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Irish High Court Bars Extradition of Terror Suspect to U.S., Citing Inhumanity of Solitary Confinement

The High Court of Ireland has declined to extradite a terrorism suspect to the United States to face justice, quashing an extradition request filed by American officials. Ali Charaf Damache, born in Algeria but a 15-year resident of Ireland and an Irish citizen, was accused of engaging in terrorist activities by the U.S. government – activities that allegedly involved recruiting U.S. citizens, including Colleen LaRose.

LaRose, who had already been arrested by U.S. authorities, implicated Damache. He had been in custody in Ireland for five years, which included serving three years of a four-year sentence for making a menacing phone call to a U.S. Muslim activist in 2010.

The refusal to extradite by the Irish High Court followed a contrary 2012 decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Babar Ahmad and Others v. The United Kingdom, which rejected the defendants’ argument that they faced incarceration in solitary confinement at the ADX supermax facility in Florence, Colorado. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.44]. The ECHR’s ruling was criticized by many prisoners’ rights advocates, who argued that the U.S. government had misrepresented conditions of confinement for terrorism suspects at the ADX.

However, in yet another case, British officials blocked the extradition of U.K. citizen and accused computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States because he suffered from Asperger’s disease, which would be exacerbated by solitary confinement. Irish law requires that “a prisoner should not be totally or substantially deprived of the society of fellow humans for anything other than relatively brief and clearly defined periods.”

In its decision in the Damache case, the Irish High Court proceeded to eviscerate the American criminal justice system. First, it noted that the adverse psychological effects of solitary confinement are well-documented, citing a 2014 report by the UN’s Committee Against Torture which described the full isolation of prisoners held in U.S. supermax facilities such as the ADX. Second, it found “The lack of meaningful judicial review creates a risk of arbitrariness in the detention of the person in solitary confinement and therefore confirms that the prolonged detention amounts to a breach of constitutional rights.” The High Court also criticized the U.S. concept of “relevant conduct,” used to tack on additional prison time based on circumstantial and hearsay evidence, as being contrary to Irish law.

The Court pointed out that Irish state prosecutors had elected not to prosecute Damache in Ireland for the same charges, quashed the extradition request and ordered Damache freed in its May 2015 decision. According to the ruling, there were “substantial grounds for believing that Mr. Damache will be at real risk of being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment if extradited to the USA.” See: Attorney General v. Damache, The High Court of Ireland, 2015 IEHC 339 (May 21, 2015).

“I am very happy with today’s ruling,” Damache stated. “I always had faith in the Irish legal system.”

There wasn’t a happy ending to his ordeal, though. Damache, 50, was arrested in Spain in December 2015, where he was taken into custody and will again be subject to an extradition request from the United States.


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