World's first anti-organ trafficking treaty opens

Human organ trafficking is one of the world's top ten illegal money-making activities, generating an estimated $1.2 billion in illegal profits globally each year, Council of Europe secretary general Thorbjoern Jagland, seen here in Geneva, 2013, said

Starting Wednesday nations will be able to sign what backers say is the first ever international treaty to take on human organ trafficking.

The agreement would make it illegal to take organs from people living or dead without their free and full consent, according to the text drafted by members of Europe's top rights body, the Council of Europe. The treaty also bans making money off transplants.

It will "fill in the gaps (in legislation) and puts in place protection for the victims," council Secretary General Thorbjoern Jagland said Tuesday.

The World Health Organisation estimates that some 10,000 black market transplants are carried out every year, a problem that frequently involves international crime and desperate victims.

Fourteen nations -- including Britain, Spain, Italy and Turkey -- are expected to sign the treaty Wednesday at an international conference devoted to the topic in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

At least five countries have to ratify the agreement, which is open to all countries, before it takes effect.

Under the treaty, victims would be eligible for compensation, but would also be the focus of prevention efforts which are intended to guarantee the transparency of and equitable access to transplant services.

Governments will be allowed to decide whether to prosecute organ donors as well as if they should be considered as accomplices in the trafficking.

Other countries expected to sign Wednesday include: Albania, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Moldavia, Poland and Portugal.