In this significant decision, the Court ruled that the death penalty could be considered inhuman and degrading and, as such, contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Consequently, the Court concluded that in transferring the applicants to Iraqi authorities, thereby exposing them to proceedings that might result in death penalties, the UK had subjected them to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Article 3. The Court made it clear that it no longer considers that the wording of the second sentence of Article 2(1) of the ECHR (which specifically contemplates the death penalty) acts as a bar to its interpreting the words “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in Article 3 as including the death penalty.
The judgement marks an important contribution to the development of the Court's jurisprudence on the non-refoulement principle (clarifying that there can be no extradition if a serious risk of the death penalty is established), on the geographical applicability of the ECHR and on its relationship to conflicting international obligations.

  • You can read a comment on this judgment by Marko MILANOVIC, on the EJILwebsite.