Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Case of Saddam Hussein - Decision of European Court of Human Rights on Admissibility

The European Court of Human Rights on 15 March 2005 delivered decision on admissibility in the case of Sadam Hussein. It held that it was not established that there was “any jurisdictional link between the applicant and the respondent States”… or “that the applicant was capable of falling within the jurisdiction of those States, within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention.” The Court therefore declared the application inadmissible.

Saddam Hussein (“the applicant”), former Iraq dictator , was captured by US soldiers on 13 December 2003 near Tikrit during an operation called “Operation Red Dawn.” On June 29, 2004, he filed a complaint against 21 countries, namely Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom (the “respondent States”). The full decision is available at:

The applicant complained about his arrest, detention, handover and ongoing trial under Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights together with Article 1 of the 6th (abolition of the death penalty in time of peace) and 13th (abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances) Protocols. He maintained that he would be executed following a finding of guilt after a “show trial” for which he lacked even the basic tools of defence. The applicant asserted that the Court had jurisdiction because the respondent States were occupying powers in Iraq, because he was under their direct authority and control or because they were responsible for the acts of their agents abroad. He further maintained that the respondent States were de facto occupying powers even after the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004.

The Court found that the applicant had not demonstrated that he fell within the jurisdiction of the respondent States. The Court held that the applicant has not established that he fell within the jurisdiction of the respondent States on any of the bases alleged. He has not demonstrated that those States had jurisdiction on the basis of their control of the territory where the alleged violations took place. Even if he could have fallen within a State’s jurisdiction because of his detention by it, he has not shown that any one of the respondent States had any responsibility for, or any involvement or role in, his arrest and subsequent detention.

The Court councluded that there is no basis in its case law and the applicant has not invoked any established principle of international law which would mean that he fell within the respondent States’ jurisdiction on the sole basis that those States allegedly formed part of a coalition with the US, when the impugned actions were carried out by the US, when security in the zone in which those actions took place was assigned to the US and when the overall command of the coalition was vested in the US.

Two things are of notice in this case. Firstly, the former dictator resorted to human rights court for alleged violation of human rights, which are the same he so grossly abused during his regime. It is interesting and peculiar to observe that the Court excluded responsibility of European states by implying that US is the one who has had control over the whole territory in Iraq and gave the former dictator in a way moral victory over the US government.


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