Analysis: Extradition’s ultimate test of human rights

Abu Hamza al-Masri Abu Hamza al-Masri's extradition case was halted while he was jailed for offences in the UK

The decision by two senior High Court judges to throw out last-ditch attempts to stop the extradition of five men facing terrorism trials in the USA was made, they said, "in the interest of justice".

It took Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, longer than had been expected to announce the verdict, but with it a battle that began 14 years ago was finally over.

Prime ministers and US presidents have come and gone while the courts have debated whether to send these five men to America.

Abu Hamza's file has featured in the ministerial red box of six home secretaries. Theresa May is the first one able to move it to her out-tray.

So why have these cases taken too long to resolve?

Justice under scrutiny

Each of these cases became a long battle through the British courts - but the delays really began to build up once the cases came down to complex questions about human rights.

The Strasbourg court took over the cases because of what was at stake: was Europe prepared to send these men to America, face trial and possibly harsh punishments, amid alarm over how the country had responded to 9/11?

In short, is America's justice as good as ours?

The suspects

Babar Ahmad, 37, suspected terrorist
  • Babar Ahmad (pictured) and Talha Ahsan: Accused of running pro-jihad website - which the US says was hosted there - and helping terrorists
  • Abu Hamza al-Masri: Accused of helping to take hostages in Yemen, setting up a terrorist training camp in the US and helping the Taliban
  • Adel Abdul Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz: Accused of promoting violent jihad against the West and involvement in 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, which killed more than 200 people

These cases were the ultimate test of the very delicate balancing act at the heart of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They involved people who most would consider to be deeply unattractive, deploying every argument they could muster to avoid extradition.

Judges were being asked to rule on whether many of the men faced indefinite solitary confinement, something that their lawyers said would be totally unacceptable in Europe.

London and Washington won, but the battle continues, given that many people still feel very strongly that the UK's extradition arrangements are deeply flawed.

Even as he was preparing to leave Long Lartin prison, Babar Ahmad denounced his extradition, saying he deserved a trial in the UK.

He has many supporters - but every court has backed the US's claim of jurisdiction.

You can read his comment piece for the Guardian newspaper here - and see his earlier exclusive BBC interview from prison here.

But one of the judges who heard Babar Ahmad's final appeals this week was scathing about the attempts to prosecute him in the UK, saying that such a move would totally undermine lawful extradition.

His case was certainly hampered by delays, not least because Europe decided to deal with all the men together in one mega-judgement.

Had there not been other cases to consider, Babar Ahmad may have got swifter justice, even if was not the answer he hoped for.

Abu Hamza's eight-year extradition case was complicated by the fact that the process was halted after he was jailed for offences in the UK.

Each of these cases was unprecedented and the pressure on judges in both the UK and Europe was immense.

The fact that America finally has got its men, following mammoth legal battles, will probably make future similar extraditions occur far more quickly. That was exactly what the two nations wanted to achieve in the wake of 9/11.

Dominic Casciani, Home affairs correspondent Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

More on This Story

Terror suspect extraditions


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Not a day too soon, and I hope we, the taxpayer, don't have to foot their lawyers's bills!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Are they on a plane yet? If not why not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I am always amused that people who dedicate their lives to denying human rights to others, desperately seek the protection of human rights law when caught out.

    Surely, if a country is kind enough to grant you asylum, it is perverse, to then attack that country and it's values?

    Anyway, so long chaps. Hope you enjoy baseball and country & western. Missing you already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    2. NW1837

    Can we now pass on the millions in costs for these and their hangers on to the US?

    Nope, its not the US's fault its the "human rights" laws' (it obviously need amending to stop such abuse) The lawyers who have taken the P*ss should pay the costs.

    And I agree that seeing he believes in sharia law he should suffer it - practice what you preach hate mongers and stop their benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I'd still like to see this man's time-wasting 'lawyers' being pursued for costs .. they are the ones responsible for this farce. I doubt very much if they would have been able to waste the time of a US court in the same way. Let's hope some lessons have been learned by our 'learned friends'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Good. A victory for the Rule of Law. Hamza and his co-defendents have exhausted every avenue of appeal. They have been given ample time to prepare their case and several different courts have heard their case. But they have lost at every stage. The great irony is that Hamza regards the Rule of Law with contempt, but was quick enough to scurry behind its skirts when it was in his own interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Best news all week. His lawyers have said his health is deteriorating, well the quicker it deteriorates the better. I'm sure our American cousins can speed that process along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Shami Chakrabarti is a bufoon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Its about damn time he was gone. Who'se next for extraditipn? Abu Qatada?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I suggest that I may speak for the rest of the population,if not all then at least 99.9999%

    Good riddance to all of them, the sooner the better. may I ask the question who is going to support their families that are left behind, in particular Abu Hamza's very extended family ? And anyway who cares what that extremely liberal organisation Liberty think !

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    So after exhausting the British Justice system,and the European courts there are still people sying that it is unfair.
    What I find unfair is this parasite was allowed to live among us spouting his hatred and living on tax payers money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    ...and will his fraudently-acquires British citizenship be revoked, and the parasitical "family" maintained at the taxpayers' expense likewise expelled?. Send them to any of the sharia-law countries to get the real islamic law experience, and see how they like it!
    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    He did care about the human rights or mental health of his victims
    He didnt mention mental health in the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights...

    Lets get him on a plane and out of here pronto

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I see Liberty are moaning about the result. Didn't hear them whining about the plight of the victims of these evil people.
    Good Riddence 14 years overdue

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I think the most objectionable point is that this country has footed the mammoth legal bill to allow these people to abuse the legal and human rights system in order to prevent them from standing trial.
    The only winners are the parasite lawyers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Now let's revisit the issue of Hanza's British citizenship unlawfully obtained by dint of a bigamous marriage to a British Citizen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    About time, perhaps this will do some way to restore our justice system which has been the laughing stock of the world. How an 18 year old can be extradited within weeks and terrorists can take upto 14 years is beyond me. Can we now pass on the millions in costs for these and their hangers on to the US?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It's weird how a man who believes so strongly in Sharia Law appreciated the leniency of our judicial system. Part of me feels that this whole eight year process was just part of an extended humiliation process of the UK


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