Mailis Reps (Estonia)
"Thank you, Mr President.
"We have a very sensitive question before us: what things can we agree in this Council of Europe?
"I hope that we can all agree that this is the institution of the rule of law, democracy and human rights – our values and principles.
"Based on that, I hope that we can all agree that having political prisoners is unacceptable, in whatever country.
"The second question before us is: who are these prisoners? The question raised in the report is whether or not we need a definition.
"By an overwhelming majority we agreed a few years ago that we needed to look into this matter.
"Today, we have a proposal before us for the Parliamentary Assembly to establish the definition of "political prisoner". That is where all the mess begins – the confusion; the pause; the not getting a visa for Azerbaijan; the unfair treatment; and all the different procedural questions.
"However, the issue is: If we do not vote for the resolution today, we are giving a right to these people – whether we are talking about the result of lobbying, threatening, blackmailing or any other means – to say that the issue of political prisoners is not to be dealt with by this Parliamentary Assembly.
"I hope that we can all agree that that should not be the case.
"I ask colleagues to read Amendment 2, because it suggests that the only authority to assess violations of fundamental rights and freedoms should be the European Court of Human Rights.
"That is nonsense, and anyone who sensibly reads that amendment cannot vote for it.
"If we do not vote for the resolution of Mr Straesser as he submitted it, we send the message that the issue of political prisoners should not be dealt with by the Parliamentary Assembly. That would be a disaster."