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21 May 2021

Bindmans sucessfully contest extradition sought by Moldova in proceedings before the High Court

4 mins

Bindmans LLP acted for Andrian Tabuncic, one of the Appellants, in proceedings before the High Court in the case of Tabuncic & Coev v Moldova  [2021] EWHC 1269 (Admin). Mr Tabuncic’s extradition was sought by Moldova and was successfully contested by Bindmans on the basis that it constituted a breach of his rights not to suffer inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Divisional Court, comprised of LJ Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Holgate, allowed the appeal, discharged the Appellants and found that the orders for extradition should be quashed.

Issues

The issues considered by the Divisional Court in this case were:

  1. whether there were substantial grounds for believing that there was a real risk of infringements of Appellants rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) due to material prison conditions and specifically inter prisoner violence;
  2. whether and to what extent assurances given by Moldova could be relied on.

Reasoning

The Moldovan prison system is run by a powerful criminal sub-culture which is tolerated by the prison authorities. The Divisional Court accepted the evidence of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (the CPT) that this problem remains as ‘acute as ever’ and has led to inmates being subjected to extortion and violence and prolonged periods of self-selected solitary confinement, from which they could not safely leave. It found that the problems of inter prisoner violence were ‘endemic’. Moldova had provided assurances that if extradited, Mr Tabuncic would be held in Article 3 compliant cells and would be protected from violence from other inmates. Based on the above and based on evidence obtained of ‘substantial’ breaches of assurances given to the first individual extradited from the UK to Moldova, the Divisional Court found that assurances given in relation to Mr Tabuncic could not be relied upon.  

Conclusion

In its judgement, given on 14 May, the Divisional Court concluded that: 

'The system of extradition as applied by the Courts of this jurisdiction is founded upon mutual trust and respect. The failure of the Respondent to provide any admissible information in reply to the matters raised by the Appellants is a matter of real concern. While these appeals have not been set up to be test or lead cases in relation to Moldova, the fact that they are, so far as is known, the first to have reached the higher courts means that assurances given and assertions made by the Respondent in future cases will have to be scrutinised with particularly anxious care.'

Bindmans LLP associate, Jessica Skinns, who represented Mr Tabuncic comments:

This judgment makes it clear that there are very real issues with Moldovan prison conditions and specifically those arising from inter prisoner violence. This judgment may have a wider impact on other Moldovan extradition cases. It is likely that Moldova will be required to provide further updated assurances in these cases, which no doubt will be scrutinised by the lower courts with ‘particularly anxious care’. It remains to be seen whether such rulings and judicial criticism from the UK has any material impact on the appalling conditions for inmates in Moldova.

Andrian Tabuncic was represented by Jessica Skinns, Associate in the Crime and Extradition Team at Bindmans LLP. She instructed counsel Ben Keith and David Josse QC of 5 St Andrews Hill and experts George Tugushi and Vadim Vieru of Promo-Lex.

Our Criminal Law and Extradition team are highly experienced in dealing with extradition cases, to find out more about our services visit our Extradition page here.

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