“Diplomatic guarantee” enough for deportation

The Swedish government's policy of deporting people to their homeland on the basis of a "diplomatic guarantee" that they will not be tortured is to continue, despite criticism from human rights groups and the UN's committee on torture.

The deportation of two Egyptian suspected terrorists in December 2001 brought the policy into the spotlight.

Egypt promised that Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed Alzery would not be tortured, but human rights organisations say that they were mistreated while in prison awaiting trial.

“You have to see things realistically,” said Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg to Swedish Radio’s Ekot programme.

“Today there is a risk of terror attacks and we must deal with the situation – but we will do so with respect for human rights,” she said.

In the spring of this year, Sweden’s policy was fiercely criticised by the UN’s committee on torture, which said that a diplomatic guarantee from a country known to use torture in interrogations was not enough.

But Sweden has rejected that view, arguing during European Council meetings over the summer that the use of diplomatic guarantees should be extended.

Ann Wigenmark at the Helsingfors Committee, a human rights group which has been involved in the case of the two Egyptians, told Ekot that the government’s response was “provocative and alarming”.

“The fact that Sweden is stepping up to fight this simply doesn’t feel good,” she said.”

Wigenmark said that experience has proven that diplomatic guarantees from countries which use torture are worthless, “since by using torture the governments have already shown that they can’t be trusted”.

While not stepping away from the policy, Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg said that there would be further discussions “to establish guidelines for this area”.

In response, Göran Hägglund, the leader of the opposition Christian Democrat party, said that the government’s rejection of the criticism from the UN raised serious issues.

“The question that must now be asked is what ethical values are really guiding the government?” he said.

“The fight against terrorism should of course be pushed forward intensively, but it should not be carried out with methods which are alien to a constitutional state which maintains human rights.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, SR