Another long running extradition case came to an end today as the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Abu Hamza’s and 4 other terrorism suspect’s Human Rights are not violated by the possibility of being sentenced to life in prisons in the US so called “supermax” prisons. In fact this ruling was made back in April 2012, but today’s hearing ruled that the men could not appeal against this decision.
The supermax prisons have become infamous as the holders of the worst criminals the USA has, as well as a number of terrorism suspects. They are the highest security prisons that America has and inmates are kept in almost solitary confinement 24/7. Most prisoners are given an 8 square meter cell and are permitted outside of their cell for only one hour a day. These do sound like extremely uncomfortable conditions but in my opinion, and apparently in the ECHR’s opinion as well, this type of treatment is justifiable for the most dangerous of prisoners.
The UK government appears to be on a bit of a role in their extradition proceedings. Julian Assange and Abu Qatada have both in recent months been ruled to be extraditable. Obviously there have been difficulties with both, Assange is now holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy and Qatada has been dragging out the extradition process as long as he can. But the Governments legal team has been winning these cases regardless of external issues, which is a good thing from the taxpayer’s point of view.
One of the other positives with these cases is the ECHR isn’t providing any ammunition for the anti Europe lobby. For me I think having the ECHR as a check on the government and the UK courts potentially abusing their powers. So it offers a completely objective standard for us to pass. The general criticism is the time and delay that the court takes but that is unavoidable as they hear cases from all around Europe it is always going to take time. But the argument that the court is too invasive in the UK doesn’t add up.
Firstly we contributed to the original laws and rules the court would up hold, so we should be adhering to those rules in the first place. Secondly we have a judicial voice in the court, at the moment it is Sir Nicolas Bratza who retires in the autumn to be replaced by Paul Mahoney. Not that they are there to protect UK interests but at least they have an understanding of our legal system. So the argument that Strasbourg is out of touch with the UK is wrong as well.
Finally the one thing that annoys me the most is when people use ECHR decisions to argue we should pull out of the EU. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other! The ECHR deals only with human rights issues and is part of the council of Europe, which has 47 member states. The EU is primarily a trade union and has 27 member states. We are part of both organisation but the two are in no way connected. So next time you see a story that argues we should pull out of the EU because of an ECHR decision, burn it because the writer has no idea what they are talking about.
By Jack Troup