Human rights Defenders from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine Call for Universal Definition of ‘Political Prisoner’
The absence of internationally accepted criteria to define the term “political prisoner” is a critical problem that allows repressive regimes to hide behind ambiguity and hampers the ability of those advocating on prisoners’ behalves. Human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine addressed this issue at a two-day working session, organized by Freedom House and the Belarusian Human Rights House on August 27-28, 2012, in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Despite the wide use of the term “political prisoner” by intergovernmental and international bodies in reference to victims of politically motivated persecution, the term has never been defined in international legal instruments.
“The meeting in Vilnius was an important step towards developing universal criteria for political prisoners by human rights defenders from the Eurasia region where imprisoning people for exercising their fundamental rights is a common practice,” said Susan Corke, director of Eurasia programs at Freedom House.
The event in Vilnius, which followed an earlier initiative launched by human rights defenders in Kiev, was attended by representatives of the human rights communities in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine as well as international experts. The participants of the meeting supported the criteria drafted by the independent experts on the Initiative of the General Secretary of the Council of Europe in 2001, which aimed to seek resolution of the issue in the European institutions.
“We commend the Council of Europe on its efforts to create greater legal protections for political prisoners within European institutions and hope to see other international organizations follow suit,” continued Corke.
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