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 78.

    @76 Malc

    Crikey we would have to hang Thatcher at least half a dozen times then!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Great result - now we need to use this precdent to make sure that in future terrorists and their supporters are deported ASAP.

    We should look at changing the law in such cases to prevent monsters like these dragging out cases - and make them foot the bill, not the British tax-payer. We need to change the law so If you were not born here and your parents were not born here - no free leagl aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    onothimagen @ 71

    Anyone who has put the population of this once sensible country in danger should be held to account.

    There are to many appeasers in power who stand back and do nothing for our welfare and future security of this country, whether this is for votes or deliberate policy?

    If found guilty of treasonous activity hanging should be penalty,

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I have come to say goodbye, Abu Hamza
    It's no use to ask me why, Abu Hamza
    There's a murmur in the air, you can hear it everywhere
    It is the time to do and dare, Abu Hamza

    Don't you hear the tramp of feet, Abu Hamza
    Sounding through the village street, Abu Hamza
    'Tis the tramp of Yankee marshals true in their uniforms so brown
    I must say goodbye to you, Abu Hamza

    Good Riddance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    @71 "Abu Hamza came to the UK in late 1979 when Thatcher was Prime Minister. so presumably you want Margaret Thatcher tried for treason & hanged"
    Thats one of the most sensible ideas you posted all evening..
    I'll show that one down the minors welfare club... They will love it!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    i personally think all his supporters should be deported too, why should the tax payer have to keep them when they hate us? and what are they going to do without their precious hamza????

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Anyone who has the slightest sympathy for this shower is not welcome in this country either; whether born here or not.. You liberal fools are supposed to hate fascists so what's your problem? Waste your tears and expend your angst on people who deserve it not these seditious creatures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Whoever was in Government and decided to change our once lovely country into a haven for foreign freeloaders and actual and would be terrorists should be tried in a court of Law for treason and hanged

    Abu Hamza came to the UK in late 1979 when Thatcher was Prime Minister. so presumably you want Margaret Thatcher tried for treason & hanged

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    #11 Alan. Hey man, I agree, she is a complete buffoon. And the disgrace is that her buffoonery was rewarded at the Olympics…

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I wonder if the Queen - being the head of the Church incidentally - “mentioning” that she wanted him gone had anything to do with them expediting his departure.. In any case, he has been found guilty, with very good reason as far as I can tell, to say nothing of the contemptible pathos of his scripturally correct supporters, or their conduct, and I am glad that he has gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    £4 million the trials have costed to date. That would have paid for the prosthetics!

    Or one plane flight to the US and a lot of nurses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


    I've looked again and they're definitely saying its really bad that abu hamza wasn't deported ages ago =before he'd served his sentence for inciting terrorism etc so they must believe convicted terrorists shouldn't go to prison, just be sent somewhere else

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Whoever was in Government and decided to change our once lovely country into a haven for foreign freeloaders and actual and would be terrorists should be tried in a court of Law for treason and hanged.

    The sooner these people are sent to America and put on trial the better, hopefully this is the end of appeasement and the start of a tough regime. Who actually wants these people on our shores.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Its about time that Abu Hamza was extradited & it took far too long for this to happen. What I am really concerned about is the one way extradition treaty with the USA. The fact that at least 1 of these individuals has not commited a crime in the UK & has been held without trail for 8 years is really worrying. At the end of the day this is UK not another state in the American Empire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The European Convention of Human Rights ..signed up to by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair

    Yeah but a very clever one given we signed the ECHR in 1950, nearly 3 years before he was born.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    What people are saying is a bunch of terrorist who were invited in to this country then abused the hospitality cost us a fortune.
    If You had a guest at a party and they caused trouble wouldn't you kick them out before they cost you loads of money?
    Same thing but on a bigger scale

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

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

    where to? As far as I'm aware they're all British citizens born in the UK.
    With particular regard to Abu Hamza's sons, they may be nasty pieces of work too but they're UK born nasty pieces of work

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    all cosy in british jails,taking our tax payers money and slagging this country down.Had it very cosy in this country,know lets see you slag this country down.American justice is what they deseve.Goodbye

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    As usual the only winners are the lawyers who have found it in their own interest to string out the cases for upto 14 years. The European Convention of Human Rights has muddied the waters as usual which signed up to by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair (occupation lawyer) and married to guess who? A 'Human Rights' lawyer Cherie Blair. Jobs fot the boys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    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.

    Thats not what others here, who claim to be hard on terrorists are saying. They're saying its terrible he wasn't extradited a long time ago = before he'd served his prison sentence here.


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