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Home Archive for category "Rendition"

Offshore Processing and Complicity in Current EU Migration Policies (Part 2)

Published on October 11, 2017        Author:  and

In the first part of our blog post we reconstructed a complex web of migration policies that indicate a shift towards offshore processing of asylum claims in Niger and possibly Chad. In this second part, we seek to answer an obvious yet difficult legal question, namely who bears responsibility in scenarios of extraterritorial complicity such as this one? As described in part one, the new plan could not be implemented without the close cooperation of various actors: European Union (EU) institutions and Member States, third countries (Niger and/or Chad) and UN organisations (IOM and UNHCR).

Our discussion focuses on issues of responsibility and jurisdiction arising when bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against any of the Member States involved in the setting up and implementation of the offshoring mechanism. Read the rest of this entry…

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The ECtHR Finds the US Guilty of Torture – As an Indispensable Third Party?

Published on July 28, 2014        Author: 

The recent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in two cases concerning secret detention in Poland are remarkable, not the least because their bold approach in respect of human rights violations committed by a third party, in this case the United States of America. Of course, the US is not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights and was not a participant in the proceedings. In both cases Poland was found to have violated a number of ECHR provisions, including articles 3 and 5, by hosting a CIA black site and by otherwise participating in the US programme of secret detention and extraordinary renditions.

In paragraph 516 of Al Nashiri v. Poland (Application no. 28761/11, Chamber Judgment of 24 July 2014), the Court concludes:

In view of the foregoing, the Court concludes that the treatment to which the applicant was subjected by the CIA during his detention in Poland at the relevant time amounted to torture within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention (…).

The same conclusion appears in paragraph 511 of Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Poland (Application no. 7511/13, Chamber Judgment of 24 July 2014). Immediately after the finding on torture by the US, the Court makes its finding in respect of Poland (Al Nashiri para. 517).:

Accordingly, the Polish State, on account of its “acquiescence and connivance” in the HVD Programme must be regarded as responsible for the violation of the applicant’s rights under Article 3 of the Convention committed on its territory …

One may ask whether the ECtHR through its formulations in paras. 516-517 created a situation where the US was an indispensable third party, to the effect that the finding in respect of the lawfulness of conduct by the US was a prerequisite for a conclusion in relation to Poland, even if the Court obviously did not consider the US participation in the proceedings (or consent to its jurisdiction) to be indispensable.

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Convicted CIA Agent Seeks Pardon from Italian President

Published on September 13, 2013        Author: 

Mr Robert Seldon Lady, one of the CIA agents convicted in absentia in Italy for their involvement in the abduction/rendition of Abu Omar, has petitioned the President of Italy for pardon. The letter is available here, and is a fascinating read (not least because the guy’s (real?) last name is Lady, his middle name reminds me of one of my favourite sci-fi characters, and we can actually see a copy of a CIA agent’s passport). He supports his request with a number of arguments: that he could not properly defend himself as that would require the unauthorized disclosure of classified information; that he was acting under orders and with legal advice that his actions were lawful; and perhaps most interestingly that Italy itself is invoking before Indian courts the functional immunity of its agents who killed a couple of Indian fishermen, essentially asking Italy to apply the same theory on immunity at home that it wishes to apply abroad.

Indeed, earlier this year the Italian president had pardoned US Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, the only non-CIA employee who was convicted in the Abu Omar affair (BBC News article). From what I can tell the President’s official decision to pardon Romano is not available online, but the presidency press release is available here in Italian. The President invoked inter alia the change in US policy by the Obama administration, the purpose for which Romano was acting in the context of the 9/11 attacks, and the changed normative situation in Italy in respect of immunity regarding crimes committed on Italian soil by NATO troops. We’ll see whether the President will treat Mr Lady in the same way, but if he does it would be hard to see why any of the other 21 CIA agents should not receive pardons as well.

For more background and our earlier coverage, see in particular this post by Francesco Messineo and his JICJ article cited therein, as well as these posts by Dapo on the immunity of the CIA agents, and the posts on the Indian affair by Douglas Guilfoyle and Hari Sankar.

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The ECtHR Finds Macedonia Responsible in Connection with Torture by the CIA, but on What Basis?

Published on December 24, 2012        Author: 

André Nollkaemper is Professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam. He directs the project on ‘Shared Responsibility in International Law’ (SHARES); this piece is cross-posted on the SHARES Blog.

On 13 December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’) found the that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (‘Macedonia’) was responsible in connection with the ill-treatment and torture of Khaled El-Masri. The judgment adds a further chapter to the Court’s rich case law on situations where a state party is held responsible in connection with the (wrongful) acts of another state.

El-Masri, a Lebanese-born German national, alleged that in the period from 31 December 2003 to 29 May 2004 he had been subjected to a secret rendition operation, in which agents of Macedonia had arrested him, held him incommunicado, questioned and ill-treated him, and handed him over at Skopje Airport to CIA agents who then transferred him to Afghanistan, where he had been detained and ill-treated for over four months.

No one who reads the facts of the case will argue with the Court’s conclusion that Macedonia had to bear international responsibility. The question is on what grounds one can base this conclusion.

The approach chosen by the Court may surprise many international lawyers. Influenced by decades of work of the International Law Commission (‘ILC’), their approach would be a combination of attribution of conduct on the one hand and the breach of an international obligation, on the other: Macedonia then would be responsible for handing over El-Masri to the CIA, in the face of risk (if not certainty) that he would be ill-treated and tortured. They would not normally say that the act of ill-treatment at the hands of the CIA itself is attributed to Macedonia, but limit Macedonia´s responsibility to its own wrongful conduct. This distinction may seem a legal nicety, but it may have practical relevance (for questions of evidence and reparation) and also reflects that what is essentially a sovereignty-based consideration: it should not easily be presumed that a state is responsible for acts committed by another subject of international law.

The Court takes a somewhat different approach. But it is quite difficult to figure out what exactly this approach is. While the fact that the Court does not feel compelled to follow the ILC´s conceptual straightjacket is in many respects refreshing, its own line is at times somewhat inconsistent and confusing. For one thing, it is difficult to see why the Court uses interchangeably the terms ´attribution´ and ´imputation´ – one may guess that the Court uses the latter when it seeks to leave aside the ILC´s approach, but it would be nice if the Court would not invite us to speculate.

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