<<previous  |  index  |  next>>


The absence of any provision in regional law for the use of diplomatic assurances as a safeguard to European governments’ obligation not to return a person at risk of torture, and the existing jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights with respect to their use, distinguishes the European regional system from policy and practice within the United Nations treaty monitoring system and in North American jurisdictions.

Regional Law and Policy

No European legal instrument expressly provides for reliance on diplomatic assurances as a safeguard against torture or ill-treatment in the context of extradition, deportation, or expulsion. For example, the European Convention on Extradition provides for the use of assurances, but only with respect to the death penalty.62 The same Convention’s Second Additional Protocol provides for the use of assurances to guarantee that a person who has been sentenced or subject to a detention order in absentia will have the right to a retrial in conformity with fair trial standards upon return.63

In January 2004, the European Arrest Warrant came into force in eight of the fifteen European Union member states.64 The warrant applies to surrenders among E.U. member states only. The preamble to the E.U. framework decision adopting the warrant reaffirms the absolute nature of the prohibitions against the death penalty, torture, and returns to torture or ill-treatment.65 The decision explicitly provides for the use of assurances only with respect to the opportunity of a retrial in cases of judgements or orders handed down in absentia, and for the review of life-sentences.66

Likewise, the Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, opened for signature on May 15, 2003, includes a provision obliging Contracting States to seek assurances only if a person concerned risks being exposed to the death penalty.67 It is of interest that the explanatory notes to the Protocol require the requested state to transmit its reasons for refusing extradition or return, but do not contemplate assurances of protection from torture in reply.68

Moreover, the guidelines elaborated by the Council of Europe’s Group of Specialists on Human Rights and the Fight against Terrorism, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on July 15, 2002, reaffirm the absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances “irrespective of the nature of the acts that the person is suspected of or for which he/she was convicted.”69 The guidelines also reaffirm the absolute nature of the prohibition on extradition to face such treatment: “[e]xtradition may not be granted when there is serious reason to believe that: i) the person whose extradition has been requested will be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”70 No exceptions are permitted for either guideline.71 The guidelines permit states to seek assurances that a person subject to surrender will not be subject to the death penalty, but no express provision is made for states to seek diplomatic assurances that a person subject to surrender will not be at risk for torture.72

Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

Chahal v. United Kingdom

The European Court of Human Rights has addressed the issue of states’ parties’ reliance on diplomatic assurances as a safeguard against violations of states’ obligations under article 3 (prohibition against torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Chahal v. United Kingdom,73 the court ruled that the return to India of a Sikh activist would violate the U.K.’s obligations under article 3, despite diplomatic assurances proffered by the Indian government that Chahal would not suffer mistreatment at the hands of the Indian authorities.74 The court noted that:

[T]he United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture has described the practice of torture upon those in police custody as "endemic" and has complained that inadequate measures are taken to bring those responsible to justice. . .The NHRC [Indian National Human Rights Commission] has also drawn attention to the problems of widespread, often fatal, mistreatment of prisoners and has called for a systematic reform of the police throughout India. . .Although the Court does not doubt the good faith of the Indian Government in providing the assurances mentioned above, it would appear that, despite the efforts of that Government, the NHRC and the Indian courts to bring about reform, the violation of human rights by certain members of the security forces in Punjab and elsewhere in India is a recalcitrant and enduring problem. . .Against this background, the Court is not persuaded that the above assurances would provide Mr. Chahal with an adequate guarantee of safety.75

The Chahal ruling is widely cited as an authoritative restatement by the court of the absolute nature of the prohibition against torture under the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, it establishes that diplomatic assurances are an inadequate guarantee where torture is “endemic,” or a “recalcitrant and enduring problem” that results, in some cases, in fatalities. The court’s acceptance that Indian assurances were given in good faith and that the government had embarked on reforms, but that serious abuses persisted, indicates that it took into account the credibility of the requesting government and whether the requesting government had effective control over the forces responsible for acts of torture.

Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia

In the subsequent case of Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia,76 the European Court of Human Rights scrutinized assurances from the Russian government. In August 2002, Georgian authorities detained thirteen Chechens who had illegally crossed the border from Chechnya. The Russian authorities requested the men’s extradition, claiming they were suspected of involvement in militant activities. In October, the European Court communicated to the Georgian government a request that the men not be extradited before the court had an opportunity to review their cases.77 The court can make such a request—for “interim measures”—when there is a concern that a return might result in irreparable harm to a petitioner, potentially undermining his or her ability to proceed with an individual application before the court.78 Despite the court’s request, five of the Chechens were extradited from Georgia to Russia on October 4.79 The Russian authorities subsequently offered diplomatic assurances, including guarantees of unhindered access for the Chechens to appropriate medical treatment, to legal advice, and to the European Court of Human Rights itself. The Russian government also made assurances that the applicants would not be subject to the death penalty and that their health and safety would be protected.80 However, these assurances, procured after the men had been returned against the court’s request, functioned more in the way of a diplomatic afterthought than an actual safeguard.

The subsequent course of events is instructive with respect to the difficulties inherent in relying upon diplomatic assurances. In September 2003, the European Court declared the individual applications of the Chechens admissible, and organized fact-finding missions to both Georgia and Russia, notifying both governments of the pending visits.81 The Russian government, however, notified the court on October 20, 2003, that the Stavropol Regional Court, within whose jurisdiction the five extradited Chechens were detained, refused to grant the European Court delegation access to the applicants.82 The European Court issued a strongly worded reply, reminding the Russian government that:

[T]he local court was contacted purely out of courtesy. The issue of access to the applicants is a matter of international law—in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, which, under Russian law, takes precedence over domestic law—and, therefore, falls to be decided solely by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court drew attention to Article 38 § 1 of the Convention, which provides that the State concerned is to furnish all necessary facilities for the effective conduct of any investigation undertaken by the Court. Moreover, Article 34 of the Convention requires the High Contracting Parties not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of the right of individual application.83

The Russian authorities’ failure to comply with assurances it made to the European Court itself is a striking illustration of the fact that mere accession to regional or international human rights instruments is no guarantee that a state will comply with the obligations enshrined in those instruments, or even with express assurances given to the European Court of Human Rights in the course of pending proceedings. Moreover, it raises again the question of whether assurances should ever be accepted as an adequate safeguard against potential torture when proffered by a state where torture and ill-treatment are designated as endemic or systematic by credible sources, yet are routinely denied or left unaddressed by the state in question.84

A delegation from the European Court of Human Rights did conduct a fact-finding mission to Georgia on February 23-25, 2004, to visit the Chechen detainees there.85 The details of that mission have not been made public. The delegation plans a similar mission to Russia in June 2004, twenty-one months after the five Chechens were extradited.

Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey

The case of Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey,86 currently pending before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, offers the court an opportunity to reaffirm the absolute nature of the prohibition against returning any person to a country where he or she would be at risk of torture or prohibited ill-treatment, despite the nature of their alleged crime and the offer of diplomatic assurances from a requesting government.

Rustam Mamatkulov and Abdurasulovic Askarov, nationals of Uzbekistan, were extradited from Turkey to Uzbekistan in March 1999 following diplomatic assurances from the Uzbek authorities that the men would not be subjected to the death penalty or torture, and that their property would not be confiscated.87 The Uzbek authorities requested the extradition of Mamatkulov and Askarov based on allegations that the men—independent Muslims who were members of the Erk (“Freedom”) Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a banned opposition party—had been involved in terrorist-related activities against Uzbekistan, including involvement in a series of bombings in Tashkent in February 1999.88

Prior to the extraditions, the European Court of Human Rights requested that the Turkish government not extradite the men until the court had a chance to review their applications to the court.89 Despite this request, the Turkish government extradited the men. Mamatkulov and Askarov, along with twenty other defendants, were tried together in June 1999, found guilty, and sentenced to twenty and eleven years’ imprisonment respectively.

The men’s applications to the European Court of Human Rights alleged that they were at risk of torture and ill-treatment at the time of return (ECHR article 3); that they were subject to unfair extradition proceedings in Turkey and would be subject to an unfair trial upon return to Uzbekistan (article 6); and that Turkey hindered their right to lodge individual applications with the European Court by ignoring the court’s request not to extradite (article 34).

The court’s first chamber issued a decision in February 2003, finding no violation of article 3, despite the fact that the repression, torture, and abuse of independent Muslims and Erk members at the hands of the Uzbek authorities was well-documented in materials submitted to the court.90 Indeed, it was widely recognized that Uzbekistan practiced systematic torture, with a particular focus on independent Muslims and members of the Erk party. The court was aware, for example, that the Czech Republic had declined to extradite fellow Erk member Muhammed Solih to Uzbekistan. Solih had been tried and convicted in absentia by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan for allegedly masterminding the Tashkent bombings in 1999. In a December 2001 decision, a Prague court denied the extradition request in part on the grounds that Solih would be at risk of torture if returned to Uzbekistan.91

Significantly, the first chamber in Mamatkulov relied heavily upon the diplomatic assurances (in the form of two letters) proffered by the Uzbek authorities. It also cited the fact that in October 2001—two and one half years after the men were returned—Turkish officials visited the men in prison and found them in good health with no complaints about their treatment, and referred to medical certificates resulting from sporadic examinations by state-employed prison doctors in 2000 and 2001.92 The court acknowledged, however, that “to date, the applicants’ representatives have been unable to contact the applicants” in Uzbekistan to verify independently that they had not been subjected to abuse.93 The court found no violation of articles 3 or 6, but did find Turkey in violation of article 34 for not honoring the court’s request not to extradite the men before their European Court applications were reviewed. The court held that such requests for the application of interim measures were binding on states’ parties to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The first chamber’s reliance upon diplomatic assurances from the Uzbek government and its finding that the Turkish government’s follow-up monitoring constituted an adequate safeguard against torture and ill-treatment are deeply disturbing. The decision does not conform with the court’s own jurisprudence, enshrined in Chahal, that diplomatic assurances cannot be relied upon when offered by a government in a country where torture is endemic, or a recalcitrant and enduring problem—terms the Court applied to India, and that surely applied to Uzbekistan in 1999 and today.

Moreover, the material submitted by Turkey as evidence that the Uzbek authorities had in fact honored the assurances—one prison visit by Turkish officials more than two years after the men were returned and medical certificates from prison doctors employed by the state—cannot be considered adequate. These minimal follow-up monitoring measures fall far short of the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s requirement of a post-return monitoring system that reinforces unequivocal guarantees that a person will not be subject to torture upon return and for the duration of his stay in the country of return.

In January 2004, Human Rights Watch, in cooperation with the London-based Association for Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE Centre), submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Grand Chamber,94 which is currently considering the Mamatkulov case on appeal. In the brief, Human Rights Watch presented detailed primary evidence that the men were at considerable risk of torture upon return, including cases of torture of similarly situated independent Muslims and Erk members, torture and ill-treatment of the two men’s co-defendants, and torture of family members of the men’s co-defendants. Evidence was also submitted confirming the incommunicado detention of the men up to and during their trial, and the complicity of Uzbek prison doctors in covering-up acts of torture. Human Rights Watch, which was the only international nongovernmental observer at the June 1999 trial, also submitted a detailed firsthand account of the defendants’ lack of access to their lawyers of choice and to family members, and evidence of coerced incriminating statements used in court. Human Rights Watch provided evidence of torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders interested in the trial and of similarly situated independent Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the trial.

Human Rights Watch also provided commentary and case studies illustrating the inherent unreliability of diplomatic assurances from a country like Uzbekistan. Despite routine denials by authorities, the practice of systematic torture in Uzbekistan is well-documented, including by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.95 The Mamatkulov case underscores the absence of procedural guarantees that offer an effective opportunity to challenge diplomatic assurances; and the fact that post-return monitoring is all too often an ineffective and inadequate measure to ensure compliance with diplomatic assurances.

A final decision in Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey is expected in 2004.

Examples of State Practice in the Council of Europe Region

There is no comprehensive study on the use of diplomatic assurances as a safeguard against extradition or return to torture or ill-treatment in the member states of the Council of Europe. A sampling of cases in the region, however, indicates that the judiciary often serves as an effective check on the use of diplomatic assurances as a safeguard against torture, and in key cases has held that such assurances are inadequate when proffered by a state with a well-documented record of torture and ill-treatment.

United Kingdom: The Case of Akhmed Zakaev

The credibility of diplomatic assurances proffered by the Russian authorities came under scrutiny in the U.K. courts in 2003. In Russia v. Zakaev, Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London considered Russia’s extradition request for the surrender of Akhmed Zakaev, an envoy for the Chechen government in exile, for alleged crimes committed in Chechnya in 1995 and 1996.96 The Deputy Minister responsible for the Russian prison system gave testimony in court that Zakaev would come to no harm whilst in detention in Russia.97 The extradition request was considered within the context of the Extradition Act 1989 (c. 33), the U.K. legislation incorporating the European Convention on Extradition.98 The Act requires that a person not be surrendered if he might “. . .be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.”99 The court thus undertook “an assessment of what might happen if [Zakaev] were returned” and to what extent those happenings could be attributed to his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.100

The U.K. court accepted that the trial process in Russia might be fair, but focused on “the conditions in which Mr. Zakaev would be likely to be detained and to consider whether they would have any prejudicial effect on his trial,” in particular whether he would be at risk of torture if surrendered.101 The court considered material from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the U.N. Committee against Torture expressing concern about the continuing practice of torture and ill-treatment by Russian law enforcement officers operating in Chechnya.

In addition to testimony from former Russian officials about the specific vulnerability of Chechens in the Russian criminal justice system, including the increased risk to a near certainty that they will be tortured or ill-treated, the U.K. court heard evidence from a credible witness who said he made a statement, extracted under torture, to Russian authorities implicating Zakaev in the crimes of which he was accused. The court gave particular weight to this evidence stating that it was “clear, unequivocal and unshaken by cross-examination,”102 and came to the “inevitable conclusion” that if the Russian authorities resorted to torturing a witness, “there is a substantial risk that Mr. Zakaev would himself be subject to torture;”103 and that such treatment would be meted out as a consequence of Mr. Zakaev’s nationality and political beliefs. With respect to Russian assurances that Mr. Zakaev would not be tortured, the U.K. court concluded:

I am sure that he [Deputy Minister for Russian prisons] gave that assurance in good faith. I do, however, consider it highly unlikely that the Minister would be able to enforce such an undertaking, given the nature and extent of the Russian prison estate. I consider that such a guarantee would be almost impossible in any country with a significant prison population. I was also concerned as to the type of institution to which the defendant would be sent. Although the Minister indicated that he would be detained in a Ministry of Justice institution, another witness eventually confirmed that the decision could be taken by the Prosecutor who could choose to place Mr. Zakaev in an institution run by the FSB [Federal Security Service, which is active in Chechnya].104

In refusing to accept Russian assurances, the court in Zakaev relied on the fact that torture is widespread in Russia; that Chechens, in particular, are more likely than not to be tortured; that the Russian government cannot have effective control over the vast prison system in such a manner as to guarantee that Zakaev will not be tortured; and that Russian guarantees of placement in a specific detention facility cannot be relied upon. Extradition was refused.

Germany: The Case of Metin Kaplan

A German court also recently rejected as insufficient diplomatic assurances offered by a government that used evidence procured by the torture of codefendants or witnesses in related criminal proceedings. In a 2003 decision, a German court ruled that a request from the Turkish government for the extradition of Metin Kaplan, the leader of a banned Islamic fundamentalist group, “Caliphate State,” was politically motivated.105 The court determined that the evidence on which the extradition warrant was based had been procured by the torture in detention of a group of Kaplan’s followers, in violation of Article 15 of the Convention against Torture.106 The court held that diplomatic assurances from the Turkish government that Kaplan's treatment and prosecution would conform with Turkey's human rights obligations would not provide Kaplan with "sufficient protection" against such violations.107 Expressing concern about information extracted by torture and the independence of the Turkish State Security Court, the court stated in Kaplan that:

…Such formal guarantees in an extradition proceeding can only provide sufficient protection in favor of the persecuted person if their correct implementation through the institutions of the requesting state—in this case the independent Turkish judiciary—can reliably be expected. The latter is not the case here.108

German authorities claimed that the decision not to extradite Kaplan was “regrettable” and pointed to “the repeated expressly confirmed promises of the Turkish government regarding the adherence to principles of the rule of law.”109 In a disturbing development, the government claimed that the court decision “does not stand in the way of expulsion, especially since the declarations of the Turkish government adequately guarantee that, after his expulsion to Turkey, Kaplan will not be subjected to treatment that violates the rule of law.”110 Minister of Interior Otto Schily claimed that “the right of a state to expel a foreigner in order to protect national security” should be the priority.111

The German government’s response in the Kaplan case points to the essential role courts can play in interpreting a state’s treaty obligations and evaluating the use of diplomatic assurances in light of those obligations. The German government’s public statements raise serious concerns that it is actively attempting to circumvent the authority of its own judiciary. Subsequent news accounts revealed that Schily visited Ankara in September 2003 to secure enhanced assurances that Kaplan would get fair treatment upon return and that evidence extracted by torture would not be used in any proceedings again Kaplan.112 The Turkish government declined to provide satisfactory assurances.113 Kaplan remains in Germany.

Austria: The Case of Mohamed Bilasi-Ashri

In November 2001, the Court of Appeal in Vienna ordered the extradition to Egypt of Mohamed Bilasi-Ashri, who had been sentenced in absentia in Egypt to fifteen years of hard labor for alleged involvement in an Islamic extremist group.114 The court considered Bilasi-Ashri’s claim that he would be at risk for torture or ill-treatment and would not be given a fair trial upon return, but concluded that “Egypt was not a country where serious large scale violations of human rights could be considered an institutionalised everyday practice …[t]hus there was no general obstacle to extradition.”115 The Court of Appeal dismissed evidence that members of Islamist groups in Egypt are frequently subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including electric shocks, beatings, burning and various forms of psychological abuse.116 The court also determined that Bilasi-Ashri’s pending asylum application did not preclude his extradition.117

Despite the surprising finding that Bilasi-Ashri’s fear of torture was unfounded, however, the Court of Appeal in its ruling conditioned his extradition upon receiving diplomatic assurances from the Egyptian authorities that Bilasi-Ashri’s conviction in absentia would be declared null and void, that he would be retried before an ordinary (civilian) criminal court and would not be persecuted or suffer restrictions upon his personal freedom.118 On November 12, 2001 the Austrian Federal Minister of Justice approved the extradition, subject to the conditions set forth in the Court of Appeal decision, and added the condition that Bilasi-Ashri be permitted to leave Egyptian territory within forty-five days in the case of acquittal.

In spite of the requirement of diplomatic assurances, Amnesty International issued an “urgent action” on behalf of Bilasi-Ashri on January 4, 2002, stating that he would be at risk of torture or ill-treatment if returned.119 Austrian authorities subsequently requested permission from the Egyptian government to visit Bilasi-Ashri upon Austria’s request after his return to Egypt.120 In March 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees requested that Austria grant Bilasi-Ashri refugee status on the basis that he had a well-founded fear of persecution if returned.121 In March and April 2002, the European Court of Human Rights requested that Austria not return Bilasi-Ashri until the Court reviewed his case. (Bilasi-Ashri had originally lodged his petition with the court in June 2000, but was subsequently detained pending extradition.)

The Egyptian authorities subsequently rejected the conditions laid out in the extradition order and Bilasi-Ashri was released from detention in Austria in August 2002. The fact that the extradition order required Egypt’s compliance with articles 3 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the Egyptian authorities refused such compliance, indicate that Bilasi-Ashri’s fears that he would be at risk of torture or ill-treatment and subject to an unfair trial were well-founded.

Sweden: The Cases of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari

Sweden’s return of two Egyptian asylum seekers to Cairo in December 2001 illustrates well both the lack of reliability of diplomatic assurances and the difficulties of implementing an effective and adequate post-return monitoring system that ensures that the government of return complies with the terms of the diplomatic assurances.

Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari, both Egyptian nationals who had sought asylum in Sweden, were expelled from Sweden and forcibly returned to Egypt on December 18, 2001. Their asylum applications were rejected, despite acknowledgement by the Swedish authorities that the two men had a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. The men were excluded from refugee status based on secret evidence provided by the Swedish security police (Säpo) that the men were associated with Islamist groups responsible for terrorist acts.122 The secret evidence against the men was not disclosed in full to either the men or their lawyers, and there was no right to appeal the expulsions, which were executed the very same day they were ordered.123

The expulsions followed diplomatic assurances by the Egyptian government that the men would not be subjected to torture or ill-treatment upon return, and that they would not be sentenced to death. Assurances were also given that the men would be afforded fair trials in Egypt, including a re-trial for Agiza, who had been tried and convicted in absentia by an Egyptian military court in April 1999.124 Arrangements for the Swedish government to be granted access to monitor the trials and to visit the men in prison were not specified in the assurances, but apparently were agreed with the Egyptian authorities in advance.

Swedish authorities subsequently claimed that “[o]n the basis of these assurances the Government of Sweden made the assessment that the assurances obtained provided an adequate guarantee of safety in accordance with international law and that Sweden, thus, did not act in breach of its commitments under international law.”125 The men’s treatment upon return and the obvious shortcomings of the Swedish monitoring scheme, however, raise serious concerns that the Swedish government has violated its absolute obligation not to return a person to a country where he is at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

Upon return, Agiza and al-Zari were held for five weeks in incommunicado detention. No representative from the Swedish government visited the men during that time.126 Eventually Swedish diplomatic representatives did begin visiting the men in prison, “more or less on a monthly basis,”127 but none of the visits has been conducted in private. The Swedish delegation is always accompanied by prison authorities during the visits, and never left alone with the detainees. The delegation has met only with both detainees at the same time and the meetings have taken place in the office of the prison director, sometimes with up to ten prison officials present—never in the men’s own cells, which the Swedish officials have not been allowed to visit.128 Swedish officials’ apparent lack of expertise at detecting signs of torture or ill-treatment raise further concerns about the failure to conduct private visits; the men obviously would be far less inclined to speak freely about possible abuse or to reveal possible physical injuries resulting from such abuse in the absence of assurances of absolute confidentiality. Moreover, the Swedish embassy agreed to give several days’ notice to the prison director before each visit. The failure of the Swedish authorities to conduct visits in private and the consequent lack of confidentiality do not conform with international standards governing prison monitoring visits.129

Despite Swedish government claims to the contrary, information available from additional credible sources raises serious concern that the men have in fact been subjected to torture and ill-treatment since their return to Egypt, and remain vulnerable to such abuse. Given the serious deficits in the post-return monitoring scheme, including the absence of completely confidential access to the men, the Swedish government cannot unequivocally guarantee that the men have been treated in full conformity with the diplomatic assurances. Moreover, Mohammed al-Zari was released from prison in October 2003, after being held for nearly two years without charge. He remains under constant surveillance by the Egyptian security forces and is required to report for regular interrogations, but there is no evidence that the Swedish authorities are monitoring his treatment.

The Swedish authorities have also made little headway in terms of securing a fair trial for Ahmed Agiza. In late March 2004, more than two years after Agiza’s return, the Egyptian authorities ordered a retrial, but again before a military tribunal where fair trial standards are not respected. It remains unclear what action, if any, the Swedish government is taking in the face of the Egyptian authorities’ failure to honor a key condition for return of the two men. This failure amounts to a breach of the diplomatic assurances upon which the Swedish authorities based the expulsions.

Both men have cases pending in other fora; Agiza has lodged an individual application with the U.N. Committee against Torture and al-Zari has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights.

62 Article 11: Capital Punishment states that: “If the offence for which extradition is requested is punishable by death under the law of the requesting Party, and if in respect of such offence the death-penalty is not provided for by the law of the requested Party or is not normally carried out, extradition may be refused unless the requesting Party gives such assurance as the requested Party considers sufficient that the death-penalty will not be carried out.” European Convention on Extradition (1957) [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

63 Article 3 states that: “When a Contracting Party requests from another Contracting Party the extradition of a person for the purpose of carrying out a sentence or detention order imposed by a decision rendered against him in absentia, the requested Party may refuse to extradite for this purpose if, in its opinion, the proceedings leading to the judgment did not satisfy the minimum rights of defence recognised as due to everyone charged with criminal offence. However, extradition shall be granted if the requesting Party gives an assurance considered sufficient to guarantee to the person claimed the right to a retrial which safeguards the rights of defence.” Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition (1978) [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

64 The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is intended eventually to replace the European Convention on Extradition and the extradition provisions of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism in all the E.U. member states. On January 1, 2004, the EAW came into force in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. See Council Framework Decision on a European Arrest Warrant, 2002/584/JHA, June 13, 2002.

65 “No person should be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Ibid., preamble, para 13.

66 Ibid., article 5.

67 Article 4.

1 The text of Article 5 of the Convention shall become paragraph 1 of this article.

2 The text of Article 5 of the Convention shall be supplemented by the following paragraphs:

“2. Nothing in this Convention shall be interpreted as imposing on the requested State an obligation to extradite if the person subject of the extradition request risks being exposed to torture.

3. Nothing in this Convention shall be interpreted either as imposing on the requested State an obligation to extradite if the person subject of the extradition request risks being exposed to the death penalty or, where the law of the requested State does not allow for life imprisonment, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, unless under applicable extradition treaties the requested State is under the obligation to extradite if the requesting State gives such assurance as the requested State considers sufficient that the death penalty will not be imposed or, where imposed, will not be carried out, or that the person concerned will not be subject to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.” Protocol amending the European Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, Strasbourg 15.V.2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

68 “It is obvious that a State applying this article should provide the requesting State with reasons for its refusal to grant the extradition request. It is by virtue of the same principle that Article 18 paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Extradition provides that "reasons shall be given for any complete or partial rejection. . . " Draft Explanatory Report [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

69 Guideline IV, [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

70 Ibid., Guideline XIII.

71 Ibid., Guideline XV.

72 Ibid., Guideline XIII(2)(i) and (ii). The same formula, obliging states to seek assurances with respect to the potential application of the death penalty, but making no similar provision for extraditions where a person is at risk of torture, is articulated in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution on combating terrorism and respect for human rights, Res. 1271(2002), January 24, 2002.

73 Chahal v. United Kingdom, 70/1995/576/662, November 15, 1996 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

74 Ibid., para. 37.

75 Ibid., paras. 104 and 105.

76 Application No. 36378/02, October 4, 2002.

[77] These “interim measures” were requested under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which state that: “The Chamber or, where appropriate, its President may, at the request of a party or of any other person concerned, or of its own motion, indicate to the parties any interim measure which it considers should be adopted in the interests of the parties or of the proper conduct of the proceedings before it…. The Chamber may request information from the parties on any matter connected with the implementation of any interim measure it has indicated. See Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia, (application no. 36378/02), Press Release No. 486, October 10, 2002 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

78 Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court provides for interim measures. According to the International Commission of Jurists:

Interim or provisional measures are an institution of international procedural law recognized within the framework of international disputes. The object and purpose of these measures is to preserve the rights claimed by the parties to the procedure until the dispute is settled by the competent international organ, as well as to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the decision on the merits, while avoiding that harm be done to the rights claimed by the parties pendente litis, which would annul the effects of the action taken by the competent organ. Interim or provisional measures enable the State concerned to fulfill its obligation and to conform to the final decision of the international organ and, if need be, to proceed to reparation of the principle fact, which includes restitution when this is possible.

See Amicus Curiae by the International Commission of Jurists relating to the Interim Measures of the European Court of Human Rights (46827/99 Mamatkulov and 46951/99 Abdurasuloviç v. Turkey), October 2001 [online] (retrieved March 24, 2004).

79 Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia, (application no. 36378/02), Press Release No. 552, November 6, 2002 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

80 Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia, (application no. 36378/02), Press Release No. 601, November 26, 2002 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

81 Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia, (application no. 36378/02), Press Release No. 455. September 19, 2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2003). The Court can engage in its own fact-finding under Rule 42 Sec. 2 of its Rules of Procedure (measures for taking evidence).

82 Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Shamayev and 12 Others v. Georgia and Russia, (application no. 36378/02), Press Release No. 528, October 24, 2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

83 Ibid.

84 The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has repeatedly expressed concern about the torture and ill-treatment of Chechens in the Russian Federation. See, for example, CPT, “Public Statement Concerning the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation,” July 10, 2003 [online] (retrieved March 24, 2004); see also, Human Rights Watch, Welcome to Hell: Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Extortion in Chechnya, October 2000; Swept Under: Torture, Forced Disappearances, and Extrajudicial Killings during Sweep Operations in Chechnya, March 2002.

85 Email communication from the European Court of Human Rights Registry to Human Rights Watch, March 23, 2004.

[86] Mamatkulov and Abdurasulovic [Askarov] v. Turkey, Application Nos. 46827/99 and 46951/99 respectively. The judgment in the first chamber was issued on February 6, 2003 [online (retrieved March 26, 2004; hereinafter “First Chamber Decision”). The title of the first chamber decision incorrectly identified Abdurasulovic Askarov as “Abdurasulovic;” subsequent Court documents correctly identify him as Askarov. In April 2003, the Turkish government appealed the February 2003 decision to the Court’s President, requesting that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, to be considered de novo before the entire panel of ECHR judges. A public hearing before the Grand Chamber was held on March 17, 2004. See Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey, Press Release No. 131, March 17, 2004 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004). A final decision on the case is forthcoming.

87 Mamatkulov and Askarov, First Chamber Decision, February 6, 2003, para. 29.

88 Independent Muslims in Uzbekistan practice their faith outside of state-run mosques, and pray at home or otherwise shun state control in determining and practicing their religion.

89 The question of whether or not requests for interim measures are legally binding on states’ parties to the European Convention on Human Rights is a key issue in this case. See Amicus Curiae by the International Commission of Jurists relating to the Interim Measures of the European Court of Human Rights (46827/99 Mamatkulov and 46951/99 Abdurasuloviç v. Turkey), October 2001[online] (retrieved March 24, 2004).

90 The Court had available to it materials on repression of independent Muslims and ERK party members in Uzbekistan documenting abuse and concern by Amnesty International and the United Nations.

91 The decision stated:

[Solih] will almost certainly face torture and illegal imprisonment by Uzbek judicial bodies, as well as possible threat of death. Independent international organizations documented the systematic use of torture methods by the Uzbek police, in particular when dealing with political prisoners. In accordance with this, by extraditing [Solih], the Czech Republic would violate Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms…”

Judgment of the Prague City Court, Judge Veronika Boháčková presiding, December 14, 2001, on file with Human Rights Watch. The Court was aware of this decision as it was featured in Amnesty International materials submitted by Mamatkulov’s and Askarov’s lawyer.

92 First Chamber Decision, paras. 34-35.

93 Ibid., para. 36.

94 See Human Rights Watch, “Mamatkulov and Askarov v. Turkey: Intervention Submitted by Human Rights Watch and the AIRE Centre,” January 28, 2004 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

95 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mission to Uzbekistan, E/CN.4/2003/68/add.2, February 3, 2003 [online]$FILE/G0310766.doc (retrieved March 26, 2004).

96 The Government of the Russian Federation v. Akhmed Zakaev, Bow Street Magistrates’ Court, Decision of Hon. T. Workman, November 13, 2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

97 Ibid., page 7.

98 The U.K. Extradition Act has since been amended. See Extradition Act 2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

99 1989 Act at Article 6(1)(d).

100 Russia v. Zakaev, page 7.

101 Ibid.

102 Ibid., page 10.

103 Ibid. page 10.

104 Ibid., page 7.

[105] Oberlandesgericht Duesseldorf, in the case of Metin Kaplan, 4Ausl (a) 308/02-147.203-204.03III, May 27, 2003. Kaplan’s group was banned in Germany in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States. In December 2003, German police conducted a nationwide operation against Kaplan’s followers, taking many into custody. Metin Kaplan was released after questioning. See “German Police in Nationwide Sweep against Islamists,” Agence France Presse, December 11, 2003; “Turkey: German Police in Raid against Turkish Extremist Group,” Global News Wire, December 15, 2003; and “Banned Turkish Islamist Group Reportedly Still Active in Germany,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, February 16, 2004.

106 Oberlandesgericht Duesseldorf, in the case of Metin Kaplan, op. cit., page 15. Article 15 of the CAT reads: “Each state party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”

107 Ibid., page 23.

108 Ibid.

109 Joint Statement German Federal Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Interior of North Rhine Westphalia, “Schily and Behrens Regret Decision of OLG Duesseldorf in Kaplan Case,” Berlin, May 27, 2003.

110 Ibid. The government was referring to immigration-related expulsion orders issued by the city of Cologne that Kaplan was challenging at the time. The government’s statement also refers to the fact that Kaplan was challenging the removal of his refugee status in court as well.

111 Ibid.

112“ German Minister Pursues ‘Caliph of Cologne’ Extradition in Turkey,” Deutsch Welle, September 16, 2003 [online],1003,1432_A_972238_1_A,00.html (retrieved March 26, 2004). Deutsch Welle also reported that Schily told the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the Kaplan case could become “‘a symbol for the weakness of our state’ if it proves impossible to deport Kaplan.” Ibid.

113 “Germany, Turkey Fail to Agree on Extradition of Islamic Extremist,” Deutsch Welle, September 17, 2003.

114 Peter Finn, “Europeans Tossing Terror Suspects Out the Door,” Washington Post, January 29, 2002, page A1.

115 Descriptions of the Austrian court decision are taken from the European Court of Human Rights decision Bilasi-Ashri v. Austria, Application No. 3314/02, November 26, 2002, section A.5.

116 Amnesty International, Concerns in Europe, July-December 2001 [online]\AUSTRIA (retrieved March 25, 2004).

117 See Sibylle Kapferer, The Interface between Extradition and Asylum, UNHCR, op. cit., para. 29: “Where an extradition request concerns an asylum seeker, the requested State will not be in a position to establish whether extradition is lawful unless the question of refugee status is clarified. The determination of whether or not the person concerned has a well-founded fear of persecution must therefore precede the decision on extradition. This does not of itself require suspension of the extradition procedure. It does mean, however, that the decision of the extradition should only be made after the final determination on refugee status, even if extradition and asylum proceedings are conducted in parallel.”

118 Bilasi-Ashri v. Austria, section A.5.

119 AI Index: Eur 13/001/2002, January 4, 2002 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

120 Bilasi-Ashri v. Austria, section A.5.

121 Ibid.

122 The Swedish Aliens Act—Utlänningslagen (1989)—grants the government powers to decide on the expulsion of foreign citizens who are considered a national security threat, including asylum seekers with pending claims, although it explicitly prohibits the execution of such decisions in cases where the returnee may risk torture or the death penalty. See also Sibylle Kapferer, The Interface between Extradition and Asylum, op. cit., footnote 117, regarding the relationship between asylum and extradition.

123 In connection with its decision to expel al-Zari and Agiza, the Swedish government also decided to return Agiza’s wife, Hanan Attia, and her five children. Following an individual communication on her behalf to the U.N. Committee against Torture, however, and the Committee’s subsequent request that the Swedish government delay deportation until it has had an opportunity to examine the case, the deportation was put on hold and Attia and her children remained in Sweden, pending the Committee’s decision on her case. The CAT decision was issued in November 2003 finding no violation of CAT article 3 (see section on CAT and Hanan Attia case above). Attia’s lawyer subsequently submitted a new asylum application for Attia and her children, which is currently pending. They remain in Sweden at date of writing. See Human Rights Watch, “Call for Full and Fair Asylum Determination Procedure: Letter to Swedish Government on behalf of Hanan Attia” A Human Rights Watch Letter, December 17, 2003 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

124 Letters detailing the diplomatic assurances on file with Human Rights Watch.

125 Submission of the Swedish government to the U.N. Human Rights Committee (“Information requested by the Human Rights Committee from the Government of Sweden”), May 6, 2003, on file with Human Rights Watch. In communications with Human Rights Watch, Swedish authorities have readily admitted that the decision to expel the men was a very difficult one, and explained that this was especially so because Sweden had never before expelled anyone based on diplomatic assurances.

126 Sweden’s failure to visit the men during the initial stages of their detention in Egypt is all the more disconcerting in light of reports that they were held incommunicado at an interrogation center of the State Security Intelligence Service outside Cairo during this time. They were subsequently transferred to the Mazraat Tora prison. As noted above, detainees are most vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment in the first days of detention.

127 Submission of the Swedish government to the U.N. Human Rights Committee (“Information requested by the Human Rights Committee from the Government of Sweden”), May 6, 2003, on file with Human Rights Watch.

128 Mohammed al-Zari was released in October 2003, thus visits with both men present ended at the time of his release.

129 See U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, General Recommendations, E/CN.4/2003/68, para. (f) regarding prison monitoring and private visits [online] (retrieved on March 26, 2004).

See also, International Committee of the Red Cross, “How Visits by the ICRC can Help Prisoners Cope with the Effects of Traumatic Stress,” Section on Private and Confidential Interviews with Prisoners, January 1, 1996 [online] (retrieved March 26, 2004).

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>April 2004