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Abu Qatada case - a victory for the human rights industry
Date 14/11/2012 11:34  Author webmaster  Hits 2504  Language Global
In the battle between common sense and the human rights industry, the latter is emerging as the clear victor and will continue to do so as long as Britain is part of the EU, writes UKIP MEP Gerard Batten

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results". He was, by anybody's reckoning, a very clever man. How then, can we explain the absurdity of a judicial system that allows you to repeatedly challenge decisions until you get the result you want? Alleged radical hate preacher Abu Qatada and his equally radical bunch of human rights lawyers have spent the last ten years and £1m of taxpayers' money on legal aid, thwarting all attempts to send him back to his native Jordan - where he has been convicted twice in absentia for terror offences.


This lunchtime, he was back on the streets of London. The insanity does not end there. Qatada arrived here in 1993 on a false United Arab Emirates passport with his wife and five children and claimed asylum. Housed in council accommodation and on board the benefits gravy train, the family has cost the British taxpayer around £3m. The lunacy of yesterday's decision to release him on bail will set us back a further £5m a year, as we foot his protection and round-the-clock surveillance bill. He threatened our safety but we must pay to protect his.

Recordings of Qatada's sermons were found in the homes of the 9/11 terrorists. He has allegedly advocated the killing of Jews, praised attacks on Americans, issued a 'fatwa' justifying killing the converts from Islam and was arrested in 2001 over involvement in a plot to bomb Strasbourg – the location of the hallowed court that has done so much to guarantee his life of comfort in the west. The one upside to this sorry tale is the amount of egg on the face of the British Home Secretary. She has made the fight to rid our shores of this man a very personal one. But yesterday's decision by the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission or Siac make Theresa May's legal avenues look like a cul-de-sac. She described this latest ruling as "deeply unsatisfactory" and as well she might.

The problem has been around the issue of torture. The European Court of Human Rights, echoing the United Kingdom's own Court of Appeal, said the preacher would be treated well if returned to Jordan - but there was one big problem. In their judgment, they said that it does not matter what someone has done; modern nations that believe in the rule of law cannot send people back to regimes that torture - and then use that evidence against other suspects. To get around this, May spent months in negotiations with the Jordanians to establish that Qatada would not be tortured if he were sent back. The Jordanians even changed the law to prevent evidence obtained under torture from other suspects being used in court.

This was off the back of a landmark ruling in February 2009, when five UK Law Lords unanimously backed the government's policy of removing terror suspects from Britain on the basis of assurances from foreign governments, known as 'memorandums of understanding'. Speaking at the time, former Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that evidence of torture in another country "does not require this state, the United Kingdom, to retain in this country, to the detriment of national security, a terrorist suspect". However, in January this year, Strasbourg's completely unaccountable judges intervened. Despite their acknowledgement that Qatada himself would face no ill treatment in Jordan, they argued that the prospect of a witness against him having been tortured was sufficient to breach Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a fair trial.

As Justice Mitting, the Siac judge, said yesterday - it is this test applied by Strasbourg and not our own Law Lords – that now provides the basis for British law. He ruled that even if Qatada would not himself be in danger when he returned to Jordan, there was still a "real risk" that a Jordanian court would use evidence obtained from torture. We are now in the end game in the battle to deport the man once described by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe". Right now, in my opinion, the government has two choices. They can repeal the Human Rights Act and reclaim sovereignty from Strasbourg or he can ignore the court's decision and put Qatada on a plane. They are not brave enough for either option.

Contrast these cases. Qatada, a foreign citizen, cannot be extradited back to his own country. He is protected and can stay in the UK because of the European Convention on Human Rights. However any British citizen can be extradited to any other European Union member state on the strength of a piece of paper – a European Arrest Warrant - even if their case is tenuous and there is a chance they will be mistreated. This is because EU member states are signatories of the ECHR and, therefore, cannot be deemed to be in breach of it by a British court.

We can only hope that the government finds enough backbone to accept the judgements of our own courts, and the will of the British people to put Qatada on the next plane to Jordan. But do not bank on it. His lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC says: "There is no reasonable prospect of lawful removal within any reasonable time." In the battle between common sense and the human rights industry, the latter is emerging as the clear victor. As long as we remain part of the EU, as long as we allow the rule of lawyers rather than the rule of law - our law – we will carry on making the same mistakes. It seems Einstein was right after all.

Gerard Batten is a UKIP MEP for London

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