Deportation and Promises not to Torture: The European Convention on Human Rights and Diplomatic Assurances

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Darragh Coffey, Darwin College
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, November 15, 2016 - 13:00 to 14:00

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights states 'no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The European Court of Human Rights has interpreted this as preventing contracting states from sending individuals to places where there is a risk of such ill-treatment. This interpretation has created difficulties for contracting states. This is because some of these states commonly use deportation to remove individuals who pose a threat to national security. In response to this, some ECHR states have begun to seek diplomatic assurances from receiving states. In essence these diplomatic assurances are political promises. The receiving state promises that the deported person will not be ill-treated after deportation. Interestingly, the states that provide these assurances are often already signed up to international agreements that prohibit ill-treatment. For example, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This raises some interesting questions. If these agreements are being respected why would diplomatic assurances be necessary? On the other hand, if these multilateral international legal commitments are not being respected why should we think that bilateral, political promises will be? What does this phenomenon say about the international rule of law?
Darragh Coffey is a third-year PhD student in Law. His research examines the legal and practical value of diplomatic assurances in this context. He addresses what these promises add to the legal mechanisms for the protection of individuals against ill-treatment. What are the consequences of the international acceptance of this practice? In this talk he will provide a general, descriptive overview of the legal and factual contexts in which his research sits. He will flesh out the questions that have driven his work and propose some tentative answers.

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