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 58.

    @54 Pleb
    Was just stating the fact how much it costs to keep someone in Prison
    Don't want him or anyone like him free... I would have gone with the cheapest option but we are too civalised for that!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    mind you, if they thought the prisons in this country were bad, they are really in for a treat!!!!! hope they end up in the supermax, they won't be mollycoddled there like they have been here. And i don't think the USA offer legal aid, even sweeter!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    If they are innocent then with all the media coverage they should have nothing to fear.

    If guilty then they are just a bunch of parasites feeding off and spreading hate of the Country that provided them with safe haven. The worst kind of human being.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Real World 1 – Bleeding Heart Liberals 0

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I heard a figure of up to 40k per year to keep a person in prison so theres 320k alone before lawyers for Hamzer

    He was in prison here for 7 years after being convicted of numerous offences then kept in for 1 year waiting for extradition.
    so presumably you mean UK terrorists convicted by a UK court should be set free because its too expensive to imprison them.
    I cant agree with that

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    How has someone who described Britain as 'a paradise' where 'you are free to do anything' when he first arrived here from Egypt now find himself and several of his children convicted criminals? Abu Hamza had his golden chance to make a good life for himself here and he abused it. Good riddance to him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Sling yer hook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    no other country would house and pay for people to go to their countries and didn't want to work, those of us who work really are screwed in this country, to think that our hard earned money is keeping these animals and others that share their racist views, this country really needs to change the benefit systems, i wonder how many of hamza's supporters work?????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @47. Terrorists should be put in prison, and if wanted in another country, extradited to that country and tried by their law after they have served their sentence.
    All Victims of his (If found guilty) and anyone involved deserve justice.
    If he treated people with respect according to the teachings of the quran then he wouldn't be in this mess

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Anyway, the argument that Ahmad and Ahsan should face trial in the UK a deliberate distortion..

    Any offence they committed was wholly committed in the UK, The probable reason the CPS has not brought charges against them is that their actions are unlikely to constitute an offence under English law. Extraditing UK citizens for an alleged offence committed in the UK is bizarre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    What is galling as a taxpayer is , this man should never have been in this country , Hamza and his family have cost the taxpayer thousands if not millions when you factor in all costs . He has played the system to a ridiculous extent and this cannot be allowed again in future , the european court and human rights convention are being abused and we should reconside our involvement .

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    judging by the comments on here The hang em high brigade believe convicted terrorists should NOT be sent to prison but just sent to other countries. The law is far harder on terrorists than you lot, it actually believes they should serve their prison sentences

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    About time Hamza and the others were hoofed out.

    Pleased also that they will be tried in the USA. Over the pond there is no ECHR poking its nose in. And after conviction, sentencing is appropriate.

    If convicted, the result will probably be Sodium Thiopental or life in a supermax prison. Whatever they get, I doubt they will ever see these shores again.

    Can't say I'll be in floods of tears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I put in a FOI requst when they were in europe courts last time but couldn't get a figure from the MOJ because the case was still ongoing. However substantial assets had been frozen of Hamzer's. Just gets me how someone who didn't appear to have a job gets "substantial assets". Think I heard a figure of up to 40k per year to keep a person in prison so theres 320k alone before lawyers for Hamzer

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Hope they like rodeo and square dancing. Mind you, I don't suppose they will be getting out much once the Yanks get hold of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What will the Islamophobes, English Defence League, Daily Mail etc do without their poster boys?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    How much has all this cost, who paid and who got the dosh, We paid and the lawyers got the dosh, nothing new there. If we did not pay them it would all have been over in 2 months. Dale Farm and now this. Its all about making the legal community mega bucks whilst people cannot get ops on the NHS, it makes this country look like laughing stocks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Fantastic news, these hate-mongers should have been deported years ago. Their family members who are here should be deported.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Well this report and HYS did'nt stay on the BBC News page for long did it? Any reason why??

    Anyway, the argument that Ahmad and Ahsan should face trial in the UK a deliberate distortion.. They are accused of promoting terrorism via a website. That website was based in the US and therefore subject to US law. They are therefore accused of breaking US law NOT UK law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I find it ironic that people say we have followed the letter of the law and it has taken so long to do.In this terrorists own Country speaking out so violently would have cost him his life.Yet we let him preach his vitriol and cost our Countrymen their lifes.I would give the pilot a parachute personally


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