The Rwanda verdict from the European Court of Human Rights was utterly predictable: How it has been a friend to criminals and terror suspects with perverse judgments against Britain, writes ROSS CLARK
The European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) decision to block the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda may be utterly predictable but what is surprising is the speed at which it came to its judgment.
As Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said yesterday on Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ve never known such a quick decision made by somebody at the ECHR.’
The Strasbourg-based court, which has nothing to do with the EU but was founded in 1959 in the hope of preventing another Nazi-type regime riding roughshod over human rights, has a well-earned reputation for sloth.
At the end of 2018 (before any pandemic effect) some 10,000 cases awaited an initial judicial examination. Of those, 1,500 had been waiting more than a decade – almost as long as the 12 years the Nazis were in power.
Yet somehow, out of the blue, the ECHR managed to find the energy to spring into action and thwart the UK Government’s effort to crack down on people-trafficking by employing an offshore processing facility in Rwanda.
The decision has – yet again – raised the hackles of MPs, who see the ECHR as a highly politicised body using a loose interpretation of human rights in order to interfere in decisions which ought to be the realm of a country’s democratically-elected parliament.
Unsurprisingly, most of the criticism of the ECHR over the Rwanda case has come from Conservative MPs. But you don’t have to be a Conservative minister to fall foul of the ECHR’s effort to poke its nose into domestic politics.
Labour home secretaries John Reid and Jacqui Smith also suffered as a result of ECHR rulings.
Even Tony Blair, who oversaw the passing of the Human Rights Act – incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law – later grew exasperated when the ECHR started to thwart his efforts to tackle Islamist terrorism in the wake of 9/11.
Ironically, the ECHR includes judges appointed by many countries which themselves fall short on their human rights record –including Russia, Azerbaijan, Serbia and Albania.
Will the Rwanda ruling spur the Government to do what it has threatened to do for more than a decade and withdraw from the ECHR and European Convention, drafting a British bill of rights instead?
Don’t bet on it. Every time the idea has been proposed, the hand of the Establishment seems to have been felt on ministers’ shoulders.
Abu Qatada successfully sought asylum in Britain in 1993, soon acquiring a reputation as a hate preacher. In 1999, he was convicted in absentia of conspiracy to cause explosions in Jordan, but efforts to deport him – even after approval by the House of Lords – were thwarted
In 1980, John Hirst killed his landlady and was given a 25-year sentence for manslaughter. He later complained about not being able to vote, and the ECHR agreed, ruling that no prisoner should be denied a vote
Boris Johnson has his own intimate connection with the court. His grandfather, Sir James Fawcett, was president of the European Commission on Human Rights between 1972 and 1981. That was the body which, until citizens were given the right to present cases directly to the ECHR in 1998, decided which cases should and shouldn’t be laid before the court. Three years ago, former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption used the BBC’s Reith Lectures to argue that its judges have gone too far and engaged in what amounts to a power grab from elected politicians.
The result is that many of the 315 judgments where the ECHR has ruled against the UK since 1975 have been perverse at best – as this analysis reveals.
2004 – A killer gets the right to vote
In 1980, John Hirst killed his landlady and was given a 25-year sentence for manslaughter. He was annoyed to discover that, as a prisoner, he wasn’t allowed to vote.
In 2004, the ECHR ruled that Britain was wrong to deny all prisoners the vote. The then Labour government appealed against the decision and lost.
Thankfully, in this case at least, neither the Labour government nor any subsequent one has obeyed the perverse ruling.
2009 – Ruling against deportation of Nigerian criminal
Just how bad do you have to be to convince the ECHR that you deserve to be deported from your adopted home? Worse, evidently, than Steven Omojudi, who in 1989 was jailed for five years for theft and conspiracy.
In spite of that, the Home Office gave him a second chance and granted him leave to remain from 2005. The following year he was jailed for sexual assault.
In 2007 the then home secretary John Reid ordered his deportation to Nigeria. The ECHR ruled that his deportation interfered with his right to a family life – and awarded him €9,000 in damages.
2009 – Abu Qatada and ten others get compensation for loss of liberty
The ECHR ruled that the detention of 11 men, held on suspicion of terror offences under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, was illegal because it breached their right to liberty.
They were awarded £26,000 in total, with radical cleric Abu Qatada receiving £2,500. Exactly what Britain was supposed to do with terror suspects in the aftermath of 9/11, the court did not explain.
Police stop and search suspected protesters at the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England
2010 – ECHR rules against police stop-and-search powers
The names Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton don’t quite stand out in the annals of historic injustices. The pair were detained for less than half an hour while police stopped and searched them outside the Defence Systems and Equipment Exhibition at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands in 2003.
You might think the police were acting reasonably, in the wake of 9/11 in searching people they felt were acting suspiciously outside a defence exhibition. But the pair were so aggrieved they took their case to Strasbourg – and won.
The court awarded £30,000 towards their costs.
2011 – Somali criminals allowed to stay in UK
Abdisamad Adow Sufi and Abdiaziz Ibrahmin Elmi were convicted in Britain of burglary, threats to kill, robbery and dealing in class A drugs.
But when it came to deporting them at the end of their sentences, the ECHR ruled that this could not go ahead because they might face death or injury because Somalia was in a state of civil war – and that this would violate article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
2012 – ECHR Blocks deportation of Abu Qatada to his native Jordan
Abu Qatada successfully sought asylum in Britain in 1993, soon acquiring a reputation as a hate preacher. In 1999, he was convicted in absentia of conspiracy to cause explosions in Jordan, but efforts to deport him – even after approval by the House of Lords – were thwarted.
The ECHR ruled that Qatada could not be sent to Jordan because it said there was a risk he could be tried on evidence obtained by torture. He was eventually deported the following year and was cleared of the terrorist charges.
In 2011 Sylvie Beghal was questioned by police on arrival at East Midlands airport. Officers used powers contained in the Terrorism Act, but the ECHR ruled her right to privacy had been violated
2016 – Terror suspect awarded compensation for police using ‘incorrect procedure’
Three would-be Underground bombers whose bombs failed to explode weeks after the fatal 7/7 bombings in July 2005 took the UK Government to court, claiming their convictions were unfair because they hadn’t been offered legal advice quickly enough.
Thankfully, their cases failed, but the ECHR ruled that a fourth man who had helped one of the bombers and withheld information from the police should have been offered a lawyer when he started to incriminate himself. The result? He was awarded €16,000 in compensation.
2019 – Police wrong to question airline passenger
In 2011 Sylvie Beghal was questioned by police on arrival at East Midlands airport. Officers used powers contained in the Terrorism Act, which allows members of the public to be interrogated even though there might be no evidence to suspect them of wrongdoing.
Beghal refused to answer questions and later pleaded guilty to failing to co-operate with the police. Then she challenged the police powers under the Terrorism Act, all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled her human rights had not been abused.
The ECHR, however, decided her right to privacy had been violated – all because she was asked a few questions at an airport.
Source: Read Full Article