Are Diplomatic Assurances Adequate Guarantees of Safety Against Torture and Ill-Treatment? The Pragmatic Approach of the Strasbourg Court

Aristi Volou


The use of diplomatic assurances against torture and other ill-treatment has increased in recent years in response to the continued growth of international terrorism. However, this practice is controversial because it engages the Contracting States’ obligation not to extradite or expel a person where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would face a real risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 ECHR in the receiving State. The Strasbourg Court’s pragmatic approach suggests that in certain circumstances, following an analysis of the quality of the assurances and their practical effect, diplomatic assurances can be adequate guarantees of safety. As a result, it will be argued that the Strasbourg Court cannot be accused of circumventing the absolute prohibition found in Article 3 ECHR by accepting the diplomatic assurances policy of the Contracting States. The author will conclude by arguing that the Strasbourg Court’s approach is effective as it reinforces the absoluteness of Article 3 ECHR while at the same time allowing States to protect their national security from terrorism.

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