Tortuous ruling may fuel demands for secret trials
Would you believe the promise of a torturer not to torture someone? Unless you were an especially trusting person, probably not. In recent years, however, the UK government has struck a series of deals with countries known for torturing their citizens – including Algeria, Jordan and Libya under Muammar Gaddafi – as part of its efforts to deport suspected foreign terrorists.
The background to these murky deals is, of course, the prohibition against torture under both the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture. In the 1996 case of Chahal, involving the UK's attempt to deport a Sikh activist to India, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the convention did not just prohibit the UK torturing a suspect, but also the UK sending a suspect to any country where they faced a real risk of torture. In that case, the Indian government gave the home secretary an assurance that Chahal would have 'no reason to expect to suffer mistreatment of any kind', but the court was unconvinced: no doubt the Indian government was sincere, it ruled, but it had a poor record of being able to control its security forces in the Punjab and elsewhere.
The UK government's knock-back in the Chahal case did not stop it trying, however. Following an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate assurances with the Mubarak regime for the return of four suspects to Egypt in 1999, the British government began a fresh round of negotiations with various Middle Eastern countries following the Belmarsh judgment in December 2004. Less than five weeks after the 7/7 bombings, the UK government struck its first deal: a Memorandum of Understanding with Jordan ('MoU'). (...)