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‘DIPLOMATIC ASSURANCES’ NOT AN ADEQUATE SAFEGUARD FOR DEPORTEES, UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR AGAINST TORTURE WARNS

23 August 2005

The Special Rapporteur on questions relating to torture strongly condemns all acts of terrorism, including the bombings which took place in London on 7 July 2005 and the subsequent attempted attacks and expresses his sympathy to the Govenrment of the United Kingdom and the families of all the victims.

The Special Rapporteur, an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, would like to refer to the Prime Minister Blair’s statement of 5 August 2005, where he indicated that from now on, due to changed circumstances of national security, the United Kingdom will deport persons to their home countries even in cases where these countries have been found to violate international minimum standards, including the absolute prohibition of torture, in the past. The Prime Minister argues that memoranda of understanding containing what he calls “necessary assurances from the countries to which we will return the deportees, against their being subject to torture or ill-treatment contrary to Article 3” constitute a sufficient guarantee to avoid violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. On 10 August 2005 a first memorandum was signed with Jordan. The Prime Minister also indicated that the conclusion of other memoranda is on-going.

The Special Rapporteur fears that the plan of the United Kingdom to request diplomatic assurances for the purpose of expelling persons in spite of a risk of torture reflects a tendency in Europe to circumvent the international obligation not to deport anybody if there is a serious risk that he or she might be subjected to torture. The fact that such assurances are sought shows in itself that the sending country perceives a serious risk of the deportee being subjected to torture or ill treatment upon arrival in the receiving country. Diplomatic assurances are not an appropriate tool to eradicate this risk.

Most of the states with which memoranda might presumably be concluded are parties to the United Nations Convention against Torture (Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and Yemen) and/or to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and Yemen) and are therefore already obliged vis-a-vis other States parties (including the United Kingdom) not to resort to torture or ill treatment under any circumstances. Such memoranda of understanding therefore do not provide any additional protection to the deportees.

The Special Rapporteur calls on Governments to observe the principle of non-refoulement scrupulously and to not expel any person to frontiers or territories where they run a serious risk of torture and ill treatment. In addition, the Special Rapporteur requests Governments to refrain from seeking diplomatic assurances and the conclusion of memoranda of understanding in order to circumvent their international obligation not to deport anybody if there is a serious risk of torture or ill treatment.

For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit the website: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/torture/rapporteur/index.htm