European Commission of Human Rights:
Friendly Settlement in the case of
M.A.R. v. United Kingdom

(from Iranian Refugees At Risk Winter97/Spring 98)

A friendly settlement was reached between M.A.R. and the U.K. Government in the European Commission case featured in the Summer/Fall 1997 issue of Iranian Refugees At-risk.

M.A.R, an Iranian national, was accorded refugee status in the U.K. in 1982 However, he was ordered deported after a number of drug related offenses. On his last conviction in 1988 he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment He was granted parole in 1993, but a few months later, the Home Secretary issued him a deportation order. After several stages of unsuccessful appeals, M.A.R. was given his removal directions to be effected on July 27, 1995.

In June 1995, M.A.R. made a complaint against the U.K. government to the European Commission of Human Rights. Following his request to the Commission, the U.K. government undertook not to deport him pending the Commission's fuller consideration of the matter. M.A.R. claimed that his deportation to Iran would amount to a violation of Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture), 5 (right to liberty and security), and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the Convention. He stated that, if deported, he would be at risk of treatment in violation of these Articles in view of his political activities against the regime while he was in Iran, his refugee status in the U.K. and a rigorous anti-drugs campaign conducted in Iran. In support of his claim he submitted, among other things, letters from Amnesty International.

Throughout M.A.R.'s deportation legal proceedings, Amnesty International maintained the position that the prosecution, arrest and detention of long-term absentees from Iran on their return is "clearly a risk&quit. Amnesty also maintained that the possibility of those returning to Iran, following conviction abroad for drug-related offences, being subjected to double jeopardy cannot be ruled out.

The government contested M.A.R.'s submission arguing that he has not demonstrated a real risk that his drug convictions or his long absence from Iran as a refugee would result in his being treated in a manner contrary to Articles 2 or 3 of the Convention should he be expelled to Iran. In this respect, the Government argued that the situation in Iran since M.A.R. was granted asylum has “considerably improved. In regard to Articles 5 and 6 claims, the Government argued that there is no evidence that M.A.R. would either be detained or tried in Iran in the manner in which he alleges and that, in any event, those complaints do not engage the responsibility of the U.K. under the Convention, as there exists no cooperation in the criminal process between the U.K. and Iran.

On January 16, 1997, the European Commission of Human Rights held a hearing on the admissibility and merits of M.A.R.'s application against the U.K. After further deliberations, the Commission considered that M.A.R.'s complaints raised issues of fact and law which were of such complexity that their determination should depend on an examination of the merits. The Commission, therefore, declared the application admissible, without prejudging the merits of the case.

Subsequent to this decision, the Commission undertook further examination of the case while also placing itself at the disposal of the parties with a view to securing a friendly settlement, pursuant to Article 28 para. 1 (a&b). By April 1997 the Government outlined proposals for a friendly settlement. By August, M.A.R. confirmed to the Commission that a friendly settlement could be reached based on the government's proposals to grant him indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. and allow him to apply for a Home Office travel document and to pay him reasonable legal costs arising from this Application to the Commission. Subsequently, on September 19, 1997, the Commission found that the friendly settlement of the case had been secured "on the basis of respect for Human Rights as defined in the Convention."e

The friendly settlement precluded the Commission from stating its opinion as to whether the facts of M.A.R.'s case disclosed a breach by the U.K. Government of its obligations under the Convention. Such opinions are issued only if a friendly settlement is not reached. They are transmitted to the Committee of Ministers, which will decide the matter unless the case is referred to the European Court of Human Rights.

A finding of violations by the European Council's human rights system would have had a more far-reaching impact by lending support to similar cases. Nevertheless, the friendly settlement reached between M.A.R. and the U.K. Government underscores the extent to which a well-substantiated complaint to the international tribunals, and its resulting adverse publicity for the respondent government, can encourage that government to reconsider its earlier decisions.