European Court Refuses to Extradite Mentally ill man to US


The European Court of Human Rights ruled that extraditing a man diagnosed with schizophrenia to the United States would a violation of his human rights. “In light of the medical evidence before it, the Court found that there was a real risk that Mr Aswat’s extradition”, said the judges, “to a different, potentially more hostile prison environment, would result in a significant deterioration in his mental and physical health.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Aswat has had a hell of a lot coincidences occur around him if he was never a radical islamist. Just happening to have his passport found on the battlefield? Just happening to slip into Britain in June 2005?

    It is quite possible that the threat of winding up in ADX Florence for life has driven him into a mentally distressed state.

    But then half the internet says he is an MI6 agent too.

    It’s anybody’s guess what this case truly contains.

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    • Now I am the one forced out of “retirement” :D. This example underscores what Thomas Szasz repeatedly called the flip side of psychiatry as a coercive force. Most of the criticism we’ve seen in MIA against that aspect of psychiatry involves civil commitment. However, there is also the aspect of “justice denied” that comes in the form of “insanity defense” or in this case by the refusal of the ECHR to extradite this guy to the US.

      The ECHR has a history of denying extraditions to the US because of political reasons. The most common reason given is its opposition to the death penalty (which not was present in this case) .

      That said, extrapolating that the ECHR is more “protective” of the rights of those labelled “mentally ill” based on this case is not warranted since the ECHR has also a record of sanctioning practices that have been repeatedly considered unconstitutional by our SCOTUS, such as handcuffing an Austrian citizen to a bed for several days for refusing to take antipsychotics. The ECHR said in that case that while the practice lasted for too long, it was within the rights of the Austrian government to do so and it refused to grant relief to the plaintiff.

      If anything, this case of “justice denied” is just another example of why all evils of psychiatry can be traced to its status as a coercive force.

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