31 Oct 2019
IRCT calls French courts to reject extradition based on torture

In an official statement the IRCT informs the French Judiciary of the serious consequences of executing a European Arrest Warrant against Ms Iratxe Sorzabal since there is a real risk that it is founded on evidence derived from torture.

IRCT calls French courts to reject extradition based on torture

Ms. Sorzabal. Photo by Jon Urbe/Argazki Press

Ms Sorzabal, a Spanish national, was arrested in 2015 on the grounds of leading the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna* (ETA). She was arrested by French police and is now facing extradition to Spain for trial. Ms Sorzabal has continuously claimed that she was tortured in Spain to give false confessions on her activities with the ETA. In considering the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by a Spanish court, the French Judiciary have however refused to consider the compelling independent expert evidence of Ms Sorzabal’s torture. IRCT believes ignoring the evidence breaches Ms Sorzabal’s fundamental human rights, seriously undermines EU efforts to eradicate torture, and poisons its administration of justice.

An independent forensic medical evaluation by international expert, Dr Pierre Duterte, has established that the “after-effects presented by Ms Sorzabal Diaz Iratxe corroborate in a particularly convincing manner [her] allegations of ill-treatment”. This evidence, collected in accordance with the internationally accepted standards in the Istanbul Protocol, stands as the most scientifically reliable account of what happened to Ms Sorzabal and indicates that the evidence used in the EAW is obtained illegally and is fundamentally unreliable. Although Spanish authorities opened an investigative procedure following Ms Sorzabal’s allegations of torture, the rushed and cursory examinations failed to meet Spain’s obligation to effectively investigate her claims. Torture methods are often designed to leave no physical marks – and the Istanbul Protocol specifically observes, “absence of… physical evidence should not be constructed to suggest that torture did not occur, since such acts of violence against persons frequently leave no marks or scars”. Nevertheless, the Spanish investigation concludes that there is no evidence of torture given the lack of physical evidence. This is a fundamental flaw in the investigation and conclusion and a clear indication that it fails to meet international standards.

The EAW is based on principles of mutual recognition and trust. Therefore, EU States execute EAWs without consideration of the evidence relied on by another country’s court. However, when the Spanish judicial authorities fail to effectively investigation credible allegations of torture, they violate the trust on which the EAW is based. It is therefore the responsibility of the French courts and the EU Court of Justice to correct this mistake and uphold fundamental European values and legal standards, in particular the absolute prohibition against torture and the right to a fair trial. They should do this by not executing the EAW until the underlying evidence has been considered, the torture allegations effectively investigated and there are reliable guarantees that Ms Sorzabal will be protected from torture and ensured a fair trial in Spain.

For the full statement in French, see here

For the full statement in English, see here

*English translation: “Basque Home and Freedom”

For more information

ETA formed in 1959 to fight for the independence of the Basque region in northeast Spain and southwest France.

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