Background Briefing

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Diplomatic Assurances Are Not a Solution

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the U.K. government intends to rely on “diplomatic assurances” as a safeguard against torture in deportation cases involving ATCSA detainees, as well as other persons suspected of involvement in terrorism. Diplomatic assurances are formal guarantees from the government in the country of return that a person will not be subject to certain treatment on return. Such assurances are commonplace in criminal extradition cases for offenses involving the death penalty.

The government discussion paper noted above, issued in February 2004, states that “work is underway to try to establish framework agreements with potential destination countries of the kind set out in paragraphs 254-257 of the Newton Report.”85 In fact the Newton Committee expresses “considerable reservations” about deportation “as a way of dealing with suspected international terrorists,” including the fact it arguably amounts to “exporting terrorism.”86

Human Rights Watch research indicates that reliance on diplomatic assurances from countries where torture is commonplace is not a sufficient safeguard against torture on return, even where the sending state engages in post-return monitoring.87 Such assurances in relation to torture have already been rejected by a U.K. criminal court in a recent case involving an extradition request by Russia, and by the SIAC in a non-ATCSA case.88

[85] Secretary of State for the Home Department, “Reconciling Security and Liberty in an Open Society,” para 38.

[86] Privy Counsellor Review Committee, “Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001Review,” para. 195.

[87] Human Rights Watch, “‘Empty Promises’: Diplomatic Assurances No Safeguard Against Torture,” A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 16, no. 4(D), April 2004.

[88] The extradition of Akhmed Zakaev to Russia was refused by the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in November 2003, see ‘Empty Promises,’ pp.29-30; Singh and Singh v Home Secretary July 2000 “assurances that the UK government had obtained did not, in light of other evidence, provide a sufficient degree of reassurance about the safety of the deportee on his return.” (Privy Counsellor Review Committee, “Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001Review,” para. 256 and fn. 136).

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>June 2004