People who plot violence should be deported even if this may lead to torture
On Wednesday of last week, Britain’s highest court authorised the deportation of Abu Qatada, known as Osama bin Laden's Ambassador, to Jordan, despite claims that he could face torture. Should this decision be celebrated as a firm stance against terrorism or have the Law Lords neglected to appreciate the real risk of torture?
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Terrorism is a real risk - there is only a potential risk of torture
The controversial decision of the House of Lords to deport Abu Qatada has set a much-needed precedent, making it harder for suspected terrorists to rely on the over-used defence that they are at risk of torture if deported from Britain. The Law Lords were under a duty to balance two conflicting risks; the danger represented by Qatada to the British public and the danger represented to Qatada himself by the Jordanian government. It is well known that Qatada has issued a series of religious rulings in support of the killing of non-believers and, as described by the Immigration Court in 2005, he is a ‘truly dangerous individual’.[http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/19/abu-qatada-compensation-european-cour]]
Qatada poses a real threat to national security and he has a lengthy track record of involvement in terrorist activities. British officials have even described Qatada as an ‘inspiration for terrorists such as Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker behind the 9/11 attack. In contrast, the risk that Qatada will face torture on deportation is not nearly as great or established. The Memorandum of Understanding in place between London and Amman, also provides an assurance from Jordan against the mistreatment of individuals deported from Britain and Qatada falls within the scope of this agreement.[http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/jordan-mou]] Ian Burnett QC, a lawyer for the Home Secretary has said ‘It would be "extraordinary" if Jordan did not comply with its diplomatic assurances’.
It’s not our responsibility
Why should we bear the responsibility of ensuring terror suspects like Abu Qatada have a fair trial? The Islamist Militant first entered Britain back in 1993 with the use of a forged UAE passport and since 2001 he has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with the Government in an attempt to avoid deportation. Not only did he enter our country illegally but as stated by Matthew Elliott, the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance ‘This man hates everything Britain stands for so it is disgusting that ordinary taxpayers are now forced to pay him thousands of pounds’ Qatada was one of ten terror suspects awarded compensation last week by the ECHR for the said violation of his human rights in being detained under the anti-terror laws. Not only that but the figure awarded for costs reached £53,000![http://www.uepengland.com/bbs/index.php?showtopic=11212]] Qatada has already vowed to appeal the decision made by the House of Lords to deport him; a process which could take up to two years, costing British taxpayers thousands more. Why should we be wasting our money on a man so ungrateful and frankly undeservingl? Qatada’s response to the award was to say ‘This is nothing. What is £3,000? This is not money.’
The proposition argue that this man hates everything that Britain stands for and thus deserves none of her protection, but what are those values that we stand for. Is it the belief that human rights are universal and unconditional? Is it the belief that a justice system should operate independant of political considerations to arrive at what is just and what is fair? Is it the belief that torture is wrong? Is it the belief that a democratic system of government is right?
These are our values that we believe do apply to all people but also should apply to all people. That is why one of the cornerstones of British foreign policy for many years has been the promotion and protection of Human Rights. To allow people to be deported to countries that practice torture has a two fold effect. Firstly, through our complicity in facilitating torture it lends legitimacy to these legal systems that embrace these practices. Moreover, it undermines the integrity of our justice system which is first and foremost founded on the principal of Habeas Corpus. Secondly, it undermines the moral authority that we use to negotiate with these countries in an effort to persuade them to abandon these practices. Why should a country abandon torture when we hypocritically condemn with one hand, while facilitating with the other?
Why is it our responsibility? As a society we have collectively determined that there are some actions that lie beyond the pale, that are wrong and will always be wrong. Torture is but one of these, and the mere fact that we ourselves are not carrying out the torture does not change our belief that it is wrong regardless of the individual concerned. Should these people seek the destruction of the State, you do not validate their actions through the infliction of pain but by rising above them. When you decide that anything and everything is necessary in order to combat an evil, then you become indistinguishable from that which you set out to destroy.
It makes a mockery of the Human Rights Act
The whole concept of human rights is built on the premise that we must do our utmost to ensure that people are protected from harmful influences. In discussing Abu Qatada’s deportation, Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling said ‘it makes a mockery of the concept of human rights if we can't protect ourselves against people who are out to destroy our society’[http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/19/abu-qatada-compensation-european-court]] It may be argued that terror suspects also have human rights, which include the right to protection from torture. However, when we are dealing with individuals who have calculatedly plotted attacks to kill innocent civilians, it is simply ludicrous to suggest that their rights should take precedence over law abiding citizens. As Lord David Hope, one of the five Law Lords who ruled unanimously against Qatada, said ‘On their own heads be it if their extremist views expose them to the risk of ill-treatment when they get home’[http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090218/wl_afp/britainattacksjordanqatadalebanon]]
'If ' it is held that he cannot be removed to Jordan because it would result in a violation, by the UK, of the principle of non refoulement, with respect to torture (see ECHR[http://www.echr.coe.int/echr/Homepage_EN]] and UNCAT[http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm]]), and then we remove him.......then clearly it would be us, the UK, who would be making a mockery of the Human Rights Acts[http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/ukpga_19980042_en_1]] i.e. we agreed to an absolute prohibition of torture...it is not that we can just ignore the 'absolute' part when we get an awkward case.
If sending him to Jordan isn't an option, it isn't an option.
If he can't be removed to Jordan, then what do we do?
1) In terms of a threat to the UK - treat him in the same way we would treat a British national, born in the UK, who couldn't be removed.
2) Criminal activity:
If he has engaged in criminal activity - prosecute him.
- If for a crime under British law, prosecute him under British law;
- If for a crime under international criminal law, use universal jurisdiction;
- If he has committed a crime on Jordanian soil, or against the Jordanian State, which he 'ought ' to be prosecuted/punished for, but he cannot be removed to Jordan, then I am sure, between themselves, the UK and Jordan can agree how to prosecute him, without removing him from the UK.
If he faces torture in Jordan - don't remove him. But just because he can't go to Jordan, doesn't mean he can't face justice......it is not that difficult a problem to solve. There may even be a 3rd country who wants to prosecute him, and if sending him to that country would not amount to refoulement , direct or indirect, then why not consider this e.g. France, Spain, Italy (even if, to avoid arguments of indirect refoulement, the UK has to agree to take him back if the prosecution is unsuccessful or, if convicted after he has served his sentence).
Human rights law is not easy stuff......and it is not suppose to be.
We need to get beyond the 'that's not fair' and becoming better at solving problems within the HR framework - afterall, 'absolute' is pretty clear in its meaning......
It will deter other terrorists from abusing the system
The decision made in the cases of Abu Qatada and the two Algerians 'RB' and 'U' sends out a clear message to other terrorists that they cannot expect an easy life in Britain. Before this landmark decision, it was far too easy for terror suspects to fall back on the defence that they may face torture if deported back to their own country. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith welcomed the decision and said ‘It highlights the threat these individuals pose to our nation's security and vindicates our efforts to remove them.’
Mere suspicion is not acceptable to justify exposing someone to a risk of torture
Even if it were to be accepted that people who plot violence should be deported notwithstanding horrific consequences, in many of the cases before the British courts there is no hard evidence of involvement in terrorism. Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director of the Human Rights group, Amnesty International, argues that it is simply ‘not acceptable to use suspicion of involvement in terrorism to justify sending someone to face a real risk of torture or other serious violations of their rights’.[http://features.csmonitor.com/globalnews/2009/02/18/britain-to-deport-suspected-terrorist-abu-qatada/]]
Without serious in-depth investigation and a complete fair trial in Britain, we cannot be sure that we are dealing with criminals or innocents. In some situations, once an individual is being investigated for terrorist ties-even if there is no sufficient evidence of this-the suspect could be deported to face torture on other grounds that have nothing to do with the original terror claims.
The Government are ignoring the real issue of torture
Just because torture is something that we do not see or experience in Britain does not mean that it is not very much alive as a form of punishment in other countries. Qatada’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, condemned the House of Lord’s decision to deport her client as a ‘backwards step’ in Britain’s willingness to confront torture and stated that the judgment will pour a dose of cold water on our belief that we have indeed advanced in our willingness to confront the ugly issue of the use of torture’. If the Court had actually given the risk of torture the weight it deserved then it would have been unthinkable to deport an individual knowing what they would face on their arrival.
What about a fair trial?
The right to a fair trial lies at the heart of the British legal system. When someone is detained on the basis of "an allegedly reasonable suspicion of unlawful behaviour", that person must be given an opportunity to challenge the allegations and it is open to the UK authorities to charge them and give them a fair trial. To choose to deport someone suspected of a crime without allowing them the opportunity to contest that suspicion and prove their innonence flies in the face of our basic legal principles. Each case must be looked at on a fact by fact basis and this is of paramount importance when the likelihood of a fair trial upon deportation is so remote. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to suggest that agreements such as Memorandums of Understanding can be relied upon as a verbal assurance against harm, as described by Gareth Pierce they are ‘dodgy little 'assurances' from regimes that practise torture’ and they ‘convince few outside government’.[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6396447.stm]]
What do you think?