Somali criminals must stay in UK, rules European Court

Somali government troops fighting in Mogadishu, 27 May 11
Image caption Somali government troops (pictured) are fighting Islamist forces for control of Mogadishu

The UK must not deport two Somalis convicted of serious crimes because to do so would endanger their lives, the European Court of Human Rights says.

The Strasbourg judges said the UK's duty to protect the two from torture or inhumane treatment was "absolute".

The pair, aged 24 and 42, were served with deportation orders after being convicted of burglary, threats to kill, robbery and dealing in class A drugs.

The ruling sets a legal precedent for 214 similar UK cases involving Somalis.

Abdisamad Adow Sufi (24) and Abdiaziz Ibrahim Elmi (42) are being held at immigration detention centres in the UK.

In 2007 they appealed to the Strasbourg court, arguing that they would face death or serious injury if the UK deported them to the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu.

The seven judges accepted that there would be a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if the pair were sent back to Mogadishu.

The court ruling said the judges "reiterated that the prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was absolute, irrespective of the victims' conduct".

"Consequently, the applicants' behaviour, however undesirable or dangerous, could not be taken into account."

UK 'very disappointed'

The court told the UK to pay Mr Sufi 14,500 euros (£13,000) and Mr Elmi 7,500 euros (£6,716) for costs and expenses.

The UK still has three months in which it can appeal for the case to be re-examined.

The UK Border Agency said it was "very disappointed" at the ruling and was considering its legal position.

"This judgment does not stop us continuing to pursue the removal of foreign criminals who commit a serious crime," it said in a statement. "Nor does it find that all Somalis are in need of international protection."

Somalia has not had a functioning national government for 20 years.

The Islamist al-Shabab group controls much of southern Somalia and has been fighting interim government forces for control of Mogadishu in recent months.

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