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Madrid: The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has unanimously found that the extradition of a Taiwanese national to China, which Poland’s courts had cleared earlier, would place him at significant risk of ill-treatment and torture.

Madrid-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said this momentous decision, announced just a few weeks ago, on October 6, will most likely mean European countries will find it near impossible to extradite suspects to China again.

“It is hard to overstate how influential this decision could be, and how it, in one swoop, has done more to protect basic rights from being undermined by China, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), than most or all European government actions so far,” Safeguard Defenders said.

It notes that the ECHR is a legally binding international judicial instrument and goes further than similar international treatises. It ties 46 European countries to one legally-binding convention, and, notably, does only apply to EU states.

The case was brought by Taiwanese citizen Liu Hongtao (written as Hung Tao Liu in the court decision).

His extradition had been approved by Poland’s legal authorities, including its Supreme Court. The appellant held that his extradition to China would violate Articles 3 and 6 of the ECHR, concerning torture and ill-treatment and deprivation of the right to a fair trial.

“The verdict is set to guide all local European countries’ court decisions on extradition to China in the future, as well as governments, which will now have to approve the initiation of an extradition process once requested by China, despite knowing that court approval would be unlikely,” the Madrid based group said.

Liu’s lawyer at the ECtHR, Polish Professor of law Marcin Gorski concurs that the outcome is of significance, and points to the unanimous decision by the court as of importance, reducing the likelihood that Poland or others would appeal the verdict.

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