Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

28 February 2008

European Court reaffirms ban on torture

European Court reaffirms ban on torture
The European Court of Human Rights has re-affirmed the absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In the court's ruling in the case of Saadi v Italy on Thursday, it found "substantial grounds had been shown for believing that there is a real risk" that Nassim Saadi would be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment if he were deported, relying heavily on reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The Italian authorities sought to deport Mr Saadi to Tunisia under the "Pisanu Law" that was originally adopted in 2005 as "an urgent measure to combat terrorism". The Italian authorities argued that he posed a security risk to Italy.

The Court deemed the reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to be credible, consistent and corroborated by numerous other sources. Amnesty International's research indicates that torture and other ill-treatment by the security forces in Tunisia are widespread.

The practices reported, including against people charged with terrorism-related offences, include hanging from the ceiling, threats of rape, administration of electric shocks, immersion of the head in water, beatings and cigarette burns. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody are not investigated by the relevant Tunisian authorities.

"Confessions" extracted under torture may be used as the principal evidence in trials that result in long prison sentences or the death penalty. Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that sending Nassim Saadi back to Tunisia would violate the Italian government’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

"This judgment should serve as a reminder to all states: not only they are not allowed to commit torture themselves, but they are forbidden from sending anyone to countries where they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment," said Ian Seiderman, Amnesty International’s Senior Legal Adviser.

The case took on additional significance when the United Kingdom intervened in an attempt to persuade the European Court to change its long-established case-law in a way that would have significantly weakened the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. The Court rejected as "misconceived" the arguments advanced by the UK, with which the Italian government had agreed.

While the Court acknowledged the immense difficulty states face in protecting their communities from terrorist violence, it affirmed that the danger of terrorism "must not however call into question the absolute nature of [the prohibition of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment]."

Country

Italy 
UK 

Region

Europe And Central Asia 

Issue

Torture And Ill-treatment 
Trials And Legal Systems 

Campaigns

Security with Human Rights 

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

19 December 2014

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming... Read more »

18 December 2014

The rights of migrants are being trampled across the globe as they face economic exploitation, discrimination and racism in a range of countries.

Read more »
22 December 2014

Pakistan's reported plans to execute 500 more people are “deeply disturbing” and would do nothing to protect civilians from the conflict with the Taliban.

Read more »
24 December 2014

Pro-Kyiv volunteer battalions are increasingly blocking humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine in a move which will exacerbate a pending humanitarian crisis in the run up to... Read more »

23 December 2014

Torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq’s Yezidi minority who were abducted by the armed group calling itself the... Read more »