UNHCR welcomes Canadian ruling limiting torture-related deportations
GENEVA, Jan. 15 (UNHCR) - The U.N. refugee agency Tuesday welcomed a decision by Canada's Supreme Court curbing the circumstances in which suspected terrorists could be deported to countries where they may face torture, but said the ban should be extended even to cases that involve "exceptional circumstances."
The ruling took on added importance as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which have resulted in tighter immigration and asylum regulations in many countries and increased public suspicion that uprooted people are criminals or terrorists.
The court said Manickavasagam Suresh, a Sri Lankan the government accused of having ties to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and wanted to deport, was entitled to a new deportation hearing.
But the court also said in a ruling rendered Friday that some deportations might be allowed in "extraordinary circumstances" even if the deportee faced the threat of torture. The "ambit of an exceptional discretion to deport to torture, if any, must await future cases," the court said.
"In UNHCR's view, the prohibition of return to torture contained in Article Three of the Convention against Torture is not subject to exception," the agency said in a statement. "The non-derogable nature of that provision makes it all the more important for the international community to develop mechanisms which allow suspected terrorists and other dangerous individuals to justice."
The refugee agency intervened in the Canadian case, linking the principle of non-refoulement, or forcible return, contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention, to the 1984 Convention Against Torture.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court approved the deportation of a second man, Mansour Ahani of Iran, saying he had not proved that he risked torture if deported back to his country. Ahani admitted he was a member of the Iranian secret service, but he and Suresh both denied any terrorist activity.