Amnesty attacks UK no-torture pacts


Amnesty attacks UK no-torture pacts

Diplomatic assurances that deportees will not be tortured 'simply cannot be trusted', says human rights group

Sami Ben Khemais Essid

Sami Ben Khemais Essid, who was deported from Italy to Tunisia in June 2008 and alleged that he was tortured there. Photograph: Maurizio Viale/AP

Britain is singled out as "the most influential and aggressive" promoter of the policy of seeking unenforceable "diplomatic assurances" that individuals deported on security grounds will not be tortured, in an Amnesty International report today.

It calls on the UK and 11 other European countries to immediately end the practice of striking "no-torture" deals. The report – Dangerous Deals: Europe's reliance on diplomatic assurances against torture – says governments are attempting to send foreigners alleged to be security threats to countries where they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment in exchange for unreliable, unenforceable assurances that they will be treated humanely.

The special immigration appeals commission is due tomorrow to hear the case of an unidentified Ethiopian national threatened with deportation based on a "memorandum of understanding" between the UK and Ethiopia that promises the man will not be tortured upon his return. Amnesty has documented serious human rights abuses in Ethiopia and says diplomatic deals with Ethiopia are an extremely unreliable guide to future treatment in that country.

Julia Hall, Amnesty's expert on counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe, said: "Assurances against torture from governments that routinely practise such abuse simply cannot be trusted. European governments that accept these hollow promises are undermining the absolute prohibition of torture."

She added: "The best way to prevent torture is to refuse to send people to places where they risk being harmed. European governments must recommit to the fundamentals of human rights protection. That means safeguarding people from abuse by abiding by their international obligations. Diplomatic assurances do not provide such a safeguard and the practice of relying on them should be abandoned."

The use of diplomatic assurances on torture has increased considerably since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, according to today's report. It lists 12 European countries involved in the practice: Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Britain. Some countries have developed specific laws or policies that enshrine the practice.

Amnesty challenges the claim that securing assurances of humane treatment means such transfers are therefore "human rights friendly". On the contrary, the organisation insists that a reliance on diplomatic assurances threatens the global ban on torture or other ill-treatment.

It cites a number of cases, including that of Sami Ben Khemais Essid, who was deported from Italy to Tunisia in June 2008 after Tunisian officials said he would not be ill-treated in custody there. Eight months after his return, he alleged that he was tortured during an interrogation at the Tunisian interior ministry. Similar allegations have been made by people forcibly returned to other countries, including Egypt and Russia.

Amnesty refers to the latest annual report of the Foreign Office, published last month, which says the government will "continue to negotiate new memoranda of understanding in 2010".

It points to serious concerns expressed about Ethiopia's human rights record, including:

• Arbitrary arrests and the torture and ill–treatment of detainees – in particular those perceived as associated with armed opposition groups and some opposition parties.

• 100 renditions in the horn of Africa.

• The lack of independence of the Ethiopian national human rights commission, identified by the UK as the post-return monitoring body

• Profound problems in monitoring human rights violations in Ethiopia due to restrictions and obstruction by the government, including interference with access to detainees by their families, lawyers, the media, and independent monitoring bodies.




10:28 Posted by Universal in Actualité | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: britain, amnesty attacks uk, no-torture pacts |  Facebook |

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