Switzerland-ECHR: Refusal by the Swiss courts to examine a compensation claim relating to alleged acts of torture in Tunisia: no violation

Refusal by the Swiss courts to examine a compensation claim relating to alleged acts of torture in Tunisia: no violation
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Press release issued by European Court of Human Rights, 15 March 2018
In today’s Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of Nait-Liman v. Switzerland (application no. 51357/07) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority (fifteen votes to two), that there had been: no violation of Article 6 § 1 (right of access to a court) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the refusal by the Swiss courts to examine Mr Naït-Liman’s civil claim for compensation for the non-pecuniary damage arising from acts of torture allegedly inflicted on him in Tunisia.

The Court considered, on the basis of a comparative legal study, that international law had not imposed an obligation on the Swiss authorities to open their courts with a view to ruling on the merits of Mr Naït-Liman’s compensation claim, on the basis of either universal civil jurisdiction in respect of acts of torture or a forum of necessity. It followed that the Swiss authorities had enjoyed a wide margin of appreciation in this area.

With regard to the criteria laid down by the legislature, the Court concluded that by introducing a forum of necessity with the criteria laid down in section 3 of the Federal Law on Private International Law, the Swiss legislature had not exceeded its margin of appreciation. As to the margin of appreciation of the domestic courts, the Court could perceive no arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable elements in the Federal Supreme Court’s interpretation in its judgment of 22 May 2007, by which the Federal Supreme Court dismissed Mr Naït-Liman’s appeal, holding that the Swiss courts did not have territorial jurisdiction.

The Court reiterated, however, that this conclusion did not call into question the broad consensus within the international community on the existence of a right for victims of acts of torture to obtain appropriate and effective redress, nor the fact that the States were encouraged to give effect to this right.

See further in the full press release (pdf) and the judgment: Naït-Liman v. Switzerland (pdf)

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