Trafficking in Human Organs

Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs

The Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs (CETS No. 216) entered into force in 2018. It is open to member States of the Council of Europe as well as non-member States.
The aim of the Convention is to prevent and combat trafficking in human organs by criminalising certain acts; to protect the rights of victims as well as to facilitate national and international co-operation on action against trafficking in human organs.


Preventing trafficking in human organs

In order to prevent trafficking in human organs, State Parties have to

  • ensure the existence of a transparent domestic system for the transplantation of human organs
  • provide equitable access to transplantation services for patients
  • adequately collect, analyse and exchange information related to illicitly obtained human organs in co-operation with all relevant authorities
  • provide information to and strengthen training of healthcare professionals and relevant officials
  • promote awareness-raising campaigns about the unlawfulness and dangers of trafficking in human organs
  • prohibit the advertising of the need for, or availability of human organs, for payment or comparable advantage


Combating trafficking in human organs

In order to combat trafficking in human organs, State Parties are obliged to establish certain actions as a crime under domestic law. Among them are the following:

  • the removal of human organs without the free, informed and specific consent of the donor
  • the removal of human organs in exchange for payment or comparable advantage to the donor or a third party, or the receiving of such benefits
  • the removal of human organs outside the framework of the domestic transplantation system
  • the solicitation and recruitment of an organ donor, or a recipient, for payment or comparable advantage
  • the promising, offering or giving of any undue advantage to healthcare professionals or public officials with a view to having a removal or implantation of a human organ performed or facilitated – as well as the accepting of such offers
  • the preparation, preservation, storage, transportation, transfer, receipt, import or export of illicitly removed human organs


Protecting the rights of victims

State Parties must take legislative and other measures to protect the rights and interests of victims, i.a. by:

  • assisting and supporting them in their physical, psychological and social recovery
  • protecting victims and witnesses of the crime as well as their families from potential retaliation or intimidation connected to criminal investigations
  • giving victims access to legal aid, free of charge where warranted
  • providing, in their domestic law, for the right of victims to compensation from the perpetrators

National and international co-operation

State Parties commit themselves to co-operating with each other to the widest extent possible for the purpose of investigations or proceedings concerning illicitly obtained human organs, including seizure and confiscation. Where no other applicable treaties exist, they agree to consider this Convention as the legal basis for extradition or mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Furthermore, they designate a national contact point for the exchange of information about trafficking in human organs.

Committee of the Parties

Once the Convention will have entered into force for the tenth State Party, a Committee of the Parties will be set up in order to monitor the implementation of this Convention. It will be composed of representatives of the Parties to the Convention and will be responsible for setting up its rules of procedure.
Human rights and biomedicine

For international legal standards on transplantation, cloning, biomedical research, and genetic testing see Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (CETS No. 164).
Photos: © Council of Europe