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An Appraisal of Diplomatic Assurances One Year after Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom (2012)

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In Abu Qatada v UK, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that deportation with assurances would not be in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the Convention. Rather it found that deportation would breach one of the qualified, derogable rights of the Convention, Article 6 (right to a fair trial), because of the real risk that torture-based evidence would be admitted at the applicant’s retrial in Jordan. After an overview of Abu Qatada’s long-standing legal battle before and after the ECtHR’s decision, this article argues that reliance on diplomatic assurances on the fair treatment of the returnee enhances the risk that human rights are redefined into a political issue where power is delegated to the executive and security sphere. It concludes that the general image of the ECtHR, one year after Abu Qatada, is one of a tightrope walker nimbly (yet not always convincingly) keeping the equilibrium between, on the one hand, the effort to protect human rights, and on the other hand, the exigency to uphold States’ needs to combat terrorism at all costs, even cooperating on deportation with countries that notoriously violate human rights.

Affiliations: 1: PhD Researcher, School of International Studies, Trento University,


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