28 March 2014

Based on reports of frequent torture of detainees suspected of belonging to armed groups operating in the North Caucasus, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) this week ruled that, despite diplomatic assurances to the contrary, the extradition of a Chechen man from Bulgaria to Russia would violate his rights under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court also relied on the common failure of the Russian authorities to conduct an effective investigation into allegations of abuse in pre-trial detention facilities in the North Caucasus. In addition, in this case the Russian government had not specified to the ECtHR what practical steps the authorities would take to protect the applicant from ill-treatment.

Finally, the Bulgarian court was criticised by the ECtHR for relying exclusively on the Russian authorities’ diplomatic assurances, and failing to adequately consider the risk of abuse to the applicant if extradited.

The ECtHR was persuaded that the applicant, who is charged by Russia with offenses relating to the activities of armed Chechen insurgent group, would be particularly exposed to the danger of being tortured to deliver a confession. In reaching this conclusion, the ECtHR relied on the 2011 visit reports of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, and the 2012 Concluding Observations of the UN Committee Against Torture. According to the ECtHR, all these reports testify that detainees charged with offences like those against the applicant are systematically subjected to ill-treatment.

The applicant, who was intercepted by the Bulgarian authorities at the Bulgarian-Romanian border, had obtained refugee status with his wife and children in Poland and Germany in 2004 and 2005.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 March 2014
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