European Court blocks deportation of Omar Othman (aka Abu Qatada)
(Brussels, 17 January 2012) The European Court of Human Rights’ has ruled that the UK must halt its planned deportation to Jordan of Abu Qatada, a Jordanian national, on national security grounds.
The Court found that if the UK deported Abu Qatada to Jordan it would violate his right to a fair trial. However, the Court also found that deporting him based on diplomatic assurances negotiated between the British and Jordanian governments would not violate his right not to be tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
“The European Court has firmly declared that a person cannot be deported to stand trial in proceedings where evidence gained through torture is likely to be admitted," said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European institutions office. “The Court concluded that the use of torture evidence is illegal, immoral, and nullifies the right to a fair trial."
"This positive development is eclipsed by the Court’s conclusion that diplomatic assurances can, under certain circumstances, be sufficient to reduce the risk of torture. This is an alarming setback for human rights”, said Beger. “Diplomatic assurances aren’t a substitute for respecting the legal obligation not to send a person to a place where he is at a real risk of torture. People have been and will continue to be harmed by such attempts to avoid binding legal obligations by securing unreliable and unenforceable promises.”
Abu Qatada appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in February 2009 after the UK’s then highest court, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, approved his deportation to Jordan supported by diplomatic assurances that he would not be subject to serious human rights violations.
Abu Qatada, who has had refugee status in the UK since 1994, was convicted in absentia in Jordan at two separate trials in 1999 and 2000 for terrorism-related offences, and sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 years’ imprisonment respectively.
In October 2009, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Justice submitted a joint intervention to the European Court raising concerns about relying on diplomatic assurances to justify the transfer of people to countries where they would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
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