Ramzy v The Netherlands

Forum: European Court of Human Rights
INTERIGHTS role: Joint third party interveners
Keywords: Torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, non-refoulement

INTERIGHTS co-ordinated a group of seven international NGOs engaged as third party interveners before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in this case which concerned the proposed deportation of the applicant to Algeria where, he claimed, he would be subjected to torture or ill-treatment as a terrorist suspect. The ECtHR struck out the case in a judgment handed down in July 2010, as the applicants’ whereabouts could not be ascertained. The UK and other European governments had also intervened to challenge the absolute nature of the prohibition under the European Convention on Human Rights of deporting individuals to countries where there is a risk of torture or ill-treatment. In September 2006, an expulsion order against Mr. Ramzy entered into force; however, pursuant to provisional measures imposed by the ECtHR, it could not be implemented until the end of the Strasbourg proceedings. The case raised important issues regarding the assessment of the risk of torture or ill-treatment and the onus on the applicant to prove such risk, which will continue to be critical to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.

The ECtHR took note of the NGO and government third party interventions in a similar case decided on the same day, A v The Netherlands (Application no. 4900/06). In this latter case, the applicant, whom the Netherlands considered to pose a threat to national security, alleged that his expulsion to Libya would put him at a real risk of torture as a consequence of his participation in a Libyan opposition group and testimony regarding the group in a trial in the Netherlands. He further asserted that the Netherlands had failed to investigate and assess sufficiently his claim that in Libya there existed for him a real risk of exposure to treatment contrary to Article 3. The Netherlands submitted that such an investigation was also necessary to safeguard against the possibility that it would be resigned to accepting the presence of the applicant, whom it considered a threat to the fundamental rights of its citizens. The ECtHR reaffirmed the general principles, recently elaborated in Saadi v Italy (Application no. 37201/06, Judgment 28 February 2008), that the prohibition against refoulement under Article 3 is absolute in nature, irrespective of the conduct of the person concerned, however undesirable or dangerous this may be. The ECtHR considered that the applicant’s circumstances, including his acquittal for terrorism-related charges in the Netherlands, and determined that he faced a real risk of ill-treatment if he were expelled to Libya.

To read the joint third party intervention in Ramzy v The Netherlands click here

To read the press release from the ECtHR (20 July 2010) click here

To access the text of judgments from the ECtHR click here

INTERIGHTS contact: Vesi Vandova, Senior Lawyer, Security and Rule of Law.