Home Archive for category "Extradition" (Page 3)

Diplomatic Assurances, Torture and Extradition: The Case of Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom

Published on January 18, 2012        Author: 

Conor McCarthy is Visiting Fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

The European Court of Human Rights has handed down its long-awaited judgment in the case of Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom which, despite the initial furore that is likely to surround it in the UK, is also a case of substantial legal significance. The judgment sheds light on the circumstances in which it may be permissible under the ECHR (“the Convention”) to expel an individual to a third state where the use of torture is prevalent on the basis of assurances against torture or ill-treatment. Significantly, the Court also lays down, in emphatic terms, principles as to the permissibility of expelling an individual to face trial in a third state where evidence obtained through torture may be used in trying that person.

The Applicant’s Background

Abu Qatada is a high-profile radical Islamic cleric considered by the United Kingdom to be a threat to its national security and who is sought by Jordanian authorities (and indeed authorities in a number of other countries) in connection with a series of terrorist offences. He arrived in the United Kingdom in 1993 when he was granted asylum, having fled from Jordan where he had been tortured in detention in 1988 and 1990-1991. However, as he is regarded as a threat to national security, the UK has sought to extradite him to Jordan.

Bilateral Assurances on Torture or Ill-Treatment

As regards the question of MOUs or diplomatic assurances, some background is helpful. Following the September 11 attacks in the United States the question of the deportation of terrorist suspects, considered a threat to UK national security, to countries where they may face a risk of torture moved high on the political agenda. In 2001 the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised the government that Article 3 of the Convention precluded the deportation of terrorist suspects to Jordan. However, in 2003 a Government review of the possibility of removing such barriers to removal was conducted and it was proposed that certain key countries, including Jordan, could be approached to determine whether they would be willing and able to provide assurances to guarantee that potential deportees would not be subjected to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Following this, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary agreed that seeking specific and credible assurances from foreign governments, in the form of Memoranda of Understanding (“MOU”), could be used to enable the deportation of certain individuals from the United Kingdom and in 2003 the British Embassy in Oman were instructed to seek such assurances from the Jordanian government.

Various negotiations ensued and a MOU was agreed between the United Kingdom and Jordan in 2005. On its face, the MOU provided that a receiving state would respect its obligations under international human rights law with regard to the treatment of persons returned under the MOU. In addition, it was specified that if a returned person was detained within three years of his date of return “he will be entitled to contact, and then have prompt and regular visits from the representative of an independent body nominated jointly by the UK and Jordanian authorities”. The MOU also specified that the receiving state will not impede consular access to the sending state by a person deported under the MOU.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Senegal to Send Former Chadian President Habre Back to Chad – in Breach of Assurance to the ICJ.

Published on July 9, 2011        Author: 

According to the BBC:

Former Chadian President Hissene Habre is to be sent home from Senegal to face accusations that he committed atrocities during his eight-year rule.

Senegal said Mr Habre would be flown to Chad on 11 July.

Mr Habre is blamed for killing and torturing tens of thousands of opponents between 1982 and 1990, charges he denies.

Mr Habre – sometimes dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet” – has been living in Dakar since he was ousted.

In a statement, the Chadian government said President Idriss Deby was informed about the decision to return Mr Habre by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

Dakar separately confirmed this, without providing a reason for its move.

In 2008, Mr Habre was sentenced to death by a court in Chad for planning to overthrow the government.

He was sentenced in absentia along with several rebel leaders, who launched an assault on the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, earlier that year.

This is the latest in the long running saga regarding attempts to prosecute Habre for alleged torture and crimes against humanity committed by him while in power in Chad. After failed initial attempts to prosecute him in Senegal and a request for his extradition to Belgium, the African Union got involved in the matter and requested that Senegal prosecute Habre “on behalf of Africa”. Senegal has since amended its law to allow for this but insisted that the funding for the prosecution come from the international community with the Senegalese President expressing his frustration that the money wasn’t forthcoming. In the meantime, Belgium initiated proceedings before the ICJ arguing that Senegal had failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention Against Torture to prosecute Habre or to extradite him. Belgium also requested provisional measures ordering  Senegal not to permit Habre to depart from that country. However, a further complication was added when the ECOWAS Court of Justice, in a rather strange decision, held, late last year, that Senegal could only try Habre in an ad hoc special tribunal of an inernational character. For more on the background  on the case, see this ASIL Insight and for commentary on the ICJ proceedings, see previous EJIL:Talk! posts here, here and here.  For a comment on the ECOWAS Court judgment,see the ASIL Insight and this post by Prof. Bill Schabas on his blog.

Perhaps Senegal is just frustrated by the whole process, including the involvement of international organizations and international courts, and just wishes to rid itself of the problem. Given the effort of Senegal to amend its law and the saga over funding, one can’t blame Senegal for being frustrated by the decision of the ECOWAS court (which suggests having to start over again). This is a case where an international court has not helped the process. But despite Senegal’s frustration, it will be acting in breach of a solemn commitment it gave to the ICJ during the provisional measures hearing. The main reason why the ICJ declined to indicate provisional measures was because of the assurance that Senegal had given that it would not permit Habre to leave before the Court had given its final decision. In the provisional measures decision, the Court said:

 71. Whereas the Court further notes that Senegal, both proprio motu and in response to a question put by a Member of the Court, gave a formal assurance on several occasions during the hearings that it will not allow Mr. Habré to leave its territory before the Court has given its final decision;

 72. Whereas, as the Court has recalled above, the indication of provisional measures is only justified if there is urgency; whereas the Court, taking note of the assurances given by Senegal, finds that, the risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Belgium is not apparent on the date of this Order;

73. Whereas the Court concludes from the foregoing that there does not exist, in the circumstances of the present case, any urgency to justify the indication of provisional measures by the Court;

Provisional measures ordered by the Court are binding but here the Court did not order any provisional measures on account of the assurance. So Senegal will not actually be in breach of an ICJ order. But it is bad form for a State to make such a formal assurance, which induces the Court not to make a formal order, and then for the State to breach its assurance. I’m not sure if there is a breach of a particular principle of international law here but it could be argued that Senegal would not be acting in good faith where it to return Habre to Chad. In any event, Belgium could return to the Court to ask for provisional measures before the transfer takes place. In fact the Court explicitly contemplated this  in para. 75 of the decision:

Whereas the present decision also leaves unaffected Belgium’s right to submit in future a fresh request for the indication of provisional measures, under Article 75, paragraph 3, of the Rules of Court, based on new facts;


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European States Ask Kenya to Explain Failure to Arrest Bashir

Published on September 2, 2010        Author: 

The BBC reports that a number of European Union States have summoned Kenyan Ambassadors asking them to explain why Kenya failed to arrest Sudanese President Bashir when he visited Kenya last week. The International Criminal Court has issued two warrants for the arrest of President Bashir.

“They emphasized that the UK expects the government of Kenya to stand by its obligations under the Rome Statute, and as a UN member state,” a statement from the British High Commission in Nairobi said.

Should this be regarded as practice relevant for the interpretation of the relevant parts of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute)? Art. 31(3)a of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides that in the interpretation of a treaty the interpreter shall take into account “subsequent practice in the application of the treaty”. Is the act of European countries with regard to Kenya and Bashir subsequent practice indicating the lack of immunity of Bashir though he is a sitting head of State? I think it is but one would have to set against it the practice of African States which seems to be the opposite. For subsequent practice to count under Art. 31 it must “establish the agreement of the parties regarding [the treaty’s] interpretation.”

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ICC Reports Kenya and Chad to the UN Security Council over Bashir’s Visits

Published on August 28, 2010        Author: 

Sudanese President Omar Bashir visited Kenya yesterday to take part in the celebration of the new Kenyan Constitution. As readers will know, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants for President Bashir in connnection with charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. President Bashir’s visit to Kenya is his second visit to an ICC State party. Last month Bashir visited Chad which is also a party to the ICC Statute. Both Kenya and Chad invited Bashir and both refused to comply with the ICC arrest warrants which request State parties to arrest and surrender Bashir. ICC Pre Trial Chamber I, which issued the arrest warrants, issued decisions (see here and here)  yesterday informing the United Nations Security Council and the ICC Assembly of State Parties of the visits by Bashir “in order for them to take any measure they may deem appropriate”. In the ICC decision regarding Kenya, the Chamber stated that:

“the Republic of Kenya has a clear obligation to cooperate with the Court in relation to the enforcement of such warrants of arrest, which stems both from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593(2005), whereby the United Nations Security Council “urge[d] all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully” with the Court, and from article 87 of the Statute of the Court, to which the Republic of Kenya is a State Party” [The decision with respect to Chad has a similar paragraph except that, interestingly, that decision only states that Chad has an obligation to cooperate – with the word “clear” being omitted from the first line of the paragraph.]

ICC judges have to take a large share of the blame for this situation. Despite the assertion that Kenya has a clear obligation to arrest President Bashir, the matter is by no means clear. As is well known, a decent argument can be made that Bashir, being a serving head of State is immune from arrest in other States (see the article by Professor Paola Gaeta which makes this case). I have argued the opposite in an article I wrote last year (see this post which refers to both articles). Despite very reasonable doubts and despite the importance of the issue, ICC judges in the Appeals and Pre-trial Chamber have refused to address the immunity question and to clarify matters (see previous post). Read the rest of this entry…

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ICJ Denies Belgium’s Request for Provisional Measures in the “Prosecute or Extradite” Case

Published on May 29, 2009        Author: 

Joanna Harrington is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta in Canada, where she teaches constitutional law, international law, and international criminal law. Her scholarship often examines the interplay between international human rights law and criminal law, and international law and constitutional law in general. She has written previously on matters of interim measures, arguing for the application of the ICJ’s jurisprudence to requests arising within the context of communications before the international human rights treaty monitoring bodies: see “Punting Terrorists, Assassins and Other Undesirables: Canada, the Human Rights Committee and Requests for Interim Measures of Protection” (2003) 48 McGill LJ 55.

 I wish to thank Dapo Akande, the editor of EJIL Talk!, for the invitation to express my initial (and perhaps hasty) thoughts on yesterday’s decision by the International Court of Justice (see here) concerning Belgium’s request for the indication of provisional measures in the proceedings lodged against Senegal concerning the “obligation to prosecute or extradite” Hissène Habré, the former President of Chad (1982-1990), for the commission of serious international crimes, including crimes of torture and crimes against humanity.[1] Habré has been living in Senegal since he was overthrown in 1990; however, in light of recent statements made by the Senegalese head of state intimating that Habré may be allowed to leave the territory,[2] Belgium sought an order from the ICJ requiring Senegal to ensure that such a departure did not occur. Senegal opposed Belgium’s request, challenging Belgium’s interpretation of the statements made by its President as well as the general admissibility of Belgium’s case, while also arguing that such an order was not needed given the existing controls concerning Habré. By 13 votes to one, the Court declined to make the requested order, finding that:

“the circumstances, as they now present themselves to the Court, are not such as to require the exercise of its power under Article 41 of the Statute to indicate provisional measures.”[3]

 A key factor contributing to the Court’s decision were the solemn assurances provided by Senegal, both on its own initiative and in response to a direct question put by a Member of the Court during the hearings, that it will not allow Habré to leave its territory before the Court has given its final decision.[4] Credit goes to Judge Greenwood, a recent appointment to the Court, for asking Senegal at the end of the first round of the oral observations whether it would be prepared to give a solemn assurance to the Court that it will not allow Habré to leave while this case is pending.[5] Although Senegal had said as much in its submissions, the question prompted Senegal to solemnly confirm in its closing statement to the Court that:

“Senegal will not allow Mr. Habré to leave Senegal while the present case is pending before the Court. Senegal has not the intention to allow Mr. Habré to leave the territory while the present case is pending before the Court.”[6]

 With this solemn declaration, the denial of Belgium’s request for the indication of provisional measures was a likely result, notwithstanding Belgium’s efforts to suggest that a “clear and unconditional” assurance “could be sufficient” but the need for certain “clarifications” made an order from the Court preferable.[7] The ICJ’s decision may thus be viewed as a non-result in terms of the actual request that was put before the Court, and the fact that the parties were generally in agreement as to the law governing the indication of provisional measures. Nevertheless, the reasoning behind the Court’s order is worth consideration, as are the issues raised in the relatively lengthy dissent of Judge Cançado Trindade, another new appointment to the Court.

 The Existence of a Dispute and the Involvement of the African Union

In addressing a request for the indication of provisional measures, the Court must first satisfy itself that it has prime facie jurisdiction as regards the merits of the case. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Obligation to “Extradite or Prosecute” is not an Obligation to “Prosecute or Extradite”

Published on February 23, 2009        Author: 

Joanna Harrington is Associate Professor of Law, University of Alberta, Canada. Her Phd obtained from the University of Cambridge dealt with extradition and human rights. From 2006-2008, she was on secondment to the Legal Affairs Bureau of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In that capacity, she, among other things, was a member of the Canadian delegation to the UN General Assembly for meetings of the Sixth (Legal) Committee dealing with the work of the International Law Commission.

Dapo’s post on the case in the ICJ between Belgium and Senegal highlights the real issue in the case, which is this question of whether international law “obliges” prosecution.

One aspect of the ILC’s recent work on “Extradite or prosecute” that has attracted my own interest is the Special Rapporteur’s description of this obligation as a choice, an “either/or” option for States, thus equating “extradite or prosecute” with “prosecute or extradite” (the latter being the “obligation” now invoked by Belgium).

In the very treaties that the Special Rapporteur has cited in his reports, the actual wording of the treaty provisions imposes an obligation to extradite, and IF that does not occur, THEN an obligation arises to submit the case for prosecution. In other words, there is a condition within the treaty-based provision, which the shorthand reference to “extradite or prosecute” does not convey, and which does not mean that we can look to these treaty obligations on “extradite or prosecute” to substantiate a customary obligation to “prosecute or extradite”. We can’t just flip the phrase. This is especially so where the obligation to extradite or prosecute applies to crimes for which one of the state parties to the extradition treaty would not have jurisdiction to prosecute. This happens in extradition treaties between common law and civil law countries, when the latter may invoke the nationality exception to extradition, and in return, is subject to an obligation to submit the case for consideration for national prosecution. The common law country would not be in the same position if it refused to extradite all nationals for all crimes given the territorial nature of much of common law criminal law.

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Belgium brings case against Senegal in the ICJ over Failure to Prosecute Hissene Habre

Published on February 20, 2009        Author: 

Belgium has filed a case in the ICJ against Senegal (see press release) with regard to Senegal’s failure to prosecute former Chadian Head of State, Hissene Habre. This is the latest episode in the long running saga regarding the possible prosecution of Habre. Habre is accused of torture and crimes against humanity committed in the 1980s against dissidents and political opponents during his period in office in Chad. Habre has been resident in Senegal since he was overthrown in 1990. Following the Pinochet precedent, attempts were first made in 2000 to institute criminal proceedings in Senegal against Habre. These attempts failed when the Senegalese courts held that Senegal lacked extraterritorial jurisdiction over the crimes because it had not passed the necessary legislation. Thereafter, proceedings against Habre were commenced in Belgium and, in 2005, a Beglian magistrate issued an international arrest warrant for Habre. After the African Union recommended prosecution in Senegal, that country amended its domestic law in order to provide jurisdiction for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. However, no proceedings against Habre have been commenced in Senegal though he is said to be under house arrest.

 In its Application to the ICJ Belgium, requests the Court to adjudge and declare that:

” –  the Republic of Senegal is obliged to bring criminal proceedings against Mr. H. Habré for acts including crimes of torture and crimes against humanity which are alleged against him as author, co-author or accomplice;
– failing the prosecution of Mr. H. Habré, the Republic of Senegal is obliged to extradite him to the Kingdom of Belgium so that he can answer for his crimes before the Belgian courts”.

Belgium has also requested provisional measures as the Senegalese President has suggested that Habre may be released from house arrest. Read the rest of this entry…

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