Abdennacer Naït-Liman v Switzerland

Abdennacer Naït-Liman is a torture survivor from Tunisia.  In April 1992, while living in Italy, Mr Naït-Liman was arrested and handed over to the Tunisian authorities.  Over a period of 40 days he was arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture in the Ministry of Interior building in Tunis.  He later fled to Switzerland where he was granted refugee status in 1995.

In 2001 Mr Naït-Liman learned that Tunisia’s former Minister of the Interior, who he alleged was responsible for the torture, was hospitalised in Geneva. He filed a criminal complaint against the former minister, but he was not apprehended before he left Swiss territory.  Mr Naït-Liman later brought a civil claim for damages in Switzerland against the former minister and the State of Tunisia, however the Swiss Federal Court (on appeal) found that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim because the alleged torture occurred in Tunisia. 

Following the refusal of the Swiss courts to examine his claim, Mr Naït-Liman filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights alleging that Switzerland had violated his right of access to a court under Article 6 of the European Convention. REDRESS, together with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), was granted leave to intervene in the proceedings and submitted written comments to the Court addressing states’ obligations to provide an applicant with access to a court for allegations of torture committed abroad where there is no other reasonable means of redress and the question of immunity of a former official.

On 21 June 2016, the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a 4-3 majority, that there had not been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. On 28 November 2016, the case was referred to the Grand Chamber.

On 23 February 2017, REDRESS and OMCT submitted additional observations to the Grand Chamber focussing on the role of (i) forum of necessity jurisdiction and (ii) universal jurisdiction to provide victims of torture access to justice where there is no alternative forum.


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