Law Lords to consider “deportation to torture” appeals

23 October 2008

Liberty is intervening in an appeal to the Law Lords by two Algerians (“RB” and “U”) facing deportation despite concerns that they may face ill-treatment or torture if returned. Two other Algerians deported in January 2007 were detained and reportedly ill-treated despite a UK-Algeria understanding that their human rights would be protected. In the three-day hearing which starts today, Liberty will argue that such “diplomatic assurances” are inherently unreliable and should carry little if any weight in deciding whether the risk of torture has been eliminated.

Liberty’s Legal Officer Corinna Ferguson, intervening in the case, said:

“It is preposterous that information supposedly proving that Algeria will provide these men a safe return must be kept secret. Our Government’s zeal for extensive secrecy is denying them full protection against the threat of torture.”

Liberty also argues that the men should be allowed to view the crux of the evidence which the Government relies on to demonstrate that they pose a threat to national security. Without this basic information, Liberty claims, the suspects cannot possibly deal effectively with the allegations against them.

The UK is obligated under the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) not to forcibly deport individuals to countries which are known human rights abusers. Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights also stipulates that a state must not return a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he might be tortured. Liberty believes that the full and necessary procedural protections cannot possibly be in place when secret evidence is taken into account without ever being seen by the person concerned or his legal representatives.

Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128

Notes to Editors

1. The UK government claims that “RB” and “U” pose a threat to national security. This is based on evidence that has not been disclosed to them.

2. The UK Government has received assurances from the Algerian government regarding the treatment of “RB” and “U”, however, the assurances do not state that the Algerian authorities would comply with international law obligations relating to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Further, there is no agreed upon mechanism for monitoring their treatment upon return.

3. The UK Government has secured “Memoranda of Understanding” prohibiting torture or ill-treatment of detainees with Jordan, Libya and the Lebanon to return foreign nationals held in the UK to those countries. Algeria has refused to sign such an agreement.

4. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2007 voiced the following concerns about human rights in Algeria: “As well as violence committed by armed Islamist groups during the 1990s, there are numerous documented allegations of human rights abuses by the Algerian security forces and state-armed militia. These included enforced disappearances, abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings. The UK Government continues to urge the Algerian Government to comply fully with all its obligations under international human rights law, including the investigation of human rights violations.”

5. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is an immigration tribunal empowered to hear appeals by foreign nationals facing deportation because they are accused of posing a threat to the national security of the UK. SIAC is allowed to conduct closed hearings which exclude the deportee and legal representatives.