Rights groups criticize Italy for deporting Tunisia national at risk of torture

[JURIST] Human rights advocates on Wednesday accused Italy of disregarding its obligations under past European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] judgments by deporting terror suspect Ali Ben Sassi Toumi to his native Tunisia. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the deportation [HRW report] "the latest example of how [Italy] flouts the absolute ban on such returns." Toumi's deportation was ordered despite numerous calls [AI report] on behalf of the ECHR to hold him in Italy due to the potential for torture and bodily harm upon his return to Tunisia. Amnesty International (AI) and other groups have heavily criticized [AI memo] Tunisian prisons, describing serious instances of detainee mistreatment:


Over the years, Amnesty International has received numerous reports of torture and other ill-treatment by the Tunisian security forces. In virtually all cases, allegations of torture are not investigated and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Individuals are most at risk of torture when in incommunicado detention. The most commonly reported methods of torture are beatings on the body, especially the soles of the feet; suspension by the ankles or in contorted positions; electric shocks; and burning with cigarettes. There are also reports of mock executions, sexual abuse, including rape with bottles and sticks, and threats of sexual abuse of female relatives.

Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text], of which Tunisia and Italy are both signatories, the two countries are obligated to protect prisoners within their jurisdictions from torture and physical abuse.

The EHCR previously ruled that Italy should stay the deportations of two other suspected criminals in analogous cases. In June 2008, Sami Ben Khemais Essid was deported to Tunisia, and in December 2008 Mourad Trabelsi was returned despite similar calls from the EHCR. Italy also recently caused concern when it criminalized unauthorized immigration [JURIST report] last month. Italy's treatment of its minority ethnic Roma population has resulted in similar criticism from human rights groups. In February, the Italian government dismantled a number of Roma encampments, and last year it was accused of discrimination when it began recording the fingerprints [JURIST reports] of Roma children in a purported effort to reduce street crime.


 

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