Europe rights court upholds absolute torture ban in Tunisia deportation case

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled against the deportation [judgment; press release] of former Tunisian terror suspect Nassim Saadi, finding that evidence provided by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch showed that he would likely be subjected to torture in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] if returned to Tunisia:

143. In the present case the Court has had regard, firstly, to the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Tunisia ... which describe a disturbing situation. The conclusions of those reports are corroborated by the report of the US State Department ... In particular, these reports mention numerous and regular cases of torture and ill-treatment meted out to persons accused under the 2003 Prevention of Terrorism Act. The practices reported - said to be often inflicted on persons in police custody with the aim of extorting confessions - include hanging from the ceiling, threats of rape, administration of electric shocks, immersion of the head in water, beatings and cigarette burns, all of these being practices which undoubtedly reach the level of severity required by Article 3. It is reported that allegations of torture and ill-treatment are not investigated by the competent Tunisian authorities, that they refuse to follow up complaints and that they regularly use confessions obtained under duress to secure convictions ... Bearing in mind the authority and reputation of the authors of these reports, the seriousness of the investigations by means of which they were compiled, the fact that on the points in question their conclusions are consistent with each other and that those conclusions are corroborated in substance by numerous other sources ... the Court does not doubt their reliability. Moreover, the respondent Government have not adduced any evidence or reports capable of rebutting the assertions made in the sources cited by the applicant. ...

146. In these circumstances, the Court considers that in the present case substantial grounds have been shown for believing that there is a real risk that the applicant would be subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention if he were to be deported to Tunisia. ...

148. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that even if, as they did not do in the present case, the Tunisian authorities had given the diplomatic assurances requested by Italy, that would not have absolved the Court from the obligation to examine whether such assurances provided, in their practical application, a sufficient guarantee that the applicant would be protected against the risk of treatment prohibited by the Convention ... The weight to be given to assurances from the receiving State depends, in each case, on the circumstances obtaining at the material time.
The court rejected arguments by the Italian government that Saadi posed a serious danger to society, ruling that those concerns did not have any bearing on the risk of torture that Saadi faced if deported from Italy. Amnesty praised the court's decision [press release], saying it would remind states that the ban on torture also extended to deporting people to countries where they would likely face mistreatment.

In July 2007, Amnesty urged the ECHR to dismiss [JURIST report; Amnesty press release] the UK's call for reconsideration of ECHR case law's absolute ban on torture. Saadi was ordered deported to Tunisia by Italy [JURIST news archives] while residing lawfully in Italy and appealing an Italian conviction on charges of criminal conspiracy and forgery. The UK joined the case as a third-party intervener. AP has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

 

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