Amnesty International is calling on the member states of the European Union to reject diplomatic assurances against torture and other forms of ill-treatment from countries where people are at risk of severe human rights violations.
In the report Dangerous deals: Europe’s Reliance on “Diplomatic Assurances” against torture, released today, Amnesty International shows that several EU member states have refused to rule out the possibility to extradite individuals who are deemed to constitute “a threat to national security” by arguing that such transfers can be “human rights friendly” – a notion that is false and threatens the absolute ban on torture. Several cases in the report illustrate how the use of diplomatic assurances threatens the ban on global torture and how deficiencies in the practice have lead to some individuals being tortured and ill-treated.
“Both the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture clearly state that it is prohibited to return people to places where they risk being ill-treated. Yet, countries in the EU ignore their international obligations by relying on hollow diplomatic assurances from countries where post-return monitoring is flawed and torture and other ill-treatment is well-documented,” says Nicolas Beger, the director of Amnesty International’s EU office.
The United Kingdom has been the most influential and active promoter in Europe of the use of diplomatic assurances to forcibly return people to countries with appalling human rights records. The UK government has negotiated framework agreements with Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya, which include promises that the receiving countries will treat returned individuals humanely. The United Kingdom is planning to continue to conclude similar framework agreements in the future despite widespread criticism, the overwhelming risk of torture and judgments from the European Court of Human Rights stating that diplomatic assurances don’t protect individuals from torture.
Italy has deported several individuals alleged to be terrorist suspects to Tunisia and other countries since 2008 and at least one individual was tortured eight months after being returned despite assurances from Tunisian authorities that he would not be ill-treated upon return. Human rights violations have also been experienced by people deported from Spain to Russia. Against all the evidence, other EU member states such as Sweden and Denmark have stated that they will not rule out the use of diplomatic assurances in the future and only a decision by the European Court of Human Rights is currently preventing Germany from deporting a person to Turkey.
“European governments use diplomatic assurances in their own self-interest to evade their international responsibilities. It is time for EU countries to fully respect the human rights of all individuals and instead focus on eliminating torture in countries where it is persistent,” concludes Beger.