Abu Qatada and the problem of freedom-stomping friends - Spectator Blogs

12 November 2012

And so, once again, the judges are in the dock for insisting that due process be followed even when, as in the case of Abu Qatada, it is inconvenient to do so. On the face of it, the decision to thwart Qatada’s deportation to Jordan seems unreasonable. But the truth is that few of us are in any position to judge the worth of the Jordanian government’s assurances that none of the evidence used against Qatada will have been tainted by torture. It may be that, as the ECHR ruled, those assurances are credible (and if so, that’s in part thanks to the work of bodies such as the ECHR) or it may be that, as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has determined, they are not.

The bigger problem, really, is one I wrote about in February:

Jordan may not be Saudi Arabia or Iran but it is not Canada or Finland either. Freedom House are quite clear on this: Jordan is in the “Not Free” camp. Is this the kind of country to which we should be deporting anyone, even those of whom we may have good reason to disapprove?

And there is this: either the UK government disapproves of torture or it is happy to disapprove of it in some countries while tolerating and perhaps even tacitly encouraging it in others. Though deporting Qatada to Jordon would dispose of the problem of what to do with him it also makes the British government an accomplice to the activities of the Jordanian security apparatus. It encourages the use of torture in other cases for the Jordanian authorities – or those in other countries where comparable cases may arise – will discover that though western governments deplore their brutality publicly they are happy to take advantage of it when it proves convenient to do so. (Of course this is also true of intelligence sharing but that’s a different matter.)

[…] If [all] this means we must tolerate unpleasant, even awful, people bcause we lack the laws to imprison them simply because we suspect they hold unpleasant, even awful opinions then so be it. There will always be those who argue “but if it saves just one life” and those who prefer to be “safe than sorry” but where does this end? Few people are really willing to push those arguments to their grim, illiberal end. So […] lines must be drawn even by those with little appetite for liberalism.

On the whole, I’d think better of a country that refused to send suspects to countries with a proven fondness for torture. Doing so is another signal to those regimes that they can stamp on their own people’s rights and, when this proves useful to us, we will not make a fuss. It puts us on their side, not that of the brave liberals and dissidents who oppose regimes that, in normal circumstances, we consider utterly deplorable. The affairs of state may be an organised hypocrisy but that does not mean we must champion that hypocrisy.

Again, little of this is satisfactory and few people have reason to be cheerful about any aspect of this case. Successive governments have scarcely distinguished themselves on this matter and nor, perhaps, have the courts; not least since this case is plainly not quite as simple or straightforward as some – or many – of us might like to think.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.

  • C Cole

    The rule of law in this country has come to mean rule by lawyers, for lawyers. No doubt it’s been that way for quite some time, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing. Perhaps I’m calling the result too early and the government will eventually succeed in deporting Qatada, but many will feel that our laws in this area need to be recalibrated – as does our entire relationship with Europe on this and other matters.

  • Simon Morgan

    These judges have to wean themselves off ‘Rights’ and onto ‘Responsibilities’ It will be a revolutionary concept for them, but if they work at it, they will get it eventually. I just hope the penny will drop before Britain becomes a Sharia State.

  • Fenman

    We do appear to make things unnecessary difficult for ourselves. Is it beyond our competence to re locate this person, and others like him,to residence in the Falkland Islands or similar ?
    I am sure our base in Port Stanley would have few problems in ensuring adhesion to strict compliance of whatever measures the Home Secretary deems appropriate.

  • degsy1966

    stuff the human rights what about all the dead people caused by sick individuals like him they should just send him there not wait for some drippy tree hugging freak to defend the animal again he doesnt deserve to live and breath the same air as us concrete boots would be the cheepest way

  • Kevin

    Has the Government thought of a drone strike?

    I am being facetious, of course, but the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by the Obama Administration highlights the need to at least consider the freedom-stomping potential of all of our “friends”, regardless of whether sixty million people voted for them or not.

  • Beefeater

    “Doing so [sending “suspects” back home to cruel despotisms] is another signal to those regimes that they can stamp on their own people’s rights and, when this proves useful to us, we will not make a fuss.”

    Surely getting rid of Abu Q is useful to us? Why the sudden moral fastidiousness at his case? Got to send the right signals, eh? I grant you that going to war to destroy despots did not seem to send a clear signal that we mean business when it comes to democratic human rights values. The replacement regimes continue to stamp on their own people’s rights, despite the human-righty constitutions we helped write. Is Iraq useful to us now? Jordan’s plucky little monarchy was established by us in repayment for Hashemite usefulness – contemporaneously with the dawn of the human rights era. Despite enjoying a legal system partly British (with Ottoman and French aspects) the presumption of innocence is not a Rumpolean golden thread in Jordan’s – or any Arab nation’s – administration of justice. (Or in France’s). Yet we do business with Arabian states (most of which were created by the West to be useful to it), even though their usefulness looks more like extortion. Yes, we do send plenty of strong signals that stomping is OK: allowing certain states to sit on UN human rights counsels; allowing them to reinstitute blasphemy laws. Prisoners from Guantanamo sent to their homelands for trial, return to kill. That certainly sends a signal about our seriousness in protecting western democratic human rights values. So does Scotland’s repatriation of agents of murdering despots. The same signal is sent when convicted terrorists are handed over to Palestinian jailers to conduct operations from jail cells, or to take a quick turn around the revolving door before returning to their vocation. Israel will swap 100 Palestinians for a dead Israeli. (Not called “signals”, but “goodwill gestures”). Huge ransoms are paid to pirates. Pirates are not fired upon by navy patrols, because of their human rights. These are all mighty strong signals about how we value human rights. And the pious peep from the SIAC judge is another signal to swell the theme. Saving Abu Q from from the risk of conviction on tainted evidence will amplify the great humanitarian message: human rights make the world safe for human rights abuse by state or individual. Stomp away abusers, but beware of our washing our hands at you!

    • MichtyMe

      Scotland’s repatriation of agents occurred for the same reason that May released Abu Q, the result of due process of law.

  • edlancey

    It’s his lookout if the countries he conspired to perpetrate massacres in are hellholes, not ours.

    He should be on a plane out of the country tonight.

  • John Cronin

    He ought to be tortured

  • MichtyMe

    Me, I’m confused. Endlessly been reminded that the ECHR supreme, how come overruled by SIAC?

  • Judith

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Democracy is powerless against Islamism. It cannot defend itself from those who want to destroy it. If we continue on the path of freedom for all, we’re on the way out. Barbarians are indeed at the gates and democracy lets them in, feeds them, houses them and let them tear us apart.

    • Simon Morgan

      I agree Judith. While Alex has had me double thinking everything, the importance of OUR freedom and democracy trumps everything.

      Only the ubiquitous ‘Rights’ groups will be unhappy at the thought of this man getting justice in his own country.

      The rest of us will be delighted to see him carted off to Amman (first class of course). Or better still, we could stuff a pork chop down his throat and boot him out somewhere over the Med (which is what happened to his chum bin laden, I’m sure).

      If only these cretinous rights groups could see beyond the end of their noses! Or, at the very least, begin to appreciate the fact that people have responsibilities as well as rights. Life would be so much better.

  • Baron

    Alex, you wrong here.

    Those who enact the laws that govern us should be made conscious of the paramount objective of the legal system – the protection of life, property, and freedoms of the Queens subjects. The guy isn’t a British citizen, he’s here illegally, he is bloody dangerous.

    This soft interference in other countries systems of governance has a cost, too, in the years ahead, it may be costlier than sending troops to offshore battlefields, the price may the lives of ordinary people here.

    and this

    Alex: “… we must tolerate unpleasant, even awful, people because we lack the laws to imprison them simply because we suspect they hold unpleasant, even awful opinions then so be it”.

    If only they hold only unpleasant or awful opinions.


  • kwestion.all

    “If [all] this means we must tolerate unpleasant, even awful, people bcause we lack the laws to imprison them simply because we suspect they hold unpleasant, even awful opinions then so be it.”

    Does that include Jihadists with an agenda to wage war against the West?

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