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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
 
  May 2016
 
  April 2016
 
 
 
 
LEADING CASES - Permanent Imprint Leading Cases
Right against Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
Soering v. United Kingdom , (1989)11 Eur Ct HR 55 (Ser A)

Facts

Soering, a German national, had come to the U.S.A. in his adolescent age to study at the Virginia University where he became friends with Elizabeth Haysom, a Canadian national. Haysom's parents, William Reginald Haysom and Nancy Astor Haysom were living near the University, in Boonsboro, and were against their daughter's friendship with Soering. Hence, Soering and Elizabeth Haysom decided to kill Haysom's parents. To divert suspicion, they took a car on rent and drove to Washington D.C. Then Soering drove to Haysom's residence and had dinner with the unsuspecting couple. During dinner he picked a quarrel and viciously attacked them with a knife. Both were found with their throats slit and with stab and slash wounds on the neck and the body.

After some days Soering and Elizabeth Haysom fled to Europe and there they were arrested in England on charges of cheque fraud. Six weeks later, a grand jury of Circuit Court of Bedford county, Virginia, indicted Soering with the murder of Haysoms. Later the U.S.A. requested the extradition for the pair as per Extradition Treaty. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Soering, and he was committed to await the Home Secretary's Order to extradite him to the U.S.A.

Thereafter Soering filed a petition for habeas corpus with a Divisional Court and requested permission for judicial review of the decision to commit him on the ground that extradition treaty did not authorize extradition for a capital charge, but Divisional Court refused request for judicial review and admitted that the assurance "Leaves something to be desired" stating that Soering's request was premature as Home Secretary had not yet accepted such assurance. Then Soering appealed to the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords which rejected his claim. He then also petitioned Home Secretary without success and the latter authorized the extradition.

Soering filed a claim with the European Commission of Human Rights, anticipating negative outcome, asserting that he would face inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, were he to be extradited to the U.S.A., it being likely that the death penalty would be applied.

Issues

  1. Whether the case enlarges the scope of State's responsibility for breach of Convention?
  2. Finding a breach of the Convention on the territory of a non-signatory State, whether the Court can considerably expand obligation of all States?
  3. Whether the rationale of the Court's judgment applies equally to deportation cases?
  4. Whether the Court's approach to death penalty itself is permitted by the Convention?

Judgment

1. Of European Commission: Extradition would not constitute inhuman or degrading treatment, even if it is accepted that the extradition of a person is to a country "where it is certain that there is a serious risk that the person would be subjected to torture or inhuman treatment."

2. Of European Court of Human Rights: The extraditing State could be responsible for the breach where it is aware of a real risk that the person may be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Ruling of European Court of Human Rights with highlighted factors :

(i) Length of detention prior to execution
(ii) Conditions on death row
(iii) Soering's age and mental condition
(iv) Possibility of his extradition to Germany.

Aftermath of judgment

UK Government obtained further assurances from the U.S.A. regarding the death penalty before extraditing Soering to Virginia. He was tried and convicted of the first degree murders of the Haysoms and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Elizabeth Haysom did not contest her extradition from the U.K. and pled guilty to conspiring to kill her parents. The Court sentenced her to 45-years-per-count to be served consecutively.

 
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