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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Abuse of Iraqi Extremist Will Cost Belgium

(CN) - Belgium must pay roughly $7,800 for the torture of an Islamist militant whom the country sent back to Iraq despite the risk of persecution, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.

A 24-year-old identified only as M.S. sought asylum in Belgium to escape Saddam Hussein's regime in 2000, but authorities nabbed him there three years later for associating with al-Qaida, forging documents to recruit Islamists and smuggling immigrants into the country.

From Hasselt Prison in 2005, M.S. unsuccessfully applied for asylum. With years left on his sentence in 2007, the minister of the Interior issued an order for M.S. to leave the territory with a decision for his removal and his detention for that purpose.

"The detention order was made on the grounds that M.S. was illegally resident in Belgium and represented a risk of danger to public order," according to the rights court.

M.S. filed a second asylum application, claiming that he would get an unfair trial if sent back to Iraq that could lead to a death sentence. But the commissioner general of Belgium's Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons rejected this second application in 2009.

Repatriated to Iraq on Oct. 27, 2010, M.S. was arrested as soon as he left the airplane. He was released on bail provided that he remained under house arrest and had no contact with foreigners.

On Tuesday, a seven-judge panel unanimously ruled that Belgium violated prohibitions on torture and M.S.'s right to liberty, security and speedy due process.

"The court reiterated that Article 3 of the Convention prohibited in absolute terms torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the victim's conduct, and even in the most difficult circumstances as the fight against terrorism," the court said in a statement. "It was not possible to weigh the risk of ill-treatment - even when such treatment was inflicted by another state - against the reasons put forward for the expulsion. In that connection, the conduct of the person concerned, however undesirable or dangerous, could not be taken into account."

Belgium must pay M.S. directly for costs and expenses of his "forced return," the court ruled.

The Tuesday judgment is available only in French.

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