Countries that extradite individuals to the United States may be violating the European Convention on Human Rights

By Ena Cefo

In the case of Trabelsi v. Belgium, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held that the extradition of a Tunisian national from Belgium to the United States violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, dealing with the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment. Mr. Trabelsi complained that his extradition to the United States exposed him to an irreducible life sentence and was thus a violation of Article 3. ECHR holds that a life sentence is not itself prohibited by Article 3, but is a violation if it is irreducible. Given the gravity of Mr. Trabelsi’s terrorism charges, the relevant U.S. criminal penalties, and the lack of assurances by U.S. authorities to spare Mr. Trabelsi from an irreducible life sentence, the ECHR ruled that Mr. Trabelsi would potentially face an irreducible sentence and his extradition was thus in violation of Article 3.