Of course, what follows must be read in the light of a State’s fundamental obligation not to
send a person to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he/she would run a
real risk of being subjected to torture or ill-treatment.
The CPT recognizes that it will often be a difficult and stressful task to enforce a deportation
order in respect of a foreign national who is determined to stay on a State's territory. It is also clear,
in the light of all the CPT’s observations in various countries – and particularly from an
examination of a number of deportation files containing allegations of ill-treatment – that
deportation operations by air entail a manifest risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. This risk
exists both during preparations for deportation and during the actual flight; it is inherent in the use
of a number of individual means/methods of restraint, and is even greater when such
means/methods are used in combination.
At the outset it should be recalled that it is entirely unacceptable for persons subject to a
deportation order to be physically assaulted as a form of persuasion to board a means of
transport or as a punishment for not having done so. The CPT welcomes the fact that this rule
is reflected in many of the relevant instructions in the countries visited. For instance, some
instructions which the CPT examined prohibit the use of means of restraint designed to punish the
foreigner for resisting or which cause unnecessary pain.
Clearly, one of the key issues arising when a deportation operation is carried out is the use
of force and means of restraint by escort staff. The CPT acknowledges that such staff are, on
occasion, obliged to use force and means of restraint in order to effectively carry out the
deportation; however, the force and the means of restraint used should be no more than is
reasonably necessary. The CPT welcomes the fact that in some countries the use of force and
means of restraint during deportation procedures is reviewed in detail, in the light of the principles
of lawfulness, proportionality and appropriateness.
The question of the use of force and means of restraint arises from the moment the detainee
concerned is taken out of the cell in which he/she is being held pending deportation (whether that
cell is located on airport premises, in a holding facility, in a prison or a police station). The
techniques used by escort personnel to immobilise the person to whom means of physical restraint –
such as steel handcuffs or plastic strips – are to be applied deserve special attention. In most cases,
the detainee will be in full possession of his/her physical faculties and able to resist handcuffing
violently. In cases where resistance is encountered, escort staff usually immobilise the detainee
completely on the ground, face down, in order to put on the handcuffs. Keeping a detainee in such
a position, in particular with escort staff putting their weight on various parts of the body (pressure
on the ribcage, knees on the back, immobilisation of the neck) when the person concerned puts up a
struggle, entails a risk of positional asphyxia2.
There is a similar risk when a deportee, having been placed on a seat in the aircraft,
struggles and the escort staff, by applying force, oblige him/her to bend forward, head between the
knees, thus strongly compressing the ribcage. In some countries, the use of force to make the
person concerned bend double in this way in the passenger seat is, as a rule, prohibited, this method
of immobilisation being permitted only if it is absolutely indispensable in order to carry out a
specific, brief, authorised operation, such as putting on, checking or taking off handcuffs, and only
for the duration strictly necessary for this purpose.
See, in particular, “Positional Asphyxia – Sudden Death”, US Department of Justice, June 1995, and the
proceedings of the “Safer Restraint” Conference held in London in April 2002 under the aegis of the UK Police
Complaints Authority (cf. www.pca.gov.uk).