Home Human Rights Archive for category "Extraterritorial Application" (Page 13)

Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi Merits Judgment

Published on March 2, 2010        Author: 

The Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v. United Kingdom (no. 61498/08) judgment by a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights is now out (HUDOC). For our previous coverage, with links and background, see here and here. The shortest possible summary – the applicants won, and the Chamber judgment is a valuable contribution to human rights jurisprudence. Now for more detail.

Readers will recall that the basic question raised by the case is whether the transfer by the UK of the applicants who were in the custody of UK troops in Iraq to Iraqi authorities for trial violated the applicants ECHR rights, specifically the non-refoulement principle established by the Court in Soering v. UK, inter alia because there was serious risk of them being subjected to the death penalty. In Soering itself the issue was the surrender of the applicant to the US, where there was serious risk of him being subjected to the death penalty. However, the death penalty was at the time still not outlawed with respect to the UK by Protocols 6 and 13, and so the actual issue was inhuman treatment that the applicant would suffer as a consequence of the death row phenomenon. Likewise, without the two protocols, Article 2(1) ECHR specifically contemplates the death penalty, and it as such could not be held to be contrary to other provisions of the Convention, namely Article 3 prohibiting all forms of ill-treatment.

Now in Al-Saadoon we have the first merits judgment dealing specifically only with the death penalty and non-refoulement. The Court started its analysis by considering the developments in both treaty action and in its case law with regard to the death penalty since Soering:

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Canadian Supreme Court decision in Khadr

Published on January 29, 2010        Author: 

Late last year, we posted some reflections by myself and Elizabeth Prochaska on the pending Canadian Supreme Court case of the Prime Minister & Ors v Omar Khadr.

The court handed down its decision today, allowing the Prime Minister’s appeal in part. The court held that the trial court’s remedial discretion had miscarried and that an order directing the Prime Minister of Canada to seek Khadr’s repatriation was – at least for now – an impermissible intrusion upon the Executive’s prerogative in foreign affairs.

The result is disappointing, from the point of view of those of us who had hoped that the Supreme Court might force the hand of the Harper government by ordering to do what it has steadfastly refused to do – request Khadr’s return to Canada after seven and a half years in GTMO.

However, the decision (which was unanimous) is an interesting combination of deference to executive decision-making on the matter of requesting repatriation, and categorical condemnation of Canadian agents’ complicity in an abusive detention and interrogation regime.

The court held:

[24] We conclude that Canadian conduct in connection with Mr. Khadr’s case  did not conform to the principles of fundamental justice. That conduct may be briefly reviewed.  The statements taken by CSIS and DFAIT were obtained through participation  in a regime which was known at the time to have refused detainees the right to challenge the legality of detention by way of habeas corpus.It was also known that Mr. Khadr was 16 years old at the time and that he had not had access to counsel or to any adult who had his best interests in mind. As held by this Court in  Khadr 2008, Canada’s participation in the illegal process in place at Guantanamo Bay clearly violated Canada’s binding international obligations (Khadr 2008, at paras. 23-25; Hamdan v. Rumsfeld).  In conducting their interviews, CSIS officials had control over the questions asked and the subject matter of the interviews (Transcript of cross-examination on Affidavit of Mr. Hopper, Exhibit “GG” to Affidavit of Lt. Cdr. William Kuebler, March 2, 2005 (J.R., vol. III, at p. 313, at p. 22)). Canadian officials also knew that the U.S. authorities would have full access to the contents of the interrogations (as Canadian officials sought no restrictions on their use) by virtue of their audio and video recording (CSIS’s Role in the Matter of Omar Khadr, at pp. 11-12).  The purpose of the interviews was for intelligence gathering and not criminal investigation.  While in some contexts there may be an important distinction between those interviews conducted for the purpose of intelligence gathering and those conducted in criminal investigations, here, the distinction loses its significance.  Canadian officials questioned Mr. Khadr on matters that may have provided important evidence relating to his criminal proceedings, in circumstances where they knew that Mr. Khadr was being indefinitely detained, was a young person and was alone during the interrogations.  Further, the March 2004 interview, where Mr. Khadr refused to answer questions, was conducted knowing that Mr. Khadr had been subjected to three weeks of scheduled sleep deprivation, a measure described by the U.S. Military Commission in Jawad as designed to “make [detainees] more compliant and break down their resistance to interrogation” (para. 4).

[25] This conduct establishes Canadian participation in state conduct that violates the principles of fundamental justice. Interrogation of a youth, to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel, and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the U.S. prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.

[31] The acts that perpetrated the Charter breaches relied on in this appeal lie in the past.  But their impact on Mr. Khadr’s liberty and security continue to this day and may redound into the future.  The impact of the breaches is thus perpetuated into the present.  When past acts violate present liberties, a present remedy may be required. Read the rest of this entry…

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Norm Conflicts and Human Rights

Published on May 13, 2009        Author: 

Consider the following scenario: the United Kingdom, together with the United States and other allies, invaded Iraq in 2003. From that point on, there was an international armed conflict between the UK and Iraq. Further, as it obtained effective control over certain parts of Iraqi territory, the UK became the occupying power of these territories. Under Art. 21 of the Third Geneva Convention, and Arts. 41-43 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the UK had legal authority to subject enemy POWs and civilians to internment.

Yet, on the other hand, the UK is a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights. In some circumstances, the ECHR applies extraterritorially. What those circumstances are is an (overly) complex question, but the UK has conceded in the Al-Skeini case before its domestic courts that the ECHR applies to extraterritorial detention.

Unlike Article 9 ICCPR, which sets a standard by prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention, Article 5 ECHR contains a categorical prohibition of detention, except on a limited number of grounds. Preventive detention or internment on security grounds is not one of them. Further, Article 5(4) ECHR requires judicial review of any detention, while Art. 5 GC III only provides for status tribunals if POW status is doubt, and Art. 43 GC IV expressly permits review of detention by mere administrative boards.

So, on one hand we have IHL treaties expressly authorizing preventive detention or internment. On the other we have the ECHR expressly prohibiting such detention. No amount of interpretation can bring the two rules into harmony – they are in a state of genuine norm conflict. That norm conflict could have been avoided had the UK made a derogation under Art. 15 ECHR, but it did not do so (and there is a further question whether it could have actually done so, which needs ti be clarified in the future, though in my view the answer is clearly in the affirmative).

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