Relatively Absolute? The Undermining of Article 3 ECHR in Ahmad v UK

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The recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Ahmad v UK dangerously undermines the well-established case law of the Court on counter-terrorism and non-refoulement towards torture, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Although ostensibly rejecting the ‘relativist’ approach to Article 3 ECHR adopted by the House of Lords in Wellington v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Court appeared to accept that what is a breach of Article 3 in a domestic context may not be a breach in an extradition or expulsion context. This statement is difficult to reconcile with the jurisprudence constante of the Court in the last fifteen years, according to which Article 3 ECHR is an absolute right in all its applications, including non-refoulement, regardless of who the potential victim of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment is, what she may have done, or where the treatment at issue would occur.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589–603
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2013


  • Article 3 ECHR, non-refoulement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, absolute rights, relativism, Ahmad v UK, European Court of Human Rights

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