Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can the ECHR halt the deportation of Abu Qatada?

Cranmer hears that Abu Qatada has won compensation from HM Government (ie the taxpayer) for the years he has spent in prison. This is by order of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

This is lunacy, when one considers that Mr Qatada could have walked free at any time if he had simply agreed to leave Britain.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Abu Qatada has been referred to by a British judge as ‘Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe’, and the Home Secretary has identified him as ‘a truly dangerous individual’. Doubtless others have called him far worse.

He has been in the UK for many years, happily living off the taxpayer, and now the taxpayer shall compensate him for the inconvenience he has suffered while a guest in this country.

It is therefore with a degree of relief and an expression of confidence in the criminal justice system that five Law Lords have unanimously decreed that Abu Qatada must be deported to Jordan, whence he came.

But it transpires that Mr Qatada's lawyer has submitted an application to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Mr Qatada cannot now be deported until the appeal bid has been considered. Any appeal may take up to two years. In the meantime, HM Government (ie the taxpayer) shall provide him and his family with an £800,000 house in West London, and all the welfare benefits they require.

Cranmer does not mean to be thick, but he was under the impression that Labour’s Human Rights Act 1998 gave legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. This was to put a stop to the steady stream of alleged human rights violations being appealed to Strasbourg before they became a tidal wave.

The 1998 Act therefore obliges all UK courts, including the Law Lords, to consider the provisions of the European Convention before dispensing judgement, and to ensure that judgements are in accordance with it.

How, then, can the European Court of Human Rights remain in any sense a superior appellate court to the House of Lords?

And on a tangential matter, Abu Qatada is concerned that his enforced repatriation to Jordan is likely to result in him being severely punished, even executed, for his alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.

Again, Cranmer, does not mean to be thick. But why should those Muslims who wish to see Shari’a law in the UK be protected from its punitive excesses when they are obliged to go and live in a more Shari’a compliant country?


Blogger Catholic Observer said...

Your Grace,

The European Court of Human Rights is operated under the auspices of the Council of Europe. It is totally independent from the European Union. Many of its members include non-EU countries, eg Russia and Turkey.

19 February 2009 at 13:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without wishing to be overly pedantic, your grace, the European Court of Human Rights is not an organ of the EU. It is a separate and independent legal entity.

The title of your post is somewhat erroneous, therefore.

19 February 2009 at 13:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has this chap ever played or been a roadie with ZZ Top? He's got the look to a T.

19 February 2009 at 13:55  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Catholic Observer,

You are quite correct.

His Grace has corrected to the appropriate acronym.

19 February 2009 at 13:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May God help the UK.

19 February 2009 at 14:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Big Question: What is the Human Rights Act, and why is it being vilified?

The case of Learco Chindamo, who was jailed 11 years ago for the murder of headteacher Philip Lawrence, has raised questions over the very existence of the Human Rights Act. The decision on Monday by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal that Chindamo cannot be deported to Italy if he is released from prison has provoked the Conservative leader David Cameron to call for the outright abolition of the Act, the first attempt by a Government to enshrine international human rights conventions into English law.

Mr Lawrence's widow Frances attacked the Act as working in the interests of her husband's killer and failing to protect the rights of her family.

Why has this reopened the issue?

The ruling that Chindamo cannot be deported if he is released from jail sparked a bitter new chapter in the debate about the Human Rights Act. Monday's ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal appeared to confirm the worst fears of the Act's critics that it served to put the interests of criminals above the rights of victims.

Chindamo becomes eligible for parole next year, raising the prospect that the 26-year-old could be freed on licence in Britain. The tribunal appeared to have concluded that Chindamo's right to a family life would be infringed if he was deported to Italy, the country where was born, but a place where he had no family links and did not even speak the language.

In an emotional interview Mrs Lawrence attacked the Act for allowing the man who had robbed her husband of life to choose how he would live his. She declared the Act was "ill-equipped to work in my family or for people in my situation". Mr Cameron declared that the Government was "blind" to the Act's failings and said Monday's ruling "flies in the face of common sense".

Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, has pledged to appeal the Tribunal's decision. But he has insisted that European law governing deportations to EU countries is the major factor in the judgment. A 33-page document released on Tuesday outlining the detailed judgment of the Tribunal said that it would not be "proportionate" to breach Chindamo's right to a family life, as enshrined in Article 8 of the convention, by deporting him to Italy. However, the bulk of the judgment is concerned with European regulations, ratified by Britain in 2006, and evidence of Chindamo's rehabilitation and the risk of his notoriety if released.

What is the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act was a ground-breaking piece of constitutional legislation when it came into force in England and Wales in 2000, a year after similar legislation became law in Scotland. The act effectively enshrines in British law the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, a set of fundamental principles which date back to 1950 when Britain was the first country to sign a treaty to give force to a code designed to prevent a return to the outrages of the Second World War.

British lawyers helped draft the convention, which was used by thousands of Britons in appeals to the European courts. The rights enshrined in the Act include rights to a family life, rights to privacy, education, freedom of expression and a fair trial. The Act works as an umbrella over all legislation and has a profound effect on British law. Indeed all legislation before Parliament includes a statement by ministers that it conforms with the Human Rights Act and a powerful all-party committee of MPs and peers scrutinises all Bills to ensure that rights are not infringed.

It has also become an important vehicle for a string of high-profile legal actions.

Why has the Act proved so controversial?

From the outset, critics of the Act claimed that it would be a field day for lawyers and protect the interests of criminals and terrorists against the law-abiding majority. The Act has become a cause celebre for much of the Press, highlighting cases such as the London jeweller who was told by police last October that circulating CCTV images of a thief would infringe human rights laws.

The following month, 200 drug-addicted prisoners brought a case against the Home Office for stopping them taking drugs in jail and won £3,500 each. Opponents warned of a flood of trivial cases swamping the courts, while Mr Cameron has spoken of the Act as "practically an invitation for terrorists and would-be terrorists to come to Britain" because of the problems successive Home Secretaries have faced detaining and attempting to deport terror suspects who they say are a threat but cannot be charged.

Last year, the then Prime minister Tony Blair criticised the courts for an "abuse of common sense" after a judge ruled that nine Afghan asylum seekers who hijacked an aircraft to fly to Britain should not be returned to their country as it might breach of their human rights.

A significant turning point was the 2005 case of Anthony Rice, a convicted rapist who murdered a woman while on parole. The parole board was found to have taken too much account of his human rights when they decided to release him.

Ministers have expressed exasperation at the way the Act has been interpreted by the courts on some occasions. In January, the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke launched a withering attack on the senior judiciary, citing the case of anti-terrorist control orders, which were overturned by the Appeal Court without offering advice on how to make them comply with human rights law.

What has the Human Rights Act done for us?

Lawyers and civil liberties campaigners have hailed the Human Rights Act as a major contribution to British law. They reacted with fury to Mr Cameron's promise last year to scrap the Act, pointing to a succession of people who have benefited from the legislation.

They deny the Act has hindered the prosecution of crime or the fight against terrorism. The Act enabled Diane Pretty to press her case for voluntary euthanasia and allowed Diane Blood to win her legal battle to have her late husband recognised as the father of her two young children.

An elderly couple won the right to live together in a care home after a human rights case.

They insist the Act has not produced the predicted wave of vexatious litigation and instead has allowed people to get access to justice in British courts in cases they otherwise would have to take to Strasbourg.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the pressure group Liberty, said: "There is nothing in the Human Rights act which sets the criminal above the victim, instead, it allows vulnerable people to challenge the Government for failure to protect them.

"Human rights values such as free speech, fair trials, privacy and the prohibition of torture bind us together as a nation and distinguish us from dictators and terrorists."

Has the Human Rights Act been maligned?


* It presents every citizen with a set of fundamental rights for the first time

* The law offers protection for the people from the state and has helped a string of people obtain justice

* The Act means people can get justice in the British courts without having to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights


* The Act appears to put the rights of some criminals above those of their victims

* It has been accused of adding to the cost of litigation and fuelling the compensation culture

* Publicity surrounding high-profile cases involving the Act helps to undermine confidence in the legal system

19 February 2009 at 14:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can sum it all up in two words: Vote Farming.

But How does Dave plan to fertilse the Muslim vote?

19 February 2009 at 14:51  
Anonymous iain said...

Is it just the British public who are pissed off with these farcical decisions on a regular basis, or are there similar instances througout Europe?
Anyone know?

19 February 2009 at 14:55  
Anonymous Gnostic said...

So, we're compensating terrorists now? More proof that the Human Rights legislation is a joke and a bad one at that.

19 February 2009 at 15:09  
Blogger Jeremiah said...

The very notion of a Human Rights Act is suspect. Unlike a Bill of Rights, which safeguards the citizen against the potential tyranny of his government, a Human rights Act is subject to such contentious ideas of what actually constitute human 'rights', to say nothing of whether every human being is deserving of such rights, that it cannot be anything other than a playground for lawyers and ne-er-do-wells. People who dwell upon their rights will never be the most useful, helpful or charitable members of society, and a Human Rights Act merely reinforces their narcissistic rights gazing.

19 February 2009 at 15:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely there are enough vioplent offenders in HM Penal Instituions who can arrange a fatal accident for Qatada. I am sure the Justice Secretary would be able to fast-track then his parole or even a pardon.
Double bonus points he he gets Chindamo at the same time

19 February 2009 at 15:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Human Rights for terrorists?
This makes a mockery of the Justice system!

19 February 2009 at 19:23  
Anonymous Rob Farrington said...

Why is he so afraid of being executed?

Is he not looking forward to his seventy two raisins...erm, sorry, I mean virgins?

20 February 2009 at 02:34  
Anonymous some bloke said...

Beeb said yesterday that there is a queue of 150,000 cases waiting to go through the Human Rights Court ( 25% of them from Russia ).

£2,000 compo is what used to be called derisoroy compensation, amounting to about £2 per day that they spent in prison.

20 February 2009 at 06:06  

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