“Sometimes, the [ECHR] rulings are so perverse as to be hilarious, as when a Libyan alcoholic with 78 convictions overturned his deportation order partly on grounds that it was very hard to buy alcohol in Libya.”
An opinion article written by former Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan and published in The Telegraph makes a number of claims about the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The article suggests that the court was responsible for a decision involving a Libyan man with alcoholism who had his deportation order overturned “partly on grounds that it was very hard to buy alcohol in Libya.”
The claim would benefit from additional context, as the ECHR was not involved in this case.
Court not involved in 2014 Libyan deportation case
The ECHR adjudicates on cases involving potential breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, legislation which the UK is signed up to.
In the article, Mr Hannan appears to refer to the court as the ECHR and the legislation as the “Convention” or the “European Convention”, though it isn’t always completely clear given that the Convention could also be abbreviated as the ECHR.
However, in the section on the case of the Libyan deportee, Mr Hannan appears to be talking about the court, saying sometimes its “rulings are so perverse as to be hilarious” and going on to talk about the ECHR’s backlog and award of damages.
This gives the impression that the court was involved in this case, which it was not.
In 2014 a Libyan man with 78 convictions in the UK successfully appealed his deportation on the grounds that he would be at risk in his country of birth as a result of his alcoholism.
However, the ECHR was not involved in this particular case, which was in fact decided by an Immigration and Asylum Tribunal in the UK.
The judge ruling on the case did cite the European Convention on Human Rights in his decision to deny the Home Office’s appeal to restore the deportation order. However, the ECHR itself did not rule on the case.
Mr Hannan also claims the decision was made “partly on the grounds that it was very hard to buy alcohol in Libya”.
In fact, the initial tribunal decision to overturn the man’s deportation order was made, in part, on the grounds that despite alcohol sale and consumption being banned entirely in the country, he would be able to buy alcohol in Libya, and that being “alcohol dependent” he would be “reasonably likely” to drink alcohol, putting him at risk of detention and corporal punishment under the country’s alcohol laws.
Permission to appeal an initial tribunal decision was granted to the Home Office by a First-Tier Tribunal judge, who wrote that the initial decision to stop the deportation “does not give any reason for finding that the [claimant] would be able to obtain alcohol and refers only to unspecified objective evidence in concluding he would then be arrested.”
However the Upper Tribunal judge ultimately rejected the Home Office’s appeal on the grounds that the man’s right to freedom from torture and inhumane treatment under article 3 of the Convention would be under threat should he be deported to Libya, and that his article 8 right to respect for private and family life would also be threatened by his deportation.
In his decision, judge Jonathan Perkins cited expert evidence that alcohol was “widely available in Tripoli and the surrounding area but not beyond” and that “cheaply made "moonshine" is readily available and cheap to buy outside the capital.”
He found that as a result of the man’s alcoholism and Libya’s alcohol laws he faced “a real risk of unlawful detention in conditions that either are or are close to being internationally unacceptable with the added risk of unacceptably savage corporal punishment.”
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