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Just confirmed by the Council of Europe

Spain to host signing of Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs

Tuesday 30 September 2014

​This International Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs is an initiative by the Council of Europe in response to the recommendations made by the Study on Trafficking in Human Organs jointly promoted by the Council of Europe and the United Nations. The Spanish National Transplant Organisation was also involved in drafting this study.

The Convention calls on governments to classify the buying and selling of human organs as an offence within their national legislation.  It includes measures to protect and compensate the victims, as well as preventive measures such as ensuring transparency and equal access to transplants. Given that trafficking in human organs and transplant tourism is a global problem, the Convention can be signed by both Member States of the Council of Europe and other non-member countries.

For the Spanish National Transplant Organisation, the signing of this Convention represents a decisive step forward in the fight against this blight on humanity. According to WHO data, between 5% and 10% of transplants around the world involve some form of commercial activity. Given the cross-border nature of this phenomenon, it is essential for national legislations to establish standards on the matter of trafficking in human organs. Such harmonisation will now be possible thanks to what will be known as the Santiago de Compostela Convention on the Fight against Trafficking in Human Organs.

Spain leads the fight against trafficking in human organs

Spain is a pioneering country in this field as it defines transplant tourism and trafficking in human organs as an offence in its criminal code, punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment. Spain has also played a fundamental role in the early and ongoing development of this Convention, as well as in reaching a final agreement on the text, through joint action by the Ministries of Health, Social Services and Equality - through the Spanish National Transplant Organisation - Justice and Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

The Spanish National Transplant Organisation is involved in numerous international initiatives to combat this new form of slavery. Among other things, it was involved in drafting the Istanbul Declaration - a document of global significance in the fight against trafficking in human organs that was promoted and signed by the scientific societies and professional organisations of greatest international standing in the field of transplantation. Spain also promoted the drafting of the so-called WHO Madrid Resolution, through which governments and professionals are called on to make progress towards achieving transplant self-sufficiency as a fundamental strategy to combat the buying and selling of human organs.

At present, the Spanish National Transplant Organisation forms part of the Executive Board of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group, responsible for ensuring due compliance with the recommendations made in said Declaration.

Private audience with Pope Francis

The Spanish National Transplant Organisation recently attended a Private Audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican in its capacity as Member of the Executive Board of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodial Group. This committee informed the Holy Father about the reality of trafficking in human organs around the world and the repeated attempts (most recently in the United States) to develop a regulated trade aimed at increasing the availability of human organs for transplantation and against the European initiative to definitively close the doors on this possibility through the new Convention. Furthermore, it asked for support in the fight against this social blight.

During the audience, Pope Francis expressed his concerns over this phenomenon and described "any initiative based on the commercialisation of human organs, tissues and cells as immoral, and far removed from donation as an act of love for one's neighbour and social responsibility".