Moral Low Ground


European Human Rights Court Blocks Extradition of UK Terror Suspect Haroon Aswat to US

Haroon AswatEurope’s highest human rights court has blocked the extradition of a mentally ill terrorism suspect from Britain to the United States.

The BBC reports that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that extraditing British citizen Haroon Aswat, who is wanted in the United States for allegedly conspiring with terrorists including Abu Hamza to create a jihadist training camp in Oregon, would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 3, titled “anti-torture and inhumane treatment,” states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Aswat, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, is currently being held in the high-security Broadmoor psychiatric hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire. If extradited, he would be imprisoned in ADX Florence, a ‘supermax’ prison in Colorado where inmates are held in solitary confinement for as many as 23 hours a day and have no interaction with other prisoners. There is little or no natural light in prisoners’ tiny cells, and inmates are only allowed an hour a day outside of them. In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes, former warden Robert Hood described the prison as “a clean version of hell.” ADX Florence has been condemned internationally for its abusive regime.

The Strasbourg, France-based court has previously allowed for the extradition of prisoners who it knew would be jailed in ADX Florence. But in the case of Aswat, the court found that due to his mental illness, jailing him in a ‘supermax’ prison would constitute “inhuman or degrading treatment” as defined by Article 3.

“In light of the medical evidence before it, the Court found that there was a real risk that Mr. Aswat’s extradition to the USA, a country to which he has no ties, and to a different [and] potentially more hostile environment, would result in a significant deterioration in his mental and physical health,” the court ruled. It also cited the “highly restrictive regime in ADX Florence” in ruling against Aswat’s extradition.

Tuesday’s judgment is not final; interested parties, mainly the UK Home Office, have three months to file appeals.

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