of the two States to the Organisation.

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 for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In the Report, Amnesty International has been referred to in the cases of those recognized as a prisoner of conscience in line with the criteria of this organization.

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