The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights today found that the British government did not violate the human rights of Iraqi Ba’ath Party member Tarek Hassan when he was taken prisoner by British troops during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and later found dead with signs of torture.
Specifically, the the ECHR found the British government not responsible for violating Hassan’s rights under Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights by unlawfully capturing Hassan or of failing to investigate his detention, treatment by British and American Forces, and his disappearance and mysterious death that came four months after British authorities say he was released from Camp Bucca, an American-run prison in Iraq, in May 2012.
“The Court found that there was no evidence to suggest that Tarek Hassan had been ill-treated while in detention or that the UK authorities had in any way been responsible for his death, which had occurred some four months after his release from Camp Bucca in a distant part of the country not controlled by the British forces,” reads an ECHR announcement of the ruling. “There was therefore no obligation on the UK authorities to investigate such allegations and the complaints under Article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) were declared inadmissible.”
Furthermore, the ECtHR decided that since Hassan was captured while armed with an AK-47 and hiding at his brother’s house, who was a general in the Ba’ath Party’s private army, he was “either a person who should be detained as a prisoner of war or whose internment had been necessary for imperative reasons of security, both of which provided a legitimate ground for capture and detention under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.”
While the court did not find the British government responsible for violating Hassan’s rights under articles 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, it did not accept the UK government’s claim that it was not responsible for Hassan’s human rights since he was held in an American-run facility. The court ruled that it was clear that Hassan was under British supervision during his stay at Camp Bucca, thereby making it the responsibility of the UK to protect his human rights while he was in custody.
“The court has found that both human rights law and IHL must be applied rigorously at all times,” said Phil Shiner, principal of Public Interest Lawyers referring to the significance of the court’s ruling that British forces were responsible for Hassan’s treatment while he was in their custody. “This finding will ensure that there has to be accountability for human rights violations whenever the UK acts abroad.”
Click below to read the ECHR’s announcement of court’s ruling. Be sure to come back to Just Security later for in-depth analysis of the ruling by Shaheed Fatima.