Sweden broke UN torture convention

Sweden broke the United Nation’s convention against torture when it allowed two Egyptians to be deported to their homeland by American agents in December 2001, a UN committee has decided.

The UN Committee against Torture condemned Swedish authorities for the December 2001 expulsion of Ahamed Hussein Mustafa Kamil Agiza, saying the move went against rules that say governments should stop people from being put at risk of torture.

The committee, which oversees respect for the International Convention against Torture, acted on a complaint lodged in 2003 on behalf of Agiza, who is serving a prison sentence in Egypt.

“The Committee considers at the outset that it was known, or should have been known, to (Sweden) at the time of the complainant’s removal that Egypt resorted to consistent and widespread use of torture against detainees,” the panel said in its ruling.

It added that “the risk of such treatment was particularly high in the case of detainees held for political and security reasons”.

Agiza and Egyptian human rights groups claimed he had been tortured regularly since he returned to his homeland.

Agiza, today aged 42, claimed asylum in Sweden in 2000.

Previously arrested in Egypt in the 1980s on suspicion of being an Islamic militant, Agiza claimed he was tortured in custody and fled the country in 1991.

In 1998, he was tried in his absence by an Egyptian court on charges of membership of an Islamic terrorist group and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

In Sweden’s submission to the panel, officials said that under international law, governments must ensure “the institution of refugee status is not abused by perpetrators, organizers or facilitators of terrorist acts.”

Swedish security services had obtained information that led them to believe Agiza was a serious threat.

But that was the core of the problem, the committee said.

“The Committee acknowledges that measures taken to fight terrorism, including denial of safe haven … are both legitimate and important,” it said in its ruling. “Their execution, however, must be carried out with full respect to the applicable rules of international law.”

Sweden’s handling of the case has provoked vocal criticism in human rights organisations. Human Rights Watch said in April that the case had damaged Sweden’s credibility when speaking out on human rights issues, and accused the Swedish government of being “deeply hypocritical”.

Swedish migration minister Barbro Holmberg said that the committee’s findings were “serious” and that the government would analyse them to obtain guidance for the future.

Holmberg also pointed out that the committee had not concluded whether on not the men had actually been tortured.

“What has happened is that a completely different risk assessment has been carried out to that which the Swedish government has undertaken,” she said

“Sweden will continue to press for an answer to the question of what actually happened to the men.” (AFP/The Local)