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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  • Comment number 118.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    i truly believe that legal aid should only go to people who have paid full stamp, but with so many unmarried mums who like to appear on the jeremy kyle show, welll, its soon transparent that these teenagers already know how to use the system in a way that they see as a job!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    i have never done anything in my life that would endanger the life of another human being, i have nothing to fear from our justice system, its only people that display these racist views, and who do these awful crimes that come to the attention of whatever country, i feel at last that justice will be served in the USA, we are too soft in this country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    At lastbabunhamza is going. Just think if they can be extradited to america for fraud and terrorism what next? Justbthink you can do something in the UK which is perfectly legal but can be extradited to America just because the server is based in america. I think everybody should think twice when posting comments as you may find yourself being extradited under some weird american law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    such good news, they are finally out of this country, what a saving that will be to the good honest tax payers!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    and we as a nation are happy living side by side with our ethnic brothers and sisters, that does not mean that we should put up with people coming to our country in order to provoke racist hatred, these men have done that, they have supported the death of many people, how can we ever condone such behaviour?, i think its awful that some of the lovely people we have in this country will suffer

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    how much money have the lawyers made over the years from the British taxpayer from the various legal processes, feathering their own nests.
    and the poor taxpayer has to pick up the tab again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    i think we see what we see, we have been infiltrated by terrorists who have killed innocent people, and we have kept them, so why should any of us feel that these terrorists should go free?, its bad enough that the IRA are in power in Ireland, have we not had enough??? we do not individually choose what our goverments do, i want peace, and i want to feel safe in my own country, is that wrong??

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    89. KeithT
    Posters here talk about racist scum. They sound a lot racist themselves. American justice is not as good as ours. Just watch these people incarcerated for life on the flimsiest of evidence, extracted by torture.

    ..... do you fail to see your own racist comments about the usa ? i'm surprised it wasn't modded out..........................

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The number of people that seem ready to form a lynch mob here is truly depressing, these men may have done deplorable things (emphasis on may, only Abu Hamza has been found guilty of anything), but that is no reason to treat them in the same barbaric way they would treat others. British/Western justice and society is supposed to be about taking the moral high road and not sinking to their level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    i would pay good money to see the visa application for his family and chums to go see him.

    ever been a war criminal ?
    ever been a terrorist ?
    got a criminal record ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    and i am proud to be English, my fore fathers fought for our freedom, that has now become a mockery in this country, people with cancer are denied benefits, they don't always get DLA, yet come here as an illegal immigrant or an asylum seeker and you get the most in benefits that you can, and we pay for that!!!!!! shame on the goverments in this country who have screwed the tax payer for so long

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    it seems we have been ruled by the minorities for years in the UK, we are a christian country, we celebrate christmas, yet, not in offices, or certain area,s in case we offend the people who choose to come and live here, either as an asylum seeker or illegal immigrant, why are we losing our traditions, we have more mosques then churches, who really rules this country now?????????? not us

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    This is a mockery, they are happy to deny others their human rights, yet use the legislation they do not believe in for advantage.
    The lawyers are disgusting, jumping on cases like this, they have no interest in real rights abuses, such as elderly patients denied treatment for blindness, having paid into the system all their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    do they still have the death sentence in Florida? i hope so, but then, hey, what better way to punish a criminal then keeping them in a small cell, no tv, no computers, no anything, a concrete stool and desk, why do we not have that here for the scumbags in our prisions? its because we are ruled by human rights, come on xmas

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This pernicious piece odious vermin has made the UK and it's legal system a laughing stock.Mind you,look on the bright side as he has totally wrecked the notion of Human Rights which have now been thoroughly discredited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    At last! May Hamza and his ilk enjoy the delights of Disneyland! Wish you weren't here boys!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    99.redwillow . Their supporters are NO MORE BRITISH than a rattlesnake.....disgusting creatures

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    Comment number 100.

    Emma Norton, said "It beggars belief that he won't be tried here."
    "Isn't British justice - so admired around the world - capable of dealing with crimes committed in the UK by its own citizens?They should put this gormless woman on the flight too. Citizen is a cheap word used by people with no idea of what it really means to love ones Country not a dangerous barbaric religion

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    So at long last the UK is rid of these evil men. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say. They will get exactly what they deserve in the US. Just so sad to see people supporting them outside the court. I wonder if that plane from the US has any more room in it?


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