Archive for October 9th, 2012


When a “political prisoner” is not a “political prisoner”

October 9, 2012

Only a few days ago I wrote a short entry stating PACE/Council of Europe had eventually defined political prisoner.

The definition is thus:

“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.” 

In and amongst that text, most people would find a clause that would fit the cases of Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Lutsenko using the “reasonable person” context and a simple understanding and inference from the text.

Thus most people would arrive at the belief that both are indeed “political prisoners” as far as the Council of Europe/PACE are concerned – under their own definition.

But they would be wrong.  At least they would be wrong at the moment.

When put to the Council of Europe that they now must consider Tymoshenko and Lutsenk “political prisoners”, the Council of Europe stated both are not considered as such, although the charges against them are considered “politically motivated”.

It seems that the new legal definition of “political prisoners” adopted by PACE/Council of Europe will now be looked at legally in respect to all those who may fall under that description in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia etc on a case by case basis before being formally included or excluded from the “political prisoner” category.

That, we are told by the Council of Europe, may take anywhere between 6 months if such decisions are made by a Judicial Committee – or between 2 and 3 years if a formal Council of Europe resolution is required.

The up-shot is then, despite having eventually arrived at a definition of a “political prisoner”, there are as yet no “political prisoners” within the Council of Europe/PACE nations, because each instance has to be legally reviewed against the new definition to see if it applies – or more cynically, whether there is sufficient legal wiggle room for it not to apply.

As yet, it is unclear just what level of internal authority is required to assess, and then deem, “Citizen X” a political prisoner in “Country Y” and whether the ideological definition and inferences therein, will also match any legal interpretations.


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