Sweden scrutinised over extradition

A United Nations human rights body has said Sweden breached international law by extraditing an Egyptian at risk of torture.

    The UN Committee against Torture was asked to take action

    His family said on Thursday that Ahmed Hussein Agiza was mistreated with electric shocks in the first weeks after he was sent back to Egypt more than three years ago. Swedish officials, who visited him in jail, said they saw no sign of torture.

    Sweden extradited Agiza, an asylum-seeker, to Egypt in December 2001 to be tried for violent acts against his government as a member of an offshoot of the group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

    Life in prison

    Agiza was sentenced to life in prison last month by a military court, but Sweden said this week it would ask Egypt to re-try him as his trial had not been fair.

    President Anwar Sadat was
    assassinated at an army parade

    The UN Committee against Torture, in a decision on a complaint brought by the family, said it recognised measures in the fight against terrorism, including denial of safe haven, were legitimate and important.

    But such measures must conform to international law and Sweden should have realised that Agiza was at risk of torture, the UN body said. His right to appeal against extradition was also denied.

    Swedish authorities should have known the situation in Egypt at the time of the deportation, the body concluded. "Egypt resorted to consistent and widespread use of torture against detainees and that the risk of such treatment was particularly high in the case of detainees held for political and security reasons," it said.

    UN convention

    The committee concluded that the facts constituted breaches by Sweden of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    The body, made up of 10 independent experts, gave Sweden 90 days to inform it of the steps it was taking in response to this view. Sweden was obliged to prevent similar violations in the future, it said.

    Sweden has said it returned Agiza and fellow Egyptian Muhammad Suleiman Ibrahim El-Zari to Egypt because it received diplomatic assurances from Cairo of fair treatment.

    Agiza's family said security officers had used torture during interrogation, allegations Egypt has denied.

    No signs

    Sweden told the UN body its officials visited Agiza in prison regularly from January 2002. "At none of the visits did he show signs of physical abuse or maltreatment, and he was able to move around without difficulty," it said.

    Sweden says it sought
    assurances on Agiza's safety

    In March 2002, the ambassador visited Agiza. "He removed his shirt and undershirt and turned around, disclosing no sign of torture," Sweden said.

    Sweden is among 139 countries to have ratified the pact, which requires authorities considering extradition to take into account a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights in the country of destination.

    One expert, Alexander Yakovlev of Russia, dissented, noting in his separate opinion that Sweden had sought and received guarantees from Egypt and had acted in good faith.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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