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[Press Release] In recommending the use of diplomatic assurances, the European Court of Human Rights undermines the absolute ban on torture

February 2012

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Paris, 2 February 2012

On 31 January 2012 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Belgium for violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which lays down an absolute ban on torture. In October 2010 a 36-year-old Iraqi man, accused of having links with the Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, was returned to Iraq, where he was arrested on arrival and detained at Erbil prison for three weeks before being released on bail and placed under house arrest.

The Court held that the ban on torture had indeed been violated, not because of the victim’s deportation to a country where he risked being subjected to torture, but because Belgium had not obtained adequate preliminary guarantees – diplomatic assurances – from the Iraqi government. In the Court’s view, the Belgian authorities should have ensured that the process to return the man came with a minimum of safeguards to guarantee his security, the foremost of these being diplomatic assurances from the authorities of the third country concerned.

FIACAT points out that the ban on torture is absolute and must not be subject to any exemption. The judges of the ECHR highlighted this in their ruling of 31 January 2012, restating that the ban on torture is central to the Convention and upholds one of democratic society’s fundamental values.

FIACAT believes that the European Court of Human Rights should never allow deportations to a country where the victim might be tortured, even if a diplomatic assurance has been given. Rulings allowing deportations would undermine the absolute nature of the ban on torture.

Press contact:
- Sabrina Aït-Aoudia – saa@fiacat.org - +33 (0)1 42 80 01 60

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