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AI calls on Italy not to forcibly return Avri Er   

Following the rejection on 24 March 2010 of Avri Er’s asylum or international protection application by the Territorial Commission for the Recognition of International Protection in Bari, a number of organisations including Amnesty International have called on the Italian government not to deport the 38-year-old due to the risk that he may be subjected to torture upon his return. Avri Er is likely to undergo arrest in potentially inhumane conditions of isolation with the possibility of being tortured or mistreated and a criminal trial if he were returned as a result of his activity in the DHKP-C, a proscribed organization on the EU list of terrorist organisations for membership of which he has already received a seven-year sentence in December 2006, that was confirmed on appeal in January 2008 and by the Court of Cassation (Italy’s highest appeal court) in August 2009 in Italy, which he has already served.

His application noted that a second conviction for the same offences would violate the ne bis in idem principle, that is, that somebody cannot be tried and punished twice on the basis of the same facts. Er’s conviction also entailed expulsion from Italy as a security measure, and his probation magistrate in Avellino (Campania) confirmed that he represents a current and considerable social danger. In view of both the seriousness of the offence for which he was convicted and his representing a threat, the Commission ruled out the possibility of his being granted asylum or some form of subsidiary or humanitarian protection. This assessment was deemed to have been confirmed by Er’s own hearing, when he was reserved “as to his actual responsibilities”, but “clearly reiterated his ideological convictions, without displaying a critical attitude towards the violent acts committed by the association to which he belongs, but rather, stated that he still deems them legitimate and entirely justified”.

After ruling out the possibility of asylum as a result of the offences for which he was convicted, in its assessment of whether there were other grounds on the basis of which subsidiary protection could be granted and Italy would be contravening its international obligations if Er was forcibly returned, the commission excluded that his marriage to an Italian woman was relevant because the relationship was not effective, noted that the ne bis in idem principle only applies as regards a repeat conviction “under the jurisdiction of the same State”, and that Turkey has declared a tolerance of “zero tolerance” towards practices of torture, with a “strengthening of guarantees” against it. Moreover, although cases of torture have been reported, it is not deemed to be a “systematic practice”, including in cases involving prisoners held in F-type prisons (isolation regime applicable to political prisoners) who enjoy some rights in a regime that is assimilable to the 41 bis regime that is used in Italian detention facilities for crimes including involvement in organised crime syndicates and that the Constitutional Court has deemed does not violate the need for punishment to be humane per se.

Amnesty International has issued an appeal to oppose the forcible return, inviting members to send a letter to interior minister Roberto Maroni warning of the risk that Er may suffer torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, and that such a return would contravene the non-refoulement principle. AI notes that the European Court on Human Rights ordered Italy to suspend the expulsion until Er, who is current held in the identification and expulsion centre (CIE) in Bari, had had his asylum application assessed, and his lawyers now request that the suspension be maintained until the appeal against the rejection has run its course, while AI warns that the authorities may carry the return out before the appeal is heard. Er was arrested in Assisi (Umbria) on 1 April 2004 as part of an international operation and, following his conviction, Turkey had sought his extradition, which Italy denied due to the risk that he may be tried twice for membership of DHKP-C. AI “believes that Avri Er may be subjected to torture or to other types of ill-treament and an unfair trial”, as has happened over the last few years to other DHKP-C members, if he is repatriated. AI explains that Er left Turkey when he was 11 years old and has never returned since.

Documentation that has been circulated by campaigners against Er’s repatriation include Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly’s press statement from January 2008, in which it criticised the procedures whereby the UN Security Council and EU draw up their terrorist blacklists as “contravening basic human rights” and “completely arbitrary”. Dick Marty, the rapporteur, argued that sanctions could be imposed based “on simple suspicion”, and criticised the fact that no “independent review of the decisions adopted” was envisaged.

In the information attached to AI’s “urgent action” to prevent the deportation, the organisation stresses that “Reported cases of torture and other ill-treatment have increased within the last two years”, and that people “accused of terrorism-related offences” are those most at risk. Among the cases it has documented, is the death in custody of Engin Çeber, a man accused of sympathising with DHKP-C, in October 2008. It also points to its report from 2006, “Turkey Justice Delayed and Denied: The persistence of protracted and unfair trials for those charged under anti-terrorism legislation” (Index: EUR 44/013/2006) on the “continuing pattern of unfair trials under anti-terrorism legislation leading to convictions based on insubstantial or unreliable evidence, often obtained through torture”.

Sources

Amnesty International, Urgent Action, “Man risks torture if returned to Turkey”
, 1.4.2010, UA: 74/10 EUR: 30/006/2010 Italy.

Commissione Territoriale per il Riconoscimento della Protezione Internazionale di Bari, 29.3.2010.

Council of Europe press statement, 23.1.2008

AI Model for letter to ask Minister Maroni not to forcibly deport Avri Er, in Italian and English.

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