The CPT has made it clear that the use of force and/or means of restraint capable of
causing positional asphyxia should be avoided whenever possible and that any such use in
exceptional circumstances must be the subject of guidelines designed to reduce to a minimum
the risks to the health of the person concerned.
The CPT has noted with interest the directives in force in certain countries, according to
which means of restraint must be removed during the flight (as soon as take-off has been
completed). If, exceptionally, the means of restraint had to be left in place, because the deportee
continued to act aggressively, the escort staff were instructed to cover the foreigner’s limbs with a
blanket (such as that normally issued to passengers), so as to conceal the means of restraint from
On the other hand, instructions such as those followed until recently in one of the countries
visited in connection with the most problematic deportation operations, whereby the persons
concerned were made to wear nappies and prevented from using the toilet throughout the flight on
account of their presumed dangerousness, can only lead to a degrading situation.
In addition to the avoidance of the risks of positional asphyxia referred to above, the CPT
has systematically recommended an absolute ban on the use of means likely to obstruct the
airways (nose and/or mouth) partially or wholly. Serious incidents that have occurred in various
countries over the last ten years in the course of deportations have highlighted the considerable risk
to the lives of the persons concerned of using these methods (gagging the mouth and/or nose with
adhesive tape, putting a cushion or padded glove on the face, pushing the face against the back of
the seat in front, etc.). The CPT drew the attention of States Parties to the Convention to the
dangers of methods of this kind as far back as 1997, in its 7th General Report. It notes that this
practice is now expressly prohibited in many States Parties and invites States which have not
already done so to introduce binding provisions in this respect without further delay.
It is essential that, in the event of a flight emergency while the plane is airborne, the rescue
of the person being deported is not impeded. Consequently, it must be possible to remove
immediately any means restricting the freedom of movement of the deportee, upon an order
from the crew.
Account should also be taken of the health risks connected with the so-called “economyclass syndrome” in the case of persons who are confined to their seats for long periods3.
Two particular points were of concern to the CPT after visits to certain countries: the
wearing of masks by deportation escorts and the use, by the latter, of incapacitating or irritant gases
to remove immigration detainees from their cells in order to transfer them to the aircraft.
In the CPT’s opinion, security considerations can never serve to justify escort staff
wearing masks during deportation operations. This practice is highly undesirable, since it could
make it very difficult to ascertain who is responsible in the event of allegations of ill-treatment.
The CPT also has very serious reservations about the use of incapacitating or irritant
gases to bring recalcitrant detainees under control in order to remove them from their cells
and transfer them to the aircraft. The use of such gases in very confined spaces, such as cells,
entails manifest risks to the health of both the detainee and the staff concerned. Staff should be
trained in other control techniques (for instance, manual control techniques or the use of shields) to
immobilise a recalcitrant detainee.
See, in particular, “Frequency and prevention of symptomless deep-vein thrombosis in long-haul flights: a
randomised trial”, John Scurr et al, The Lancet, Vol. 357, 12 May 2001.