STRASBOURG, France (CN) — The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Romania was wrong to deport two Pakistani nationals over terrorism charges after keeping them in the dark about the specific accusations against them.
The 2012 deportation of Adeel Muhammad and Ramzan Muhammad violated the university students’ human rights, the Strasbourg-based court held.
“The applicants received only very general information about the legal characterization of the accusations against them, while none of their specific acts which allegedly endangered national security could be seen from the file. Nor were they provided with any information about the key stages in the proceedings,” the 17-judge-panel wrote.
Both men moved to Romania to study at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, one in 2009 and the second in 2012. That year, the Romanian Intelligence Service moved to have both men declared “undesirable in Romania” and deported them, claiming there were serious allegations the men were a threat to national security.
The pair were summoned to a hearing at the Administrative Division of the Bucharest Court of Appeal on Dec. 5, 2012, where they were not given information about the charges against them before being ordered out of the country. They appealed, which failed, and both left Romanian three weeks later.
“The applicants sustained significant limitations in the exercise of their right to be informed of the factual elements underlying the decision to deport them and their right to have access to the content of the documents and the information relied upon by the competent authority which made that decision,” the human rights court ruled Thursday.
The contents of the charges against them were deemed classified and the men were not allowed to see their files. However, a press release from the police the day after their court hearing claimed the men were connected to an al-Qaida-related Islamist group. It also released their full names and place of residence.
The Court of Human Rights wrote Thursday that it is “an astonishing fact that the press release published by the [Romanian Intelligence Service] contained more detailed factual information than that provided to the applicants.”
During a hearing in September 2019, the Romanian government argued that it had provided information to the men via the press release, an argument the court was not sympathetic to.
“A press release, even one disseminated through official channels, cannot be an appropriate means of providing parties to judicial proceedings with the information that they need to make their case before the competent authority,” the ruling states.
The court ordered that Romania pay both men 10,000 euros ($12,000) each as well as 1,365 euros ($1,600) in expenses.
Adeel Muhammad has since returned to his home country of Pakistan while Ramzan Muhammad is currently living in the United Arab Emirates.
The European Convention on Human Rights, which created the court in 1953, protects the civil and political rights of those living in its 47 member states. A protocol ratified in 1988 extended those rights to foreign nationals living within the member states, including a provision on protection from expulsion. It is a court of last resort, so applicants must first exhaust their options in their national courts before filing a complaint.