On 4 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published its judgment in the case of G.S. v. Bulgaria (36538/17). The applicant, a Georgian national, faced extradition from Bulgaria to Iran on criminal charges for theft.
In December 2016, upon arrival to Sofia Airport, the applicant was detained in response to a Red Interpol Alert issued by the National Central Bureau of Interpol for Iran. In April 2017, the Sofia City Court found that the extradition request met all the formal requirements and that it was permissible to proceed on the basis of the de facto reciprocity between Bulgaria and Iran.
In its assessment of the case, the ECtHR examined Article 656 § 4 of the Iranian Penal Code under which the applicant would be sentenced. The Court found that the applicant faced a real risk of being subject to flogging − with a punishment of up to seventy-four lashes − and that this would constitute a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
The Court examined the case with reference to its own case law on extradition and the recent case of M.G. v. Bulgaria (59297/12, paras. 74-82). The Court noted that in the extradition request, the National Central Bureau of Interpol for Iran did not disclose the relevant penal code provisions and the maximum penalty the applicant could face, as is required under Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data. The domestic courts only became aware of the potential punishment at the end of court proceedings. The ECtHR thus found that the potential violation of Article 3 was not adequately assessed in domestic proceedings.
The Court further found that the assurances provided by the Iranian authorities that the applicant would not be subject to torture or inhuman treatment could not be regarded as sufficient. It was found that the omission of the relevant article of the Iranian Penal Code raised doubts as to the trustworthiness of the Iranian authorities. The Court also noted that the Iranian authorities do not regard flogging or other forms of corporal punishment as inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Court therefore ruled that the extradition of the applicant to Iran would constitute a violation of the applicant’s rights under Article 3 and the assurances provided by the Iranian authorities to Bulgaria were not sufficient.