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 Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    This case has made a mockery of the term Human Rights, which is a law designed by criminals for the protection of criminals and not the every day decent person. For all Labour's comments, at least extradition has been acheived via the coalition, despite the unecessary wasted appeals, something they could not do. I forgot, it was Labour who put pressure on the whole issue of Human Rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I presume his vast family won't be going with him but will be allowed to stay here at the expense of the taxpayer in perpetuity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The Law Lords need to examine the extradition and appeals processes and make the necessary changes to the law in order to prevent the use of such blatant delaying tactics in the future. It has made a mockery of the judicial process as it stands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    lets just hope that the supporters of these terrorists do not take revenge on our country, those 5 mongrels have cost the tax payers a fortune, and anyone who feels that this is wrong, well, go home and stop sponging off the good,honest tax payers, we are so quick to help anyone in this country, none of us deserve to have our country tainted by terrorists who hate us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    He should never have been given citizenship. How stupid is a nation that gives citizenship to its mortal enemies? Answer: a nation as stupid as the UK. And we'll do it again mark my words. We never learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @24.Sane or not
    We need a fair legal system which protects us, is more cost effective, and truely respects truth and justice

    & how would making it easier to extradite British citizens to the US protect us, in regard to other cases many claim its too easy to extradite to the US. In the case of Abu Hamsa its taken a year since he finished his British prison sentence & he's stayed in prison waiting

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    .. How an 18 year old can be extradited within weeks and terrorists can take upto 14 years is beyond me.

    so your're in favour of extraditing people convicted of offences here without them serving their sentences first.
    Abu hamza was in prison here from 2004 till 2011 serving a 7 year sentence for 11 offences, since then he's been in prison awaiting extradition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    cheerio, cheerio, cheerio.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    ...and will his fraudently-acquires British citizenship be revoked,

    His citizenship wasn't fraudulently aqcuired, he came here as a student when a teenager, married a British citizen, they divorced some years later & he married another British citizen. He has no other citizenship. Removing his citizenship would make him a Stateless person by UN charter & introduce grounds for appeal

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    #27 I thought America was promising a fair trial. Not the bastardization of politics, democracy and freedom. There is no guarantee that all five of these people will be found guilty. You are clearly expecting a fixed outcome on the trial; do you by any chance have the evidence? Because nobody else does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Made my year worth baring knowing these disgusting creatures are finally leaving the UK, any sympathisers can go with them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Greetings from the US!

    Don't you worry about 'Hookboy' and his band of merry misfits, there's plenty of room for them at ADX Florence (the hellhole of the Rockies).

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


    Have marked you positive for your manliness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Appologies, I did misunderstand! I get your point now, Thought you meant the comments but i was obviously wrong... Sorry!... Have marked myself minus

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    The legal system should be there to ensure fair play, and protect us and our property from those who want to take what is not theirs or do us harm.
    Our country has got hijacked by lawyers which are self serving, cream off excessive amounts of money by messing around with technicalities.
    We need a fair legal system which protects us, is more cost effective, and truely respects truth and justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.


    I am not a muslim, you have misunderstood my post. Not enough characters but in essence I was saying most muslims wher I live are good people but a minority denigrate the uk way of life and give others a bad name, thats all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Let's hope a legal precedent has been set and that future terrorist suspects and their snake-oil lawyers don't attempt to abuse and manipulate the system, stringing things out for as long as possible whilst simultaneously lining their pockets at the expense of the hard-pressed British taxpayer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    How have any of the previous comments denegrated your way of life>>>> that is unless you agree with the beliefs of the deported terrorists. I am married to a muslim and she isn't offended by anything on here so far!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It is a shame that the behaviour and actions of extremists such as these create a suspicion of all muslims. Living where I do in London I know they are unrepresentative and I would urge all moderates to publicly condemn extremists as soon as they raise their heads.

    This is not a muslim country and never will be and it is an abuse to espouse views here that denigrate our way of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I trust Uncle Sam will show them his customary hospitality. I'd like to go and wave them off but unfortunately I have to grout the bathroom tiles. So, on behalf of my fellow citizens, may I take this opportunity to wish them "Bon Voyage!"


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