When humans become migrants

A blog containing Marie-Bénédicte Dembour's 30 episode podcast to support her book.

Episode ten: Who was Soering?

How does the European Court on Human Rights respond to applicants who claim they cannot be sent to another country because, once there, they would face inhuman treatment?


No-one can be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is inscribed in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Right from the beginning, Article 3 was understood to probably prevent a European state from taking a person to a country where inhuman treatment would be inflicted.

In practice, however, no applicant managed in the early years of the system to make such an Article 3 claim successfully. This changed in 1989 when the Court accepted that Mr Soering, a German citizen suspected of murder in the USA, shouldn’t be extradited from the UK because he risked being subjected to the degrading treatment of death row.

Soering was not a typical case, however. More common cases involved failed asylum seekers who were turning to the Court for protection against removal to their country of origin. One early example is the Cruz Varas v. Sweden case. Mr Cruz Varas had flown the Pinochet regime in Chile, where he claimed to have been subjected to torture and raped in detention.

In this episode I discuss how the European Court responded to his Article 3 claim.

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article 3asylum seekers fleeing tortureeuropean convention on human rightsgeneral pinochetsoering versus uk

Marie-Benedicte Dembour • March 16, 2015

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