ECtHR – G.S. v. Bulgaria (no. 36538/17), 4 April 2019

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Country of Applicant: 
Date of Decision: 
European Court of Human Rights – G.S. v. Bulgaria, no. 36538/17, 4 April 2019
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights – Fifth Section

Extradition to Iran to face criminal charges would risk a violation of Article 3 due to possible exposure to flogging under Iranian penal law. 


The applicant, an Iranian national, was detained upon arrival to Sofia Airport in December 2016 in response to a Red Interpol Alert issued by the National Central Bureau of Interpol for Iran. According to the Red Alert, the applicant had stolen the equivalent of 50,000 euro from a foreign-exchange office in Tehran and fled the country.

In January 2017, an extradition request was submitted by the Iranian authorities to Bulgaria and stated that the act committed by the applicant was an offence under Article 656 § 4 of the Iranian Penal Code. In the request, the Iranian authorities stated that the applicant would face imprisonment under the abovementioned article and assured the Bulgarian authorities that the applicant would not face torture or inhuman treatment if returned to Iran.

In April 2017, the Sofia City Court found that the extradition request met all the formal requirements and that it was permissible to proceed on the basis of the de facto reciprocity between Bulgaria and Iran on extradition matters. This decision was subsequently upheld by the Sofia Court of Appeal.

The applicant complains that his extradition to Iran would put him in danger of treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention.  

Decision & Reasoning: 
The Court first examined Article 656 § 4 of the Iranian Penal Code under which the applicant would be sentenced if returned to Iran. This article permits a punishment of up to seventy-four lashes. The Court held that such punishment was a clear violation of Article 3 of the Convention. The Court also made reference to various international non-governmental organisation reports as well as reports from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Council and reports from UN Special Rapporteurs on Iran to examine the situation of human rights and corporal punishment in Iran.

With regard to its own case law on extradition and the recent case of M.G. v. Bulgaria (59297/12, paras. 74-82), it noted that in the extradition request in the instant case, the National Central Bureau of Interpol for Iran did not fully disclose the relevant penal code provisions and the maximum penalty the applicant could face, as is required under Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data. The domestic courts only became aware of the potential punishment at the end of court proceedings.The Court held that the domestic court had assumed that the applicant would only be subject to imprisonment and failed to sufficiently examine publicly available information on punishment under Article 656 of the Iranian Penal Code. It thus found that the potential violation of Article 3 was not adequately assessed in domestic proceedings.

The Court further found that the assurances provided by the Iranian authorities that the applicant would not be subject to torture or inhuman treatment could not be regarded as sufficient for two main reasons. First, it was found that the omission of the relevant article of the Iranian Penal Code from the extradition request raised doubts as to the trustworthiness of the Iranian authorities. Second, the Court found that the Iranian authorities do not regard flogging or other forms of corporal punishment as inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Court therefore ruled that the extradition of the applicant to Iran would constitute a violation of the applicant’s rights under Article 3 due to the possible punishment that awaits him there.

Application granted.

Violation of Article 3 of the Convention if the applicant were to be extradited to Iran. 

Case Law Cited: 

Umirov v. Russia (no. 17455/11)

ECtHR - Rafaa v. France (no. 25393/10, ECtHR 30 May 2013

ECtHR - Rustamov v. Russia, Application no. 11209/10, 3 July 2012

ECtHR - Yuldashev v. Russia, Application No. 1248/09

ECtHR - Ismoilov v Russia (2008) (Application no. 2947/06)

Gayratbek Saliyev v. Russia, (no. 39093/13)

ECtHR - Savriddin Dzhurayev v. Russia, Application No. 71386/10, UP

ECtHR - Harkins and Edwards v. United Kingdom (nos. 9146/07 and 32650/07)

ECtHR - Babar Ahmad and Others v. the United Kingdom, Application Nos. 24027/07, 11949/08 and 36742/08

ECtHR - M.G. v. Bulgaria, no. 59297/12, 25 March 2014
Other sources cited: 
  • General Comment No. 4 on the implementation of that Article 3, issued in September 2018 (UN Doc. CAT/C/GC/4)
  • Article 656 § 4 of the Iranian Penal Code
  • Reports:


Authentic Language: 
State Party: 
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Extradition and European Arrest Warrants Act 2005