A little noticed judgment by the European Court of Human Rights last week established beyond doubt that a government may not deport an individual to a country where he or she may be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The landmark, unanimous judgement was made by the Court's Grand Chamber and is therefore final, beyond appeal. Britain has been one of the countries chafing at the bit over an earlier judgement of the Court in the same sense and in a few cases has dismissed the “risk of torture or other ill-treatment” provision in far too loose a way. The readiness to rely on “diplomatic assurances” that no such practices are followed has led to individuals being sent back home to countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Libya even though there is plenty of evidence that they would be at serious risk of re-arrest and rough treatment. One interested observer of the European Court's judgement will have been Britain's former Home Secretary John Reid, now chairman of Celtic FC.
Commenting on a similar earlier decision by the Court, in the case of an Indian Sikh activist who Britain have been trying to deport for twelve years, Mr Reid said that the European judges “just don't get it”. The judges have now said clearly and definitively that the ban on torture under Article 3 of the European Convention is absolute, no matter how serious the crime of the accused person might be.