Monday, 3 March 2008

European Court of Human Rights upholds absolute prohibition against torture

  • 28 Feb 2008
  • Today the European Court of Human Rights upheld the absolute prohibition against torture requiring Governments to protect individuals who may face torture in their home country.
  • In a test case closely watched by European Governments and human rights organisations, the Grand Chamber determined in Saadi v Italy that Italy could not return a Tunisian national deemed a security risk to his country of origin because he faced a real threat of torture.

    Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti said:

    “If the Grand Chamber had watered down the absolute prohibition against torture there would have been no putting this genie back in the bottle. It would have been a green light for extraordinary rendition and even the direct use of torture as an interrogation technique.

    The refusal to compromise on torture distinguishes us from tyrants and terrorists alike. Today’s re-statement of the law will aid the battle for hearts and minds, ensuring that suspects are brought to justice and democratic values prevail.”

    In contradiction to the argument of the United Kingdom as a third-party intervener with the support of the Italian Government, the Court determined that it was not possible to weigh the risk that a person might be subjected to ill-treatment against his dangerousness to the community if not sent back.

    CONTACT: Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 079 7383 1128


    1. The European Court of Human Rights delivered its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Saadi v Italy (application no. 37201/06) at 08:30am GMT on 28 February 2008.

    2. Facts of the case in Saadi v Italy:

    The case concerns an application brought by a Tunisian national, Nassim Saadi, who was born in 1974 and lives in Italy. The father of an eight-year-old child whose mother is an Italian national, Saadi had a valid residence permit for Italy which expired in October 2002. The application considered his possible deportation to Tunisia, where he claims to have been sentenced in absentia in 2005 to 20 years’ imprisonment for membership of a terrorist organisation and incitement to terrorism. After his application for political asylum in Italy was rejected in 2006, Saadi lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights alleging that enforcement of his deportation to Tunisia would expose him to the risk of being subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    3. The European Court of Human Rights decision upholds the finding in the 1996 Chahal v United Kingdom case that it is not possible to weigh the risk of ill-treatment against the reasons put forward for the expulsion in order to determine whether the responsibility of a State is engaged under Article 3, even where such treatment is inflicted by another State.

    4. In the judgment, Judge Myjer said: “…States are not allowed to combat international terrorism at all costs. They must not resort to methods which undermine the very values they seek to protect…Upholding human rights in the fight against terrorism is first and foremost a matter of upholding our values, even with regard to those who may seek to destroy them…”

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