Going, Going, Gone: Qatada and the HRA by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell 

Going once, going twice, sold

Or in this case, gone to Jordan, yes, Abu Qatada has been deported after nearly a decade in Britain. Now that he has gone, the UK government, as reported many months before, and in particular our Home Secretary, Theresa May reportedly wants to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 to prevent a repeat of this saga.

50 Shades of Grayling (again)

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has also claimed that a future Conservative majority government would scrap the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR in domestic law. Theresa May, the home secretary, has reportedly been working on the plans for the Tories’ next manifesto.

London School of Economics

Answering questions from students and others at the London School of Economics on a Wednesday evening as part of a conversation chaired by Prof Conor Gearty earlier this year, the UK’s most senior female judge has said her fellow justices would “regret” any decision by a future government to repeal the Human Rights Act. I completely agree given the fundamentality of the act and its impact on every single person in the UK. Lady Hale, deputy president of the UK’s Supreme Court also said that withdrawing from the human rights court in Strasbourg would require Britain to leave the EU (something the Tories are also pondering).

It seems that this government is intent on ending its long-standing union with the EU and we should be worried. The HRA gives the following rights:

Article 2: Right to Life

Article 3: No Inhuman treatment or Torture

Article 4: No Slavery

Article 5: Right to Liberty

Article 6: Right to a fair trial

Article 7: No Charges For Retrospective crimes

Article 8: Right to privacy

Article 9: Freedom of conscience

Article 10: Freedom of Expression

Article 11: Freedom of Assembly

Article 12: Marriage and the family

Article 14: No Discrimination

Righty, Lefty?

These rights apply to all, not just the high-profile individuals apparently being used as an example to repeal this act. Repeal with that I hear you ask? The answer to this seems to be a UK Bill of Rights but one must ask, won’t a Bill of Rights have to include most of the provisions of the HRA anyway given their importance? The last Bill of Rights is hundreds of years old (which can be seen here).

This has been pondered by The Commission on a Bill of Rights, that was an independent Commission established by the Government on 18 March 2011. The Commission concluded their work programme and submitted their final report to the UK Government on 18 December 2012. The Commission have since disbanded.

See their conclusions here and here.

Criminals Charter

One of the things you will have seen on the website above is that the HRA legislation has not been universally popular. Some have branded it a “criminals’ charter”, following suggestions that it had been abused by various litigants. Now, I am inclined to disagree because, although the Qatada case has been controversial (as my following comment may be) we simply cannot send someone to a country where evidence obtained through torture is used because this can be unreliable. A long battle – yes. Abuse – that depends on how strongly you view Human Rights.

The statement given by May states she was glad that the government’s determination to remove him had been:

“Vindicated…this dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country…I am also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport… we are taking steps – including through the new Immigration Bill – to put this right.”

Deportation is a fundamental right of the UK, it can and does secure the UK from threats that are constantly evolving and advancing, but the process must be followed and, in my opinion, it is a fair one. All people must have the same rights, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You can view the timeline of the Qatada case here.

I’m interested in your views on this – feel free to comment below…

© Craig Chappell, 2013

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