The UK’s highest court, known as the Law Lords, has given the go-ahead for the UK government to deport three men to countries where they will face a real risk of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment and flagrantly unfair trials.
Two men, referred to in legal proceedings in the UK as ‘RB’ and ‘U’, now face deportation to Algeria. The third man, Omar Othman (also known as Abu Qatada) faces being sent to Jordan.
In all three cases, the UK government is relying on diplomatic assurances given by the governments of Algeria and Jordan that the men will not be subject to serious human rights violations in their countries of origin.
Both countries are known in the past to have failed to prevent the torture and ill-treatment of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism.
The UK has been seeking to deport a number of individuals whom it alleges pose a threat to national security for some years. It has sought and relied on so-called “diplomatic assurances” from the countries to which these individuals are to be returned – countries where they may face a real risk of serious human rights violations, including torture, other ill-treatment and flagrantly unfair trials.
“It would be deeply worrying if the Law Lords’ decision were to be taken by the UK government as a green light to push ahead with deporting people to countries where they will be at risk of abuses such as torture and unfair trials,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
”Diplomatic assurances are completely unenforceable, both by the individual they are supposed to protect and by the country which relies on them – in these cases, the UK; they cannot be relied upon to give real protection against torture.”
By resorting to these assurances, Amnesty International has said that the UK government is undermining the system of international human rights treaties, including the global ban on torture and other ill-treatment, in favour of bilateral deals negotiated with countries that have already failed to live up to their existing international obligations to prevent and punish torture and other ill-treatment.
“No-one should be deported to face a risk of torture, whatever they might be alleged or suspected to have done. States simply cannot pick and choose which people have human rights,” Nicola Duckworth said.
“If these individuals in question are reasonably suspected of having committed a criminal offence relating to terrorism, it is always open to the UK authorities to charge them and give them a fair trial. What is not acceptable is to use suspicion of involvement in terrorism to justify sending someone to face a real risk of torture or other serious violations of their rights.”