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Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy – 27765/09

Country Italy
Status FINAL
Court ECtHR (Grand Chamber)
Relevant Law Article 1, 3, 13 Article 4 Protocol 4
Year 2012
Found for Applicant

The applicants, who are 11 Somali nationals along with 13 Eritrean nationals were part of a group of around 200 people on the move who left Libya aboard three vessels in the aim of reaching the Italian coast. They were intercepted by the Italian Coast Guard near Malta, taken on board military vessels, and returned to Tripoli. All their personal belongings were taken. After arriving in Tripoli they were handed over to Libyan authorities. The Court found Article 4 Protocol 4 violations, along with violations of Articles 3 and 13.

The Court held that a state exercises extra-territorial jurisdiction over an individual when its state agents bring this person on board a vessel flying its flag on the high sea. Consequently, Italy would have had to guarantee the human rights of the applicants.

According to Italy, the fact that the applicants had merely opposed their return to Libya could not be considered a request for protection, imposing an obligation to protect Article 3 upon Italy. In this regard, the Court considered that when national authorities are faced with a situation in which human rights are systematically violated, it is their responsibility to assess the treatment to which the applicants would be exposed after their return. Having regard to the circumstances prevalent in the case, the Court then concluded that the alleged fact that the applicants had failed to expressly request asylum, did not exempt Italy from fulfilling its obligations under Article 3.

As substantial grounds had been shown to believe that the applicants would suffer treatment in violation of Article 3 upon return to Libya, and Italy was aware of this risk, Italy had exposed the applicants to treatment proscribed by the Convention and had violated Article 3.

Likewise, the Court held that Italy was bound by Article 4 of the fourth Protocol because it had exercised extraterritorial jurisdiction over the applicants. The Court then concluded that in the present case, Italy had failed to carry out any form of examination of the applicants’ individual situations. Moreover, the Court noted that the Italian authorities in question were not trained to conduct individual interviews and were not assisted by interpreters or legal advisers. Therefore, the Court held that the removal of the applicants was of a collective nature, in breach of Article 4 of the fourth Protocol.

Finally, the Court held that the applicants had been deprived of any remedy which would have enabled them to lodge a complaint with a competent authority before the removal measure was enforced. Therefore, the criteria encompassed in Article 13, including the criterion of suspensive effect, had not been met and therefore Italy had violated Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 and Article 4 of Protocol no. 4 of the Convention.