Case-law concerning death penalty abolition


The Court's Press Service has compiled Factsheets by theme on the Court’s case-law and pending cases.


These factsheets are available on the Court's website


We summarized some of them for our readers and recommend to visit the Court's website on these topics.



  • Death penalty as inhuman and degrading treatment


A German national was detained in a prison in England pending
extradition to the USA and complained that, notwithstanding the
assurances presented to the UK Government, there was a serious likelihood that he be sentenced to death if extradited.


The European Court of Human Rights found that Mr Soering’s extradition to the USA would expose him to a real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3. reagrding to the very long period of time people usually spent on death row in extreme conditions in the USA with an ever mounting anguish of waiting to be executed.


The European Court of Human Rights also noted that the legitimate purpose of the extradition could be achieved by another means which would not involve suffering of such exceptional intensity or duration.


E.C.H.R, 07.07.1989, Soering v. The United Kingdom (no. 14038/88)


  • Risk of being stoned to death



An Iranian national fled Iran where she had been detained for having a
relationship with a married man. Arrested in Istanbul for using a forged Canadian passport, she complained that she ran a real risk of death by stoning if returned to Iran.


The European Court of Human Rights concluded that there existed a real risk of being subjected to
treatment contrary to the Convention if she were to be returned to Iran. Accordingly, the order for her deportation to Iran would, if executed, give rise to a violation of Article 3.


E.C.H.R., 11.10.2000, Jabari v. Turkey (no. 40035/98)



  • Death penalty as a result of unfair trial


A Turkish national was sentenced to death in June 1999 for actions aimed at bringing about the separation of the Turkish territory. Following the August 2002 abolition in Turkish law of the death penalty in peace time, the Ankara State Security Court commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.


He complained about the imposition and/or execution of the death penalty in his regard.


The European Court of Human Rights noted that Article 2 precluded the execution of the death penalty in respect of a person who had not had a fair trial. The fear and uncertainty about the future generated by a death sentence, where there existed a real possibility that the sentence would be enforced, inevitably caused strong human anguish to people. Such anguish could not be dissociated from the unfairness of the proceedings underlying the sentence which, given that human life was at stake, became unlawful under the Convention.


A real risk that his sentence might be implemented had existed for more than three years prior to the decision to abolish the death penalty. Consequently, the imposition of the death sentence following an unfair trial by a court
whose independence and impartiality were open to doubt had amounted to inhuman treatment, in violation of Article 3.


E.C.H.R., 12.05.2005, Öcalan v. Turkey (no. 46221/99)

  • Death penalty as such contrary to the Convention


Iraqi nationals and Sunny Muslims accused of involvement in the murder of two British soldiers shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, complained that their transfer by the British authorities into Iraqi custody put them at real risk of execution by hanging.

The European Court of Human Rights held that the death penalty, which involved the deliberate and premeditated destruction of a human being by the State authorities causing physical pain and intense psychological suffering as a result of the foreknowledge of death, could be considered inhuman and degrading and, as such, contrary to Article 3 of the Convention.


E.C.H.R., 02.03.2010, Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v UK (no. 61498/08)