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European Court of Human Rights
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> European Court of Human Rights >> Hilal v. United Kingdom - 45276/99  ECHR 214 (6 March 2001)
Cite as:  INLR 595,  ECHR 214, 11 BHRC 354, (2001) 33 EHRR 2
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In the case of Hilal v. the United Kingdom,
The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr W. Fuhrmann,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mr K. Jungwiert,
Sir Nicolas Bratza,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr M. Ugrekhelidze, judges,
and Mrs S. Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 8 February 2000 and 13 February 2001,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
"about [their] son who [was] in a foreign country to abuse the government which [was] in power ..."
He provided correspondence from the Royal Mail concerning his enquiries about money which had gone missing from a registered letter dated 27 November 1995 which he had sent to his parents in Tanzania.
The hospital medical report, dated 8 November 1994, from a medical officer recorded that the applicant had suffered a severe nasal haemorrhage, that this was of a "dangerous harm" degree and that the injury had been inflicted by hanging upside down.
"The Secretary of State's decision [is] that things have changed and that as matters now stand, whatever was or was not the case in November 1996 and whatever ought or ought not to have been the outcome of the appeal heard then, the applicant can safely return to his home country, provided he goes to the mainland. Having looked at the letter [from the British High Commission], I can see no arguable grounds for saying that the Secretary of State has acted with Wednesbury unreasonableness in concluding that in the light of this new material he has no need to refer the matter to the Special Adjudicator and this application must be refused."
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. Immigration legislation and rules
"(1) Where in any case:
(a) an adjudicator has dismissed an appeal, and there has been no further appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, or the tribunal has dismissed an appeal made to them ...; or
(b) the Appeal Tribunal has affirmed the determination of an adjudicator dismissing an appeal ... the Secretary of State may at any time refer for consideration under this section any matter relating to the case which was not before the adjudicator or Tribunal ..."
B. Domestic immigration decisions on Tanzania
C. Judicial review in immigration cases
"I therefore conclude that the domestic court's obligation on an irrationality challenge in an Article 3 case is to subject the Secretary of State's decision to rigorous examination and this it does by considering the underlying factual material for itself to see whether it compels a different conclusion to that arrived at by the Secretary of State. Only if it does will the challenge succeed.
All that said, however, this is not an area in which the Court will pay any especial deference to the Secretary of State's conclusion on the facts. In the first place, the human right involved here – the right not to be exposed to a real risk of Article 3 treatment – is both absolute and fundamental: it is not a qualified right requiring a balance to be struck with some competing social need. Secondly, the Court here is hardly less well placed than the Secretary of State himself to evaluate the risk once the relevant material is before it. Thirdly, whilst I would reject the applicant's contention that the Secretary of State has knowingly misrepresented the evidence or shut his eyes to the true position, we must, I think, recognise at least the possibility that he has (even if unconsciously) tended to depreciate the evidence of risk and, throughout the protracted decision-making process, may have tended also to rationalise the further material adduced so as to maintain his pre-existing stance rather than reassess the position with an open mind. In circumstances such as these, what has been called the 'discretionary area of judgment' – the area of judgment within which the Court should defer to the Secretary of State as the person primarily entrusted with the decision on the applicant's removal ... – is decidedly a narrow one."
III. RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL MATERIAL
"The Government's human rights record did not improve and problems persisted. Although the 1995 multiparty elections represented an important development, citizens' right to change their government in Zanzibar is severely circumscribed. Although new opposition parties were competitive in many 1995 races and won in some constituencies, police often harassed and intimidated members and supporters of the opposition. Other human rights problems included police beatings and mistreatment of suspects, which sometimes resulted in death. Soldiers attacked civilians, and police in Zanzibar used torture, including beatings and floggings. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention continued and the inefficient and corrupt judicial system often did not provide expeditious and fair trials ...
Since the 1995 election, police in Zanzibar, particularly on Pemba, have regularly detained, arrested and harassed CUF members, and suspected supporters. Despite orders from the Union Government's Inspector General of Police, officers in Zanzibar continue these activities ...
The Wairoba Commission found that pervasive corruption affected the judiciary from clerks to magistrates. Clerks took bribes to decide whether or not to open cases and to hide or misdirect the files of those accused of crimes. Magistrates often accept bribes to determine guilt or innocence, pass sentence, withdraw charges or decide appeals ...
There are reports of prisoners waiting several years for trial because they could not pay bribes to police and court officials. Authorities acknowledge that some cases have been pending since 1988. The Government initiated efforts as early as 1991 to highlight judicial corruption and increased its oversight ...
In the 2 years since the election, government security forces and CCM gangs harassed and intimidated CUF members on both of the two main Zanzibar islands, Pemba and Ugunja. Because CUF won all 20 seats on Pemba, Pembans living on Ugunja were regarded as CUF supporters and as a result were harassed. CUF members accused police of detaining dozens of its members ... Safety is not ensured in Pemba, where security forces dispersed gatherings, intimidated and roughed up individuals ..."
"Prisoners of conscience were among scores of government opponents arrested and briefly detained on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Many were held without charge or trial; others faced criminal charges and were denied bail. Scores of political prisoners were tortured and ill-treated on the islands ...
Criminal charges such as sedition, vagrancy and involvement in acts of violence, often accompanied by the denial of bail for periods of two weeks or more, were also used as a method of intimidating government critics or opponents."
"In December , 14 possible prisoners of conscience on Zanzibar were charged with treason and refused bail. The men, supporters of the CUF, were arrested and initially charged with sedition in November and December, during the week the CUF won a by-election to the Zanzibar House of Representatives."
"... the police regularly threaten, mistreat or beat suspected criminals during and after their apprehension and interrogation. Police also use the same means to obtain information about suspects from family members not in custody ... Police in Zanzibar use torture ... Repeated reports from credible sources indicate that the police use torture, including beatings and floggings in Zanzibar, notably on Pemba Island. Both the Zanzibar and Union Governments have denied these charges. Police have not yet explained the deaths of six detainees in the town of Morogoro who were electrocuted at the end of 1997 ...
Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening. Government officials acknowledge that prisons are overcrowded and living conditions are poor. Prisons are authorised to hold 21,000 persons but the actual prison population is estimated at 47,000 ... The daily amount of food allotted to prisoners is insufficient to meet their nutritional needs and even this amount is not always provided ... Earlier the Commissioner of Prisons stated that his department received inadequate funds for medicine and medical supplies. Prison dispensaries only offer limited treatment, and friends and family members of prisoners generally must provide medication or the funds with which to purchase it. Serious diseases, such as dysentery, malaria and cholera are common and result in numerous deaths. Guards continued to beat and abuse prisoners.
... There were no reports of political prisoners on the mainland. At the year's end, there were 18 political prisoners in Zanzibar."
"Eighteen prisoners of conscience, including three arrested during the year, were facing trial for treason on the island of Zanzibar, an offence that carries the death penalty. Scores of other opposition supporters in Zanzibar were imprisoned for short periods; some were possible prisoners of conscience. More than 300 demonstrators arrested on the mainland in the capital Dar es Salaam were held for several weeks and reportedly tortured. Conditions in some prisons were harsh ..."
The eighteen prisoners, CUF members, included fifteen arrested in 1997 and three arrested in Zanzibar in May 1998, and many had reportedly fallen ill due to a denial of access to medical treatment. According to the report, the conditions in some mainland prisons amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which in the case of Mbeya Prison led to forty-seven deaths in the first half of the year.
"Following lengthy attempts by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth and the United Nations Secretary General to settle the political crisis in Zanzibar, an agreement was finally reached between the CCM and CUF in April 1999. Far-reaching reforms for democratisation, human rights and fair elections were set out in the Commonwealth Agreement, but few have yet been implemented. Although the CUF is allowed to operate more freely, the Zanzibar government continues to press ahead with the trial, intent on convictions and death sentences."
"... the police regularly threaten, mistreat or occasionally beat suspected criminals during and after their apprehension and interrogation ... Repeated reports indicate that the police use torture, including beatings and floggings, in Zanzibar, notably on Pemba island."
The situation in Zanzibar was less favourable in a number of respects. It was stated that, except in Zanzibar, Tanzanian citizens generally enjoyed the right to discuss political alternatives freely and opposition party members openly criticised the government, although the government had used the provision prohibiting "abusive language" against the leadership to detain some opposition figures. Opposition parties had generally been more able to hold rallies, although CUF meetings in Zanzibar had been far more restricted than those of other parties. Police continued to break up meetings attended by persons thought to be opposed to the Zanzibar government. In Pemba the security forces broke up gatherings and intimidated opposition party officials and the government continued to arrest opposition politicians for holding meetings.
"In the four years since the election, government security forces and CCM gangs harassed and intimidated CUF members on both main Zanzibar islands, Pemba and Ugunja ... The CUF accused police of detaining dozens of its members including several local leaders ... citizen's safety is not assured in Pemba, where security forces dispersed gatherings and intimidated persons ... Almost all international donors have suspended direct assistance to Zanzibar in response to the authorities' human rights abuses. Under pressure from the international community, the ruling CCM party and the main opposition party, the CUF, signed a political agreement in June to make the political process in Zanzibar fairer; however the provisions of the agreement were not fully implemented by the year's end and observers believe that the Government did not act in good faith in the period following the signing of the agreement."
IV. REPORTS ON THE SITUATION IN TANZANIA PROVIDED BY THE PARTIES
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
"No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
A. The parties' submissions
1. The applicant
2. The Government
B. The Court's assessment
II. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF ARTICLES 6 AND 8 OF THE CONVENTION
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
"Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity."
A. The parties' submissions
B. The Court's assessment
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
"If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party."
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, for costs and expenses, GBP 12,583.87 (twelve thousand five hundred and eighty-three pounds sterling eighty-seven pence), together with any value-added tax that may be chargeable, less FRF 5,100 (five thousand one hundred French francs) to be converted into pounds sterling at the exchange rate applicable at the date of delivery of the judgment;
(b) that simple interest at an annual rate of 7.5% shall be payable from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 6 March 2001, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
S. Dollé J.-P. Costa