Legal Analysis

Babar Ahmad and Others v. the United Kingdom


April 2012 – European Court of Human Rights

The six applicants challenged extradition from the UK to the US, where they are wanted for trial in relation to various terrorism offences, on the basis that this would violate their rights under Article 3 of the ECHR. If extradited and convicted in the USA, the men will be held at ADX Florence, the “super-max” prison which holds convicts considered to pose the greatest possible threat to American national security. Their argument had two main strands: firstly that the conditions in ADX Florence constituted torture or at least illtreatment; and secondly that the probability of an extremely long sentence being imposed upon them, potentially with no possibility of parole, also amounted to a violation of article 3. The Court rejected the applicants’ arguments, holding that article 3 ECHR should not prevent extradition in every case where there is a risk of ill-treatment of any kind in the requesting state. The Court paid tribute to the procedural safeguards in place in the American legal system, considering them sufficient to ensure respect for human rights. It is significant that the Court adopted this stance in the wake of the Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom judgment, at a time of heightened public concern for the risk of torture/ill-treatment in extradition cases. The judgment is available here and more detailed commentary on the case may be found here.