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UK parliament rights panel assails Blair stance on deportation to torture states

[JURIST] The UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights [official website] took the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to task Friday for urging [JURIST report] the European Court of Human Rights [official website] to revisit its absolute prohibition against deporting people to states where they may be tortured and for entering into diplomatic agreements with those states purporting to guarantee good treatment for detainees. The Committee made its points in the context of a new report [text] on UK compliance with the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture [text].

Addressing the government's expressed intention to intervene in an ECHR case involving the interpretation of its 1997 ruling in Chahal v UK, the case that established the torture deportation ban, the Committee said:

Whilst we acknowledge the Government's right to intervene in any appropriate case before the European Court of Human Rights, we are concerned that the intervention...in arguing for deportations of terrorist suspects despite a real risk of torture on their return, may send a signal that the absolute prohibition on torture may in some circumstances be overruled by national security considerations. We reiterate our view that the absolute nature of the prohibition on torture precludes any balancing exercise between considerations of national security and the risk of torture. In our view, the principle established in Chahal v UK is essential to effective protection against torture, and accordingly should be maintained and respected.

We consider it unlikely that the Government will succeed in its attempt to secure a revision of the Chahal decision. We note that even if the Government were to succeed, the absolute prohibition on torture, and on expulsion to face a real risk of torture, would in any event remain binding on the Government under the Convention Against Torture, and any expulsion carried out despite a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment would be likely to breach these obligations.
On the diplomatic assurance agreements with states believed to have engaged in torture, the committee concluded:
The evidence we have heard in this inquiry, and our scrutiny of the Memoranda of Understanding agreed between the Government and the Governments of Libya, Lebanon and Jordan, have left us with grave concerns that the Government's policy of reliance on diplomatic assurances could place deported individuals at real risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, without any reliable means of redress....

We therefore agree with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the European Commissioner for Human Rights and others that the Government's policy of reliance on diplomatic assurances against torture could well undermine well-established international obligations not to deport anybody if there is a serious risk of torture or ill-treatment in the receiving country. We further consider that, if relied on in practice, diplomatic assurances such as those to be agreed under the Memoranda of Understanding with Jordan, Libya and Lebanon present a substantial risk of individuals actually being tortured, leaving the UK in breach of its obligations under Article 3 UNCAT, as well as Article 3 ECHR. We are also concerned that Memoranda of Understanding lack enforceable remedies in an event of a breach of the terms of the Memoranda.
Politics.co.uk has more.

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