Lise Christoffersen (Norway)
"Mr President, dear colleagues,
"This report on the definition of political prisoner has somehow turned out to be controversial, and I wonder why.
"Council of Europe members must commit themselves to releasing or re-trying these prisoners – that happened in 2001 when Azerbaijan and Armenia became Council of Europe members.
"The Committee of Ministers, in accordance with the advice of three independent experts on human rights, at that time drew up a list of criteria, in the light of European Court of Human Rights case law, determining who could be defined as a "political prisoner".
"All the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe agreed on this, including this Assembly.
"So why do we have this controversy? What will be the consequences of rejecting this advice?
"I find it useful to ask two questions – who gains, and who loses? We need to consider who gains from casting doubt on and getting rid of our 10-year-old agreement on the criteria defining a political prisoner, and who loses.
"The answer is obvious, is it not?
"Political prisoners – prisoners of conscience – will be the losers, as their cases will be weakened. The authorities of some of the member states still subject to monitoring for breaking fundamental human rights will gain.
"We could also consider a further question: why was the appointed rapporteur denied access to one of the most relevant countries to visit when he was fact-finding?
"Yesterday, we all received a letter from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Those well-regarded human rights organisations urged us to support the report and keep the criteria alive, and that is more than good enough for me."