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Issue 276, Friday 27 April 2012 - 5 Jumad al-Akhar 1433

British justice subcontracted to the US

Prime Minister, David Cameron, has welcomed the European Court of Human Rights ruling that five terror suspects, including Babar Ahmad, Britain’s longest detained prisoner without trial, can be extradited to the US. “It’s quite right that we have a proper legal process, although sometimes you can be frustrated by how long things take. I think it’s very important that these deportations and extradition arrangements work promptly and properly, particularly when people are accused of very serious crimes,” Cameron said. Home Secretary, Theresa May, said she would work to “ensure that the suspects are handed over to the US authorities as quickly as possible.”

The Strasbourg Court ruled on April 9 that there would be no violation of human rights for those facing life and solitary confinement in an American “supermax” prison. Although it would have been extraordinary if the court had criticised the American justice system, earlier this year it blocked the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan, saying he would face an unfair trial there. Essentially the issue seemingly not considered in the latest ruling is why are British citizens being shipped to face US prosecutors and not being tried in their own country, when, as in the case of Ahmad, all of the alleged evidence has been accumulated here.

The Free Babar campaign has consistently called for him to be put on trial in the UK. His father, Ashfaq, says the fundamental question is why the case even got to Strasbourg, and why Babar needs to be extradited to the US. “I’m not saying Barbar is guilty or not guilty - what I am saying is that he should be taken to the court here and let the court decide. We’ll accept whatever they say,” he said. Babar also pointed out in his BBC interview that: “Had the Police and CPS put me on trial in 2003, which they have could have done, I would have left prison years ago - regardless of the verdict at trial.”

At the centre of the US case against Ahmad is evidence apparently that was not seen by the British legal authorities before it was sent to the US – a situation described in Parliament by both the Conservative MP Dominic Raab and the Labour MP Andy Slaughter as Kafkaesque and reiterated by Green Party Leader, Caroline Lucas. The Metropolitan Police, the very body that took the evidence, sent it straight to the US without showing it to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it has now transpired. Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Sadiq Khan, is asking why former Attorney General, Lord Peter Goldsmith and the CPS “misled” the public in 2006 when they said there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Ahmad in the UK “when they had not even seen all the evidence.”

The question must be asked in these cases is why they are being outsourced to the Americans, whose record leads to the gross abuses of human rights during the so-called war on terror, including insidious renditions, the controversial Bagram jail in Afghanistan, notorious Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. Britain’s role has already been exposed as far from innocuous, while the extraction treaty with the US, passed without the approval of Parliament, has long been criticised as unbalanced.

Last year, MPs passed a motion “to reform the UK’s extradition laws as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens” but so far to no avail.

One of the idiosyncrasies of Ahmad’s case is that he was arrested a year before the US issued an extradition warrant by anti-terrorism police officers at his London home in December 2003 but was eventually released without charge. But by the time he reached the police station after his arrest then, he had sustained at least 73 forensically recorded injuries, including bleeding in his ears and urine. Following lengthy legal action, he was eventually awarded £60,000 compensation in March 2009, after anti-terrorism police admitted he was subjected to “grave abuse, tantamount to torture” during his arrest. But following a trial lasting five weeks at Southwark Crown Court last June, all four police officers charged with the assault were acquitted.

There is no doubt that when the so called war on terrorism is reviewed by historians in future generations, it will go down as one of the most odious, subsuming a whole catalogue of injustices and human rights abuses that have victimised Muslims and led to an erosion of their civil liberties. But after 11 years, Cameron has shown no sign of allowing the insidious war of receding.

In a speech in Indonesia earlier this month, Cameron again invoked a regurgitation of Tony Blair’s views at his worst by presenting the false claim about Islam being the root of terrorism. He referred back 10 years to the 2002 bombings in Bali, saying that “just like 9/11 in America and 7/7 in London, we were attacked by a group of people who wanted to set Islam at odds with the West and use a warped version of their religion to justify a campaign of hatred and violence. They threatened the safety and security of us all.” It was not just violent extremists who were a threat but what he called “the tribalists who want to exclude those who don’t share the right ethnic background or family group from having a stake in their society and a job and a voice.”

The incarceration of Ahmad in prison without trial for seven years can only happen to a Muslim. Similar is the case in the US where Muslims have been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for longer without trial. Since the so called war on terror, on the one hand we have rights of Muslims are trampled with impunity and on the other hand we have western leaders like Cameron patronisingly telling the Muslims in Indonesia during his trip earlier this month, to respect the rule of law and human rights.

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