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European Court of Human Rights: Extradition Cases of Alleged International Terrorists Declared Admissible

(July 9, 2010) On July 8, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights, which is located in Strasbourg, France, declared as admissible the case of four applicants who were indicted by the United States as alleged international terrorists (Babar Ahmad and Others v. the United Kingdom). The applicants were detained in the United Kingdom, pending their extradition to the United States. (Press Release, Decision of Admissibility, Babar Ahmad and Others v. the United Kingdom (Application Nos. 24027/07, 11949/08, and 36742/08) (July 7, 2010),

The case arose from circumstances in 2004-2006, when four individuals, citizens of the United Kingdom, were indicted by the United States on various terrorist charges, including conspiracy to kill or injure people or to destroy property in the United States. Subsequently, the U.S. authorities requested that they be extradited to the United States. The UK ordered their detention pending extradition. The four individuals unsuccessfully contested their detention before the courts in the UK, including an appeal to the House of Lords. (Id.)

During proceedings in the UK, the four applicants argued that because they were suspected of being terrorists connected with Al-Qaeda, if they were tried in the US they ran the risk of being declared “enemy combatants” under section 2 of the U.S. Military Order No. 1, issued after September 11, 2001. Thus, they would be tried by a military commission and condemned to death or life imprisonment. Any imprisonment would be served in ADX Florence Colorado, and they would be subjected to special restrictions or could be subject to extraordinary rendition and sent to a foreign country. (Id.)

The United States provided diplomatic assurances that the four applicants would be tried in federal courts and that they would not be declared enemy combatants. The applicants counterclaimed that despite U.S. diplomatic assurances, if they were extradited, they were at risk of an unfair trial based on coerced interrogations. Upon exhaustion of domestic remedies in the UK, they applied to the Court of Human Rights on the grounds of several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including article 2, on the right to life; article 3, on the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment; article 5, on the right to liberty and security; article 6, on the right to a fair trial; article 8, on the right to respect for private and family life; and article 14, on the prohibition of discrimination. (Id.)

The Court accepted the diplomatic assurances given by the U.S. authorities as sincere and therefore held that the applicants were not at risk of being declared enemy combatants or being subjected to extraordinary rendition. Consequently, the Court declared such claims made by the applicants inadmissible. However, regarding post trial detention in the ADX facility, the Court declared the case of three of the applicants admissible, because they were at serious risk of being sent to a maximum security prison in the ADX facility and their claims “raised serious questions of fact and law which were of such complexity that the Court had to examine them on the merits.” (Id.) It also declared the complaints of all four applicants regarding the length of their possible sentences to be admissible. (Id.)