The IRCT has issued an amicus curiae brief advising the Swiss Federal Criminal Court on how to ensure that victims of torture receive a fair and effective evaluation of claims of past torture during extradition proceedings. The intervention relates to the case of Ms Nekane Txapartegi who claims that her extradition to Spain is because of a criminal conviction based on evidence extracted through torture in Spain.
The amicus explains the importance of accepting evidence of torture collected in accordance with the international standards established in the Istanbul Protocol and the need to ensure that torture victims are afforded relevant procedural safeguards.
Ms Txapartegi alleges that she was kidnapped by paramilitary forces in 1999 and held incommunicado for a period of five days. During this time, she was tortured and raped by Spanish police and forced to sign a confession, stating that she had collaborated with the separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). She was subsequently sentenced to six years and nine months in prison in 2007.
Ms Txapartegi fled to Switzerland in 2007 and was arrested by Swiss authorities in April 2016 following an extradition request issued by the Spanish government. The case is currently pending before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court where some of the key questions relate to the reliability of medical evidence submitted by Ms Txapartegi. It is in connection with this that the amicus brief notes:
“Medico-legal reports conducted in compliance with the standards and principles of the Istanbul Protocol present relevant and reliable findings on torture and therefore should be considered by decision-makers as compelling evidence on the issue of whether torture or other ill-treatment has or has not been perpetrated, including by asylum and extradition authorities in relevant proceedings.”
The brief further explains how torture trauma such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can prevent victims from presenting a consistent and coherent account of past torture experiences. Administrative and judicial proceedings should take this into account when determining the credibility of the story. In relation to Ms Txapartegi’s specific allegations, the brief explains:
Scientific research also has shown that victims of sexual violence and sexual torture have greater incidences of dissociation and avoidance, which are part of the post-traumatic stress disorder symptomology. These reactions may make it impossible for them to disclose all relevant details or indeed cause them – without choice – to offer incomplete or inconsistent accounts of the past torture.