The Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs was signed by Ukraine on 11 September 2017. In addition, on 12 September 2017 the Convention was ratified by Norway, one of the initial signatory Member States when the Convention first opened for signature in 2015. This brings the total number of signatures to 16 and the ratifications to 3. The Convention will enter into force after the fifth ratification, while a Committee of the Parties will be set-up as a follow-up mechanism after the tenth ratification.
The Convention identifies different activities constituting trafficking in human organs, which ratifying Member States will have to consider as criminal offences. The central concept is the illicit removal of organs: the removal of human organs from living or deceased donors without the free informed consent of the donor, or their family in the case of deceased donors; or where, in exchange for the removal of organs, the donor, or a third party, receives a financial gain or comparable advantage. Any subsequent action involving illicitly removed organs are also considered as trafficking in human organs; they include: the use of the organs for implantation or other purposes; the illicit solicitation, recruitment, offering and requesting of undue advantages; the preparation, preservation, storage, transportation, transfer, receipt, import and export of the organs; and the aiding or abetting and attempt to commit any of the above activities.
The Convention includes measures to protect witnesses and victims in particular (including through civil damages) and calls signatory parties to cooperate internationally in investigations and prosecutions (including extraditing accused persons). In addition, the Convention foresees prevention measures both at national and international level, such as ensuring transparency, promoting equal access to transplants and designating national contact points for the exchange of information pertaining to trafficking in human organs.
Importantly, the Convention has international scope, as it is open to any nation and not restricted to Council of Europe member States.