The impact of Covid-19 on proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights (‘the European Court’)

Quist are defending their client in a US extradition case. Quist made an application to the European Court in Strasbourg pursuant to Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.

Quist obtained an indication from the European Court on the basis that our client faced a sentence of life without parole in the United States and that there was a real risk that conditions in the federal detention centres were inhuman, particularly in the light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Under Rule 39 the European Court may grant interim measures to any State party to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the Convention’). Interim measures are urgent measures which are granted only on an exceptional basis, where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.

Quist requested a stay of the extradition due to the risk of irreparable harm to our client’s Article 3 rights if he was surrendered to the US. The matter is now being considered by the European Court in light of the current Covid-19 global pandemic.

The key challenges before the European Court

Article 3 relates to the prohibition of torture. It provides: No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Quist argued that the extradition will violate Article 3 of the Convention because of the:

  • real risk our client will face a sentence of life without parole without the necessary review required by the Court in the case of Vinter [1]
  • real risk of detention in inhuman conditions, including solitary confinement and wholly defective mental health care, at the post-conviction stage.
  • high risk of coronavirus in those centres and the absence of appropriate safeguards.

Covid-19 global pandemic

The Court has given particular importance to the impact of Covid-19 on prison conditions and whether this will breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

It has been reported that criminal justice advocates and attorneys are anticipating an imminent outbreak of the coronavirus hitting New York’s incarcerated populations as more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed throughout the city.

Quist have engaged multiple experts in order to obtain up-to-date information in relation to the prison conditions due to Covid-19 and the risk of the infection spreading amongst cell mates.

[1] (2016) 63 EHRR 1