Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


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Published by Abdel-Monem in Journal of Transnational Law and Policy (2004-2005) 14(2). Copyright 2005, Florida State University.


In February of 2004, former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was killed in Doha, Qatar, when his car was detonated by an explosive device. Local authorities later arrested three alleged Russian intelligence agents for his death, one of them holding a diplomatic passport. Two of the men admitted to being members of Russian intelligence services, and reported that the explosive used to kill Yandarbiyev was smuggled into Qatar through a diplomatic pouch. A U.S. official later stated that the arrests of the Russian agents were made with assistance to Qatar by the United States. After a diplomatic row between Russia and Qatar, the two suspects were tried and found guilty by a Qatari court, marking “the first time in recent history that a court has found that Russia, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, itself employed terrorist tactics on foreign soil to eliminate one of its enemies.”

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev’s assassination should not be treated as an isolated event. In an era characterized by increased military intervention abroad, international courts should be prepared toaddress claims of human rights violations committed by state actors in foreign territories. The principle question in such inquiries, however, is to what extent human rights treaty obligations extend beyond the territorial jurisdiction of states acting on foreign soil. This article examines the role of the European Convention on Human Rights, arguably one of the most important international human rights agreements, in addressing claims of human rights violations by member-states to the Convention committed on the soil of nations not party to the Convention. The Convention’s judiciary body — the European Court of Human Rights — has developed important precedents regarding alleged human rights violations committed in non-Convention nations and continues to grapple with the issue of the extraterritorial application of the Convention abroad. Most notably, the Court issued rulings in Banković and Others v. Belgium and 16 Other Contracting States, involving the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and Öcalan v. Turkey, concerning the Turkish abduction of a Kurdish leader in Kenya, which speak to the Convention’s applicability to state actions in foreign nations

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