Extradition case of Sanchez-Sanchez vs United Kingdom was heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 23 February 2022. Judgment in the case was handed down on 3 November 2022.
Barristers David Josse K.C. and Ben Keith represented Mr Sanchez-Sanchez instructed by Roger Sahota of Berkeley Square Solicitors, at the EtCHR. It was the first case featuring the UK to be considered by the Grand Chamber since Brexit and the first extradition case in over 5 years.
The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that Mr Sanchez-Sanchez’s extradition to the United States would not be in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case of Sanchez-Sanchez v. the United Kingdom (application no. 22854/20) concerned the requested extradition of Mr Sanchez-Sanchez, a Mexican national, to the United States of America (USA) to face trial for drug dealing and trafficking, where he alleged that there was a possibility that he might, if convicted, be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
The Court found that, while the principles set out in the Court’s previous case law must be applied in domestic cases, an adapted approach was called for in an extradition case such as this, where the applicant has been neither convicted nor sentenced, and where the finding of a violation could prevent him from standing trial. It subsequently overruled the case law in Trabelsi v. Belgium for this non-domestic case, underlining, however, that that in no way undermined its position that the extradition of a person by a Contracting State raised problems where there were serious grounds to believe that he would run a real risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention in the requesting State.
In extradition cases, the Court held that, first, it was up to the applicant to demonstrate that there was a real risk that, if convicted, he would be given a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Then, in keeping with the essence of the case law in Vinter and Others v. the UK, the sending State must ascertain, prior to authorising extradition, that a mechanism of sentence review existed in the requesting State which would allow the domestic authorities to consider the prisoner’s progress towards rehabilitation or any other ground for release based on his or her behaviour or other circumstances.
In the case of Mr Sanchez-Sanchez, the Court held that he had not shown that, in the event of his conviction in the United States of the offences charged, there would be a real risk that he would be given a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. There was therefore no need to carry out the second stage of the analysis.
The judgment is final. The Court also decided that the interim measure (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) indicating to the UK Government that it should stay Mr Sanchez-Sanchez’s extradition is to be lifted.
The hearing was recorded from the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR. Watch the hearing in full here.
David Josse K.C. has been Head of Chambers at 5 St Andrew’s Hill since 2015. He is a barrister specialising in extradition, human rights, international war crimes and serious crime, both nationally and internationally. David is ranked in The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners as a silk in the field of extradition at the London Bar. He is Vice-Chair of the Bar Council International Committee.
Ben Keith is a leading specialist in Extradition and International Crime, as well as dealing with Immigration, Serious Fraud, and Public law. He has extensive experience of appellate proceedings before the Administrative and Divisional Courts, Criminal and Civil Court of Appeal as well as applications and appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and United Nations. Ben is ranked in The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners in the field of extradition at the London Bar.