European High Court: U.S. Prisons Could Violate European Convention on Human Rights
UPDATE: Lots more details on this case available over at Solitary Watch.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued a preliminary ruling barring the extradition of three terror suspects from the U.K. to the United States, on the grounds that confinement in a federal supermax could violate Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court has requested further submissions before it issues a final decision; the preliminary ruling can be downloaded here. Note that the court rejected the suspects’ arguments that they would not receive a fair trial in the U.S.; it focused entirely on post-trial conditions of confinement, specifically the prospect of long-term solitary confinement and a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Here are the questions on which the court has requested further briefing:
- Given the length of the sentences faced by Mr Ahmad, Mr Aswat and Mr Ahsan if convicted, would the time spent at a “supermax” prison, the US Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado (“ADX Florence”), amount to a violation of Article 3? Would they have any real prospect of entering the “step-down programme” whereby they would move through different levels of contact with others until they would be suitable for transfer to a normal prison?
- Does the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution (prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment”), as interpreted by the federal courts, provide protection equivalent to Article 3 of the Convention?
- If convicted, would the applicants’ sentences be de facto reducible?