The ECHR and the death penalty: a timeline
In Soering v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that extraditing a man accused of murder to the United States, where he could face the death penalty, would violate the prohibition of torture given the very long period of time people usually spent on death row in extreme conditions in the US with an ever mounting anguish of waiting to be executed.
Following the judgment, the US authorities confirmed to the UK that the applicant would not be prosecuted for the offence of capital murder.
Russia introduces a moratorium on the death penalty as it joins the Council of Europe and becomes a signatory to the human rights convention.
In Jabari v. Turkey, the court ruled that deporting a woman who risked death by stoning to Iran would violate the prohibition of torture.
The applicant was subsequently granted a residence permit in Turkey.
In Bader and Kanbor v. Sweden, the court ruled that deporting a man sentenced to death after an unfair trial in Syria would violate the right to life and the prohibition of torture. The applicants were subsequently granted permanent residence in Sweden.
In Öcalan v. Turkey, the court ruled that imposing the death penalty after an unfair trial in 1999 – even though it was not carried out – amounted to inhuman treatment. Turkey stayed the execution following a request from the court. It abolished the use of the death penalty in peacetime in 2002, and the applicant’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
In Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v. the United Kingdom, the court ruled that, due to state practices over time, provisions on the right to life had been amended so as to prohibit the death penalty in all circumstances. The court asked the UK to seek assurances from Iraq that the applicants in this case would not face the death penalty. The applicants were acquitted and released by the Iraqi authorities in 2011.
In Al-Nashiri v. Poland, the court ruled that Poland violated the rights of a CIA rendition victim by exposing him to a serious risk of facing the death penalty. The court asked Poland to seek assurances from the US that the death penalty would not be imposed.
Proceedings against the applicant before a United States military commission, in which he faces the death penalty, are still pending and the implementation of the European court’s judgment by Poland is being closely followed by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
In A.L. (X.W.) v. Russia, the court ruled that deporting a man to China, where he might be sentenced to death, would violate the right to life and the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. The applicant was subsequently granted temporary asylum in Russia.
In Al Nashiri v. Romania, the court found several violations of the convention because of Romania’s knowledge of and involvement in an “extraordinary rendition” operation which enabled the CIA to bring the applicant illegally under United States jurisdiction, despite a real risk that he could face a flagrant denial of justice and the death penalty.
Proceedings against the applicant before a United States military commission, in which he faces the death penalty, are still pending and the implementation of the European court’s judgment by Romania is being closely followed by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.