Last week, Abu Qatada was barred from deportation to Jordan from the UK by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a final decision British courts are obliged to obey. The case gives rise to greater concerns than merely a legal decision to maintain a proven hate-preacher and Islamist in the West. It questions the rights of the individual versus the rights (to safety) of society. It questions human rights protecting its worst detractors. It questions the tolerance of the UK (and the West) giving safe-havens to its enemies within its womb.
Arriving in the UK under a forged United Arab Emirates passport in 1993, the Jordanian preacher obtained political asylum a year later. After the 9/11 attacks in the US, he fled and was later arrested for inciting terrorism. Tried and convicted in absentia in Jordan for terrorist acts in the late 1990s, the UK had prepared deportation proceedings. Yet these were struck down by the ECHR, as some of the evidence used in these trials in Jordan is alleged to have been obtained through torture by Abu Qatada’s co-convicts.
Released on bail, Abu Qatada is under a 22-hour-a-day curfew under police surveillance at his home. This has prompted outrage from the whole political spectrum and political parties have pounced on the opportunity to blame each other for who is to take the blame for Abu Qatada’s presence in the UK to start with.
But further issues lay in wait here and unless the UK and the West are willing to tackle them, our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, tolerant and diverse societies will fall prey to
vicious ideologies embodied by Abu Qatada.
British immigration is obviously flawed, failing to recognise threats to society and yet banning work-seekers and entrepreneurs from developing countries for no other reason than their country of origin. In this author’s opinion, immigration gives countries strength, diversity and wealth and a foreseeable backlash against immigrants stoked by extremist parties such as the BNP is much feared.
Qatada’s presence in Britain is not only a threat to the society at large but also to fellow Muslims whose murder he has repeatedly called for in the name of implementing Shari’a law and rejecting Western values, whilst still benefiting from the latter.
Britain is historically the birthplace of human rights and the British legal system is one of the systems which affords the most protection to suspects throughout the court process. It is the land of 17th Century ideal of Habeas Corpus, the right to maintain one’s bodily integrity (de facto banning torture).
Enshrined in British Law by the rise of power of the Houses of Parliament following the Civil war, it is now recognised throughout the world as a cornerstone of basic human rights. Therefore, not submitting to emotions, and guaranteeing Abu Qatada a fair trail was British in essence and is praise to its legal system. But, unlike its continental peers, the UK is the only Member State using Common Law and not Civil Law. Besides ensuring dynamism and constant sui generis renewal of the law, the British system also has its own court circuits and appeal mechanisms, which ensure a citizen’s rights are respected.
Being slapped down in this way by the ECHR gives fuel to Eurosceptics and other nationalists in establishing a hierarchy of law dictated by European jurists. It establishes that civil law is above common law and therefore rejects the entire legal tradition of the United Kingdom, the same which spawned human rights.
It was right for Abu Qatada to be allowed an appeal, which, after all, nearly every criminal makes extensive use of, but there is a place for national sovereignty in law especially given the immense diversity in legal systems.
Despite Schengen and our increased European interdependence, Abu Qatada was given due process in British courts. For this to be completely cast aside by the ECHR is giving future criminals a precedent on which to call for freedom regardless of the culpability in British courts. A greater debate is needed as to the direction the UK is taking.