The Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has adopted a decision finding the Republic of Serbia in violation of Articles 3 and 22 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment for extraditing Kurdish political activist Cevdet Ayaz to Turkey on 25 December 2017.
In its decision, the Committee found that the Serbian asylum and extradition authorities had violated Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment because they had not examined in their decisions the existence of the risk of torture Mr. Ayaz might be subjected to in case of his extradition to Turkey. It identified a number of irregularities in the work of Serbia’s extradition organs, which resulted in the violation of the non-refoulement principle, prohibiting return of an individual to the territory of a state where there are substantial grounds for believing that s/he will be at the risk of torture.
The Committee underlined that the authorities that had implemented the extradition procedure – the Higher Court in Šabac, the Appellate Court in Novi Sad and the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Serbia – had been unable even to establish all the relevant facts they needed to adopt a proper decision in Mr. Ayaz’s case due to the inadequate translation of his case documents. Namely, the judgment convicting Mr. Ayaz to 15 years’ imprisonment had been inadequately translated into Serbian, wherefore the above-mentioned authorities were unable to establish whether the conviction had been based on Mr. Ayaz’s confession extorted under torture. In addition to Mr. Ayaz’s lawyers, the Appellate Public Prosecutor’s Office in Novi Sad also alerted to the inadequacy of the translation of the documents provided by Turkey.
The Committee considers that the Republic of Serbia has an obligation to provide redress for Mr. Ayaz, including adequate compensation of non-pecuniary damage resulting from the physical and mental harm caused, within 90 days of the date of transmittal of its decision. The Republic of Serbia should also explore ways and means for monitoring the conditions in which Mr. Ayaz is serving his prison sentence in Turkey in order to ensure that he is not treated in contravention of Article 3 of the Convention against Torture. Furthermore, the Committee urged Serbia to take steps to prevent similar violations of Article 22 of the Convention against Torture and to ensure that, in cases where the Committee has requested interim measures, the complainants are not removed from its jurisdiction until the Committee has made a decision on a prospective application.
In BCHR’s view, the Serbian authorities automatically rendered their decisions in Mr. Ayaz’s case, in contravention of the Serbian Constitution and law, ratified international treaties, as well as international customary law absolutely prohibiting torture.
The BCHR reiterates that Mr. Ayaz’s extradition is an illustration of the grossest violations of human rights and unlawful practices by Serbia’s decision makers since it signed the Convention against Torture. In BCHR’s view the Minister of Justice publicly voiced a number of falsehoods aimed at deluding the public, from 11 December 2017, when the Committee indicated provisional measures requiring of Serbia to refrain from returning Mr. Ayaz to Turkey, until his extradition on 25 December 2017. Regardless of the motives behind this tragic case, the Justice Minister and the relevant authorities deciding on Mr. Ayaz’s case undoubtedly demonstrated that the separation of powers, rule of law and human rights of vulnerable individuals in Serbia are subordinated to the interests of authoritarian regimes such as the one in Turkey.
The BCHR will provide more details and information on Mr. Ayaz’s case, the importance of the Committee’s decision and its future impact at its news conference, which will be held at the Belgrade Media Centre at 11 am on 2 September 2019.