On 21 October 2020, Switzerland ratified the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, also known as the Santiago de Compostela Convention. The convention will enter into force in the country as of 1 February 2021. This legal instrument identifies various activities constituting human organ trafficking that ratifying member states must consider as criminal offences. By ratifying this convention, member states show their commitment to preventing and combating these crimes that affront basic human rights.
Switzerland is the 10th member state to ratify this convention, which entered into force in March 2018. This ratification is particularly important as it means the Committee of the Parties for this convention will have to be convened within one year as from 1 February 2021. The Committee of the Parties will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of this convention using a multisector and multidisciplinary approach and will facilitate the collection, analysis and exchange of information, experience and good practice between states to improve their capacity to prevent and combat trafficking in human organs.
The Santiago de Compostela Convention is built around the notion of the “illicit removal of human organs”. This is defined as organ removal without free, informed consent from either living donors or from the family of deceased donors, or the receipt of financial gain or comparable advantage by the donor or a third party in exchange for the removal of organs. Any subsequent action involving illicitly removed organs is also considered to be trafficking. The convention provides protective measures for victims and witnesses, as well as preventive measures to ensure transparency and equitable access to transplantation services.
The convention has broad international scope: it is open to all countries and is not restricted to Council of Europe member states.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 5 and 10% of kidney transplants performed annually worldwide involve illicitly acquired organs. Organ trafficking not only represents a risk to individual and public health, but is also an affront to human rights and dignity.
- More information on the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs (CETS No. 216)
- More information on the work of the EDQM/Council of Europe on organ transplantation
- Newsletter Transplant 2020