EU Torture Watchdog Warns Against Terror Deportations

EU Torture Watchdog Warns Against Terror Deportations

CAIRO, September 22, 2005 (

While the Council of Europe’s anti-torture watchdog warned Thursday, September 22, against deporting people under anti-terror measures to countries where they face the risk of torture, Britain threatened to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
« Resolute action is certainly required to counter terrorism; but that action cannot be allowed to degenerate into exposing people to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, » the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said in the preface to its annual report.
It stressed that « prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment is one of those few human rights from which there can be no derogations. »

The watchdog, which groups independent and impartial experts from a variety of backgrounds elected for a four-year term by the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s decision-making body, maintained that talk about striking the right balance « is misguided when such human rights are at stake. »
Since the July 7 terrorist bombings, which claimed the lives of 56 people, the centre-left British government has introduced a string of new anti-terror measures.

It has drawn up a list of 50 « preachers of hate » seen as posing a threat to the national security.
It also issued guidelines of « unacceptable behavior » under which it can deport and ban Muslim scholars accused of fomenting, justifying and glorifying acts of terror and violence.

What Assurances?
The ECHR underlined that the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment « encompasses the obligation not to send a person to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would run a real risk of being subjected to such methods. »

It lashed out at the so-called « diplomatic assurances » that suspects will not face torture to allow deportations to countries with poor human rights records.
« Fears are growing that the use of diplomatic assurances is in fact circumventing the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. »
The watchdog also demanded « convincing proposals » for an effective post-return monitoring mechanism.

« To have any chance of being effective, such a mechanism would certainly need to incorporate some key guarantees, including the right of independent and suitably qualified persons to visit the individual concerned at any time, without prior notice, and to interview him in private in a place of their choosing », the CPT maintained.

Britain has rejected criticism by rights groups of planned government deals with Middle Eastern and North African countries allowing terror suspects to be returned on the understanding they will not be maltreated.

The British government has recently signed an agreement with Jordan which London says will protect deportees from ill-treatment.
It is also seeking similar accords with countries such as Algeria , Lebanon and others.

Under the 1971 Immigration Act, the home secretary has the power to deport foreigners he believes pose a threat to national security.
But the international law prevents London from deporting people to countries where they face inhumane treatment.

Quitting Convention
In a related development, Britain threatened Thursday to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is incorporated into British law, if its terms hindered anti-terrorism efforts.

« People would ask whether we were really saying that adherence to the European Convention was more important than Joe Bloggs blowing up a Tube (subway) train, » Home Secretary Charles Clarke told the New Statesman magazine.

« In those circumstances there would be immense pressure to change our relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights. »
Clarke has already argued for the ECHR to be interpreted differently by signatory states when dealing with the deportation of foreign terror suspects.

The ECHR prevents the deportation of a foreign terrorist suspect if it is thought the person will be at risk of torture in the country they are sent to.