France: renvoi en Algérie en violation de la mesure provisoire de la Cour EDH
M.A. c. France, arrêt du 1er février 2018
Le requérant soutient que son renvoi en Algérie l’exposait à un risque sérieux de traitements contraires à l’article 3 (interdiction de la torture et des traitements inhumains et dégradants), le gouvernement algérien étant informé de sa condamnation en France pour des faits liés au terrorisme. Il soutient avoir subi de tels traitements depuis son arrivée en Algérie et rester exposé à des risques futurs. Il allègue qu’en le remettant aux autorités algériennes, en violation de la mesure provisoire indiquée par la Cour, le gouvernement français a manqué à ses obligations au titre de l’article 34 (droit de requête individuelle). Enfin, le requérant invoque également l’article 8 (droit au
respect de la vie privée et familiale), ainsi que l’article 3 au titre de son épouse et de ses enfants.
La Cour réaffirme qu’il est légitime que les États contractants fassent preuve d’une grande fermeté à l’égard de ceux qui contribuent à des actes de terrorisme. Elle observe, en l’espèce, que des rapports du Comité des Nations Unies contre la torture et de plusieurs ONG décrivent une situation préoccupante en Algérie. Ces rapports, qui datent de l’année au cours de laquelle le requérant a été renvoyé en Algérie, signalent de nombreux cas d’interpellation par le Département du renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS), particulièrement de personnes soupçonnées d’être impliquées dans le terrorisme international. Ces personnes seraient alors placées en détention sans contrôle judiciaire ou communication avec l’extérieur et pourraient être soumises à de mauvais traitements, y compris à la torture.
La Cour note que le requérant a fait l’objet en France d’une condamnation motivée et détaillée, don’t le texte est public. À son arrivée en Algérie, il a effectivement été arrêté par le DRS et emprisonné.
Au vu du profil du requérant, dont la condamnation pour des faits graves de terrorisme était connue des autorités algériennes, la Cour considère qu’au moment de son renvoi en Algérie, il existait un risque réel et sérieux qu’il soit exposé à des traitements contraires à l’article 3 de la Convention.
Les autorités françaises ont donc violé l’article 3 de la Convention.
La Cour constate, comme le reconnait le Gouvernement, que la mesure provisoire n’a pas été respectée. Pleinement consciente qu’il peut être nécessaire pour les autorités de mettre en oeuvre une mesure d’expulsion avec rapidité et efficacité, elle rappelle que les conditions d’exécution d’une telle mesure ne doivent pas avoir pour objet de priver la personne reconduite du droit de solliciter de la Cour l’indication d’une mesure provisoire. La Cour observe que la décision de refus de demande d’asile du 17 février n’a été notifiée au requérant que le 20 février, alors que les modalités
de son transport avaient déjà été retenues et qu’un laisser-passer avait été délivré par les autorités algériennes à son insu. La Cour en conclut que les autorités françaises ont créé des conditions dans lesquelles le requérant ne pouvait que très difficilement saisir la Cour d’une seconde demande de mesure provisoire. Elles ont, délibérément et de manière irréversible, amoindri le niveau de protection des droits énoncés par la Convention. L’expulsion a retiré toute efficacité à l’éventuel constat de violation.
La Cour conclut que les autorités françaises ont manqué à leurs obligations découlant de l’article 34.
Voir communiqué de presse:http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng-press?i=003-5992943-7672730
Migrant Ill-treatment in Greek Law Enforcement—Are the Strasbourg Court Judgments the Tip of the Iceberg? – article in European J’l of Migration & Law
Numerous instances of migrant ill-treatment, including torture, in Greek law enforcement have been recorded over a long period of time by international human rights monitoring organisations. The frequent reporting of such incidents though was not accompanied by any major judgments by the Strasbourg Court until Alsayed Allaham and Zontul in 2007 and 2012 respectively. The article provides an analysis of these first major judgments which usefully shed light on the underlying, long-standing systemic failures of the Greek law, as well as of the law enforcement and judicial authorities’ practice. It is argued that the above judgments are in fact only the tip of the iceberg. For this, the author looks into the process of supervision of these judgments’ execution by Greece, which is pending before the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, as well as into alarming reports issued notably by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Greek Ombudsman. The article also highlights the question of racial violence that has not been tackled in the aforementioned judgments. However, the national Racist Violence Recording Network and the Greek Ombudsman have recorded numerous cases of racist violence by law enforcement officials targeting migrants and the ineffective response by the administrative and judicial authorities. The article concludes with certain recommendations in order to enhance Greek law and practice and eradicate impunity.
Link to article: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/15718166-12340005
An earlier version was published in February 2017 at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2921109
Ill-Treatment of Migrants in Greek Law Enforcement – Are the Strasbourg Court Judgments the Tip of the Iceberg?
Originally posted on the Blog of Border Criminologies, Oxford University.
A number of reports by international human rights organisations, like CPT and Amnesty International, have recorded numerous cases of ill-treatment, including torture, suffered by migrants while under the control of Greek law enforcement officials. Despite the frequent reporting of such incidents there have not been any major cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (‘Strasbourg Court’ or ‘the Court’) until recently. In 2003 the first application (Alsayed Allaham), concerning the ill-treatment of a Syrian migrant by police in Athens, was lodged. The 2007 judgment against Greece in Alsayed Allaham was followed by another judgment in 2012 in the Zontul case condemning Greece once more for failing to investigate the rape of a Turkish asylum-seeking detainee by a coast guard officer in Crete. Both cases demonstrated the need for structural changes in Greek law and practice in order to eradicate impunity and ill-treatment in the law enforcement sector.
In both cases the Court found violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) highlighting faults in judicial and administrative proceedings. In Alsayed Allaham it was noted that the appeal court that acquitted the policeman for ill-treatment relied on testimonies of five eye-witnesses, three of whom were police officers, and gave no credit to medical reports that had verified the applicant’s injuries. In addition, no weight was given to the fact that the Head of the Greek police himself had sanctioned the two policemen involved in the applicant’s ill-treatment.
In Zontul the Strasbourg Court found that the administrative investigation and the subsequent criminal proceedings had been seriously flawed. Among the major shortcomings identified by the Court in the coast guard investigation was the failure to ensure the examination of the victim by a medical doctor despite the victim’s request and the improper recording of the victim’s statement as a ‘slap’ and ‘use of psychological violence’, instead of a rape. The sentence imposed on the officer, a suspended term of six months’ imprisonment for bodily injury and sexual dignity-related offences, was commuted to a fine of €4.40 per day of detention.
These two cases highlighted some key failings of the domestic criminal law system. First, the clemency of the criminal sanction imposed on the coast guard officer was manifestly disproportionate in relation to the gravity of the ill-treatment. It also did not demonstrate a deterrent effect nor did it provide an adequate remedy to the victim.
Second, Zontul shed light on a major flaw in Greek law and practice concerning the definition of torture in the criminal code (see more in author’s blog post). The Court stressed that, on the basis of its own and other international courts’ case law, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, rape with an object constitutes an act of torture and consequently a clear and substantive violation of Article 3 ECHR. However, according to Article 137A§2 of the Greek criminal code, in order for an act to be defined as torture it requires a ‘planned’ (μεθοδευμένη) infliction of severe physical, and other similar forms of pain on a person by a public official. This requirement, which does not exist in the definition of torture contained in Article 1 of the 1984 Convention against Torture, makes prosecution and sanctioning extremely difficult, if not impossible.
The culture of impunity of ill-treatment is compounded by the enactment in recent years of a number of laws (e.g. Laws 3904/2010, 4093/2012) that aim to decongest Greek prisons by converting custodial sentences into pecuniary penalties and community service. Regrettably these laws have been applied indiscriminately to cases of ill-treatment by the police. This practice raises serious issues of compatibility with international standards, including the Strasbourg Court’s case law (e.g. Gäfgen v. Germany), according to which penalties imposed in this context should be adequate and dissuasive.
Another fault noted by the Court concerns the prescription terms for serious offences, including torture, by state officials. Because these are subject to ordinary prescription provisions, even where the Strasbourg Court finds a violation of Article 3 ECHR for torture that occurred more than 15 years earlier (as in Zontul), the offender cannot be prosecuted and sanctioned. According to the Greek code of criminal procedure, reopening a case may occur only if this could ameliorate the defendant’s position. However, under the Strasbourg Court’s case law (e.g. Yeter v. Turkey,) when a state agent is accused of crimes that violate Article 3 ECHR, the prosecution must not be time-barred and the granting of an amnesty or pardon should not be permissible.
Unfortunately, the Court in its judgments in Alsayed Allaham and Zontul failed to highlight the the potential racial bias by law enforcement officers in the ill-treatment of migrants. According to the CPT visit reports on Greece, since 1997 there has been a clear pattern of migrant ill-treatment among Greek law enforcement occasionally with flagrantly racist overtones. In addition, the yearly incidents of racist violence involving law enforcement officials, which were recorded from 2012 to 2015 by the national Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) ranged from 11 to 31 per year, pointing to the prevalence of racist incidents in Greek territory.
Yet, Alsayed Allaham and Zontul reveal the institutionalised ill-treatment against migrants by Greek law enforcement officials. As noted in the 2015 CPT visit report on Greece, in defiance of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the national authorities consistently refuse to consider the violence of the police as a serious, systematic problem. As a consequence, the authorities have not taken adequate measures to combat it and eliminate impunity for serious human rights violations.
Evidence of the ill-treatment of migrants can also be found in the Greek Ombudsman’s reports. In 2007, for example, the annual report referred to cases of serious ill-treatment of migrants by coast guard officers. In a special report on racist violence in Greece issued in 2013 the Ombudsman noted that in 2012 their office received 17 complaints (involving migrants and a national of migrant origin) concerning inappropriate attitudes of police officers which were probably racially biased. The Ombudsman’s 2015 annual report referred to two more cases concerning the ill-treatment of five migrants following their arrest by police officers in Athens.
Three things need to change. First, Greece needs to establish an effective administrative mechanism to eradicate impunity and to provide adequate redress to all victims of ill-treatment. The latest complaint mechanism established by Law 4443/2016 is certainly a positive step. Yet it falls short of fulfilling the condition of effectiveness given the national complaint mechanisms is chaired by the Ombudsman, who is only empowered to issue non-binding reports.
Secondly, there is a need for a holistic overhaul of criminal law and practice concerning torture and other forms of ill-treatment, as well as of the relevant sentencing policy. The definition of torture contained in the Greek criminal code is in breach of international and European standards. This is one of the major reasons for the long-standing state of impunity for serious human rights violations in the country. At the same time, the criminal law provisions on prescription, conversion of custodial sentences and reopening of cases after Strasbourg Court’s judgments need to be reviewed and amended to ensure victim’s full redress.
Last but not least, particular attention needs to be given by the authorities to migrants who are easily subject to abusive behaviour, including ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials and very often remain voiceless victims. To this end, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has usefully recommended that states place law enforcement agencies under a statutory obligation to promote equality and prevent racial discrimination, including racist violence, in carrying out their functions. Enshrining this obligation in law would oblige these agencies to design and implement specific programmes, such as systematic training and awareness-raising of all staff.
In view of the above, the ill-treatment of migrants in Greek law enforcement cannot but be considered as a long-standing systemic problem that calls for sustained and determined action by the state. In a rule-of-law based democracy, law enforcement officers are and should act as professional upholders of the law and providers of services to the public. A precondition for achieving this is the development of policies and practices that oblige all state agents to respect human dignity, irrespective of one’s origin and status.
Paper on migrant ill-treatment in Greek law enforcement and Strasbourg Court case law
Sitaropoulos, Nikolaos, Migrant Ill -Treatment in Greek Law Enforcement – Are the Strasbourg Court Judgments the Tip of the Iceberg? (2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2921109
The paper provides an analysis of the first major judgments of the Strasbourg Court which usefully shed light on the underlying, long-standing systemic failures of the Greek rule of law. The author argues that these judgments are in fact only the tip of the iceberg. For this the paper looks into the process of supervision of these judgments’ execution by Greece, which is pending before the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, as well as into alarming reports issued notably by CPT as well as by the Greek Ombudsman. The paper also highlights the question of racial violence that has not been so far the subject of analysis in the Court’s judgments concerning ill-treatment in Greece. However, a number of reports, especially the annual reports of the Greek Racist Violence Recording Network since 2012, record numerous cases of racist violence by law enforcement officials targeting migrants and the ineffective responses by the administrative and judicial authorities. The paper’s concluding observations provide certain recommendations in order to enhance Greek law and practice and eradicate impunity.