Thursday, 19 February 2009

United Kingdom breaches European Convention on Human Rights in post-9/11 anti-terror measures - but just a bit

The European Court of Human Rights* (ECtHR) today has issued a Grand Chamber (thus final) judgement that the United Kingdom broke the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by unlawfully detaining nine suspected terrorists.

I am still trying to understand the judgement, because the press release is badly written, but what is sure is that 9 mostly North-African nationals were held as suspected "international terrorists" and were kept in continuous detention because the UK was not able to deport them due to the fear that they would be tortured in their home countries.

Apparently, this custody was not in conformity with the Article 5 of the ECHR (right to liberty and protection from unlawful detention).

Yet, there is some very strange reasoning in the text:

The Court acknowledges inter alia that there has been a “public emergency threatening the life of the nation” (as defined by the UK) which made these measures not as bad as they were in other circumstances (also taking into account that there might have been a risk of mistreatment in their home countries if deported):
The Court made awards under Article 41 (just satisfaction) which were substantially lower than those which it had made in past cases of unlawful detention, in view of the fact that the detention scheme was devised in the face of a public emergency and as an attempt to reconcile the need to protect the United Kingdom public against terrorism with the obligation not to send the applicants back to countries where they faced a real risk of ill-treatment.
I am not fully into the case, but all this reasoning sounds rather imprecise, more like a compromise that doesn't hurt the UK than a pro-human-rights verdict!

Read also: the International Harald Tribune article

*The ECHR technically belongs to the 47 member states strong Council of Europe and should not be confused with the European Court of Justice belonging to the EU


Eurocentric said...

Sounds interesting - I think I'll have a look myself.