Bilateral deportation agreements undermine international human rights law – UN expert

26 October 2005

States seeking diplomatic assurances from countries where they are seeking to deport individuals are undermining international human rights law, a United Nations independent expert said today in New York.

Manfred Nowak, the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, voiced concern that some countries are using diplomatic assurances and memoranda of understanding to circumvent the absolute prohibition of refoulement – or forcible return – to countries where there is a risk of torture or ill-treatment.

He stressed that these bilateral agreements run counter to the Convention against Torture and undermine the multilateral protection and monitoring system provided by UN treaty bodies.

"The fact that diplomatic assurances are requested from other countries is already an indicator of the systematic practice of torture in the requested States" he explained. "In a way they are saying that those few people should be monitored but we are not taking up the issue of systematic practice of torture in this very country."

The Special Rapporteur also discussed the issue of corporal punishment, stating it is illegal in all circumstances under international human rights law. He called on all governments that still practice corporal punishment to abolish this practice without further delay.

"Today we can say that all forms of corporal punishment constitute a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment," he declared.