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European human rights court bans torture deportations

In a landmark decision, the Strasbourg based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled last week that a government may not deport an individual to a state where he may be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The ban hence stays absolute, and this ruling will undoubtedly frustrate governments but please libertarians. The unanimous ruling by the court's Grand Chamber, whose decisions are final, marks a big setback for every country that is struggling to rid itself of suspected foreign terrorists. Civil-liberties groups were delighted by the judges' reaffirmation that the ban on torture under the European Convention on Human Rights and in international law remains absolute, even in the face of "imminent threats" such as terrorism or war.

The Strasbourg court also poured cold water on the value of obtaining “diplomatic assurances” that a deported person will not be abused. Both Britain and America have been using such assurances, which human-rights groups call worthless, to justify sending suspected terrorists back to countries such as Jordan, Libya, and Egypt.

Before Europe's judges was the case of Nassim Saadi, a Tunisian living in Italy with his Italian partner and their eight-year-old child. In 2002 Mr Saadi was arrested on suspicion of plotting to commit acts of terrorism abroad. In May 2005 he was found guilty of criminal conspiracy (references to terrorism were dropped) and given four-and-a-half years in jail. On his release in 2006, he was ordered to be deported to Tunisia. Meanwhile, a Tunisian military court had sentenced Mr Saadi in his absence to 20 years' imprisonment for membership of a terrorist organisation and “incitement to terrorism”. Claiming that he risked suffering torture and other violations of his fundamental rights if returned, Mr Saadi appealed to the ECHR to prevent his deportation. Britain was given leave to intervene in the proceedings as a third party.

For the past 12 years, Britain has been fighting to get the European court to overturn a similar ruling in the case of Chahal, a Sikh activist living in Britain, who was suspected of terrorism in his native India. Claiming that he posed a national security risk in Britain too, Britain sought to send him back to India. He said he risked torture there. Ruling in his favour, the court said the absolute ban on torture extended to deportation cases “however undesirable or dangerous” the individual involved. John Reid, a former British home secretary, later described that ruling as “outrageously unbalanced”, famously adding that the European judges “just don't get it”. The rights of the individual had to be balanced against the security interests of the host state, he argued.

In this week's ruling the judges have retorted that they did “get it”, and that their opinion remains the same. Although the danger of terrorist violence facing many states could not be underestimated, they said, that should not call into question the absolute nature of the ban on torture under Article 3 of the European Convention.

Dit artikel verscheen ook in The Economist.

Meer over wereldwijde folterkwesties op www.huffingtonpost.com.

2 Reacties:

At 13:20 Danish Dynamite said...

Wat Europa kennelijk niet begrijpt, althans dat leid ik af uit dit artikel uit The Economist, is dat er een groot verschil bestaat tussen iemand zijn gezicht intimmeren om een grote aanslag te verkomen en iemand zijn gezicht inslaan om een bekentenis te verkrijgen. Het zou te idioot voor woorden zijn om het eerste niet toe te laten, net zo als het te gek zou zijn het twee toe te laten.

 
At 16:45 Hugo said...

Ik snap alweer niets van de reactie van ons Deens Dynamiet, maar dat zal dan wel aan mij liggen zeker...

Folteren is uit den boze en landen die zich daaraan schuldig maken, in welke vorm en onder welke denominatie dan ook, moeten gestraft worden, zowel via handelsboycot als via andere middelen. Bush die de anti-waterboardingwet tegenhoudt en de Amerikaanse conservatieven die Jack Bauers successen op televisie aanwenden om folteringen te verdedigen, zijn uitingen van een totaal disrespect voor de menselijke rechten en kunnen niet. De VS toont alleen maar zijn ware gelaat, dat van een extreem-rechtse schurkenstaat, terwijl de EU (of eigenlijk de Raad van Europa) zich nog maar eens manifesteert als het énige blok in de wereld dat rekening houdt met mensenrechten en burgerlijke vrijheden.

 

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