When Justice is Offensive
Last Tuesday the European Court of Appeal denied Britain's judicial right to deport Abu Qatada, the radical cleric described, as 'Bin Laden's right hand man in Europe'. Britain wanted to extradite him to Jordan, where he has been convicted of involvement in terrorist attacks. But he appealed a couple of years ago and now the ECA's ruling will make it almost impossible to hand him over to Jordan.
Although his precise relationship with Bin Laden is a little unclear, only a few people believe Abu Qatada should remain in the UK. And yet, the Court of Appeal feels that Britain has an obligation and a duty of care to safeguard his wellbeing.
We are told by human rights groups like Liberty, that if he is handed to Jordan he may be subjected to torture. Note: Jordan doesn't pander to European courts and certainly doesn't allow human rights legislation to come in the way of common sense and reason. And such an approach to justice might benefit our senior European judges who have clearly turned a blind eye to the actual reality of the climate and public opinion in our own country. Instead the European Court believes that Qatada's life might be in danger if he is extradited.
That may or may not be true because speculation on this subject can only relative. But really, how much of a threat is this man?
Although one judge has hyperbolically described him as a 'truly dangerous individual at the centre of al-Qaida's activities in the UK', it could be argued that the actual danger he poses is more academic than physical. For instance, I understand he has merely spoken against the USA and western democracies but he himself has not perpetrated direct violence. As such it could be argued that he is merely a symbol of extremism - an innocuous nutter who likes spouting off anti-western sentiments.
Despite this, however, I don't share the Court of Appeal's view about his deportation. It seems a little absurd that, whether he is kept in prison or not, the taxpayer will have to provide for his upkeep; upkeep for a man who has spoken vociferously against what Britain and British governments stand for. He has praised suicide bombers of 9/11, recruited young men and has called for a jihad against 'the sons of Satan' and 'infidels'. Even the government in his own country considers him a terrorist who stands against order and reason. And yet, we are told, he has rights. Surely people's rights - the rights of the British citizens, the majority - should take precedent over the rights of an individual offender?
In the light of this absurd ruling, it does seem that the elite, educated class - especially the judges in the European Court of Appeal - need to listen to the ordinary people and their concerns instead of preaching to them from their ivory towers about rights. Similarly it is worth remembering that the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into force in the United Kingdom in 2000, was passed to safeguard all citizens of all nationals against terrorists intent on destroying the very fabrics of a democratic society such as ours. It was designed to uphold our right to security, defence and our freedom to wander about without the fear of violence, threat or intimidation - whether from public authorities or extremists like Qatada.
Some might even put forward the view that if an individual or an organization is out to cause havoc or destruction to a country or its people, then it is the duty of the three key bodies - the legislative, the judiciary and the executive - of any country to uphold the rights of the majority to live freely. Any organisation that fails to do so is betraying the innocent masses.
The ECA is one such body. Surely, the rights of a deluded - but sane and mentally balanced - man should be secondary. And reactionary as it might sound, should we really care whether such a dangerous person or a terrorist being deported to his own country is going to be safe there or not? As a liberal democracy perhaps it is the duty of our country to consider what might happen to such people. Of course. But, at the same time, shouldn't the European judiciary keep our national security at the forefront of their decision-making when sentencing terrorists? Abu Qatada is a potentially dangerous extremist and there's no doubt about it. And thus one has to draw a line somewhere.
As an emphasis and reiteration, it might be suggested that the European Court of Appeal keep the British people in mind when sentencing radicals or theocrats like Abu Qatada whether he's Bin Laden's right hand man or not.
As far as many of British people are concerned, his residing here is not only a danger to this country but makes a mockery of justice. And, that to many, is deeply offensive.