Council of Europe passes landmark treaty against forced organ harvesting in China

Council of Europe passes landmark treaty against forced organ harvesting in China

with 14 countries strong in tow      


The Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the first ever international treaty to combat this crime, was signed by 14 European countries at an international convention hosted by the Council of Europe and the Spanish government in Santiago de Compostela, Spain in March.

The new treaty calls for increasing government and public awareness and stringent law enforcement for all of those involved and provides measures to ensure transparency of national transplantation systems and equitable access to transplants. Of note was a directive for punishment for medical doctors who close their eyes on suspicious transplants.

Coming at a time when China has made broad unsubstantiated media announcements to end an abhorrent dependence on forcefully taking organs for transplantation from prisoners many different countries remain on high alert and are acting in response. As countries are drafting separate laws and legislation to fight against forced organ harvesting, and the persecution of victim groups in China in particular, the treaty aims to lay the foundation for future legislation that could be adopted globally, according to convention reports.

The objectives of the convention were to prevent and work to end the international problem of trafficking of human organs, to protect victims and to promote international cooperation in this area. The treaty states that ratifying countries must establish legal, criminal offenses for the illicit removal of organs from living or deceased donors and their use in transplantation, or for other purposes.

The conference brought more than 200 government experts together: judges, prosecutors, police forces, healthcare professionals, policy makers and academics to share views and strategies to fight against trafficking in human organs.

Signing the treaty was Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Britain and Spain, the council reported on its official website.

The head of the transplant division at the World Health Organization, Jose Ramon Nunez, and the Council of Europe’s Committee on Organ Transplantation leader Marta Lopez Fraga, participated in the signing in Spain, according to media reports. Twelve Latin-American countries will join the convention before the end of the year, Nunez said, adding that Pakistan, Singapore, Australia and India are in process of signing.

Although organ trafficking is a problem in many locations, China is unique for having a well developed organ transplantation system built upon abuse with a dependence on a large population of prisoners, the majority held in detention for religious beliefs or political offenses. China’s transplant authorities claim to primarily use organs from death row prisoners, which according to international medical standards is, in itself, a grave violation.

Chinese authorities have recently endorsed a dependence on taking prisoners organs to satisfy 10,000 transplantations annually, yet, they have not disclosed that the victims are primarily prisoners of conscience, and primarily Falun Gong and other religious groups. Since 2007 many researchers have challenged this claim, saying the main source of China’s organs comes from prisoners of conscience who make up more than half of people in detention and who are expressly slaughtered for this purpose. Murderous organ harvesting in China is now of global concern.

The new treaty will require supporting countries to take many necessary measures, including the passing of legislation, to establish the status of illegal removal of human organs from living or deceased donors as a criminal offense:

Where the removal is performed without the free, informed and specific consent of the living or deceased donor, or, in the case of the deceased donor, without the removal being authorized under its domestic law

Where, in exchange for the removal of organs, the living donor, or a third party, receives a financial gain or comparable advantage

Where in exchange for the removal of organs from a deceased donor, a third party receives a financial gain or a comparable advantage

The Chinese state and military involvement in organ harvesting from prisoners poses challenging difficulties for western lawmakers who seek to prevent unwitting collusion and draft criminal legislation to see an end to it. The impetus behind the trend in widespread global initiates to end these crimes stem from a lack of transparency behind the iron curtain, and overwhelming evidence and survivor reports of dire human rights atrocities associated with China’s extensive transplant business. Despite China’s promises to the media to end unethical organ procurement there is no way the international medical community can know if it has truly stopped or has simply been diverted and continues.

After passing a resolution that condemned organ transplant abuses in China in late 2013, the European Parliament returned to the issue again in 2014 when the Ministers’ Committee of the Council of Europe adopted an organ trafficking convention in July, 2014. The new treaty demands sweeping reforms with a detailed examination of China’s practices and promises for reform, and offers directives for what member states can do to tackle stopping it.


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