Friday, 10 May 2013

Abu Qatada may leave UK voluntarily if .....

The long running Abu Qatada deportation issue may be drawing to an end.  Over around 8 years, the government has spent enormous amounts of public money on the various legal challenges to his deportation to Jordan.  (See Jack of Kent Resource page for a catalogue of the steps taken).    Recently, a new treaty was signed between the UK and Jordan though this remains to be ratified by both countries - (Law and Lawyers 24th April).  At a hearing before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), Abu Qatada's counsel Edward Fitzgerald QC has indicated that Abu Qatada will return voluntarily to Jordan provided that the new treaty is ratified - BBC News 10th May.

A voluntary return to Jordan will have the result that the courts will not, at least in the Abu Qatada case, have to pronounce on whether the treaty meets any objections, under the European Convention on Human Rights, to deportation.  Therefore,
it is possible that a challenge to the treaty may arise in some other case.  The European Convention (as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights) prohibits the return of an individual to a State where he may suffer the death penalty or be subjected to torture  or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or, in Abu Qatada's case, where evidence at a possible trial in Jordan may have been obtained by the torture of others.  That interpretation of the Convention has prevailed in Abu Qatada's case.

The Home Secretary (Theresa May) was personally instrumental in the negotiation  of the treaty.  When it is ratified and if Abu Qatada leaves then she will be able to claim a political victory of sorts though it will not be a victory for her in the courts.  She is on record as wishing to at least reform the UK's relationship with the European Convention and would not rule out a withdrawal from it altogether.

In another 'torture-related' development, the UK government has been facing some difficult questions and concerns within the United Nations which monitors compliance with the UN Torture Convention - see The Guardian 9th May.  These concerns ought to be taken very seriously and properly answered though the authority of the UN in this area seems to be weakened when a representative of China is critical of the UK.  China has a high rate of executions and has refused British requests for reprieves.  Reports of torture continue to emerge. The current examination comes as the UK bids for election to the UN Human Rights Council, one of the organisation's key bodies.

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