From the august pages of the Daily Mail comes yet another story of David Cameron relying on the ignorance of the population to give the appearance of taking a tough line on ‘Europe’.
But while the issue bringing this latest piece of Cameron PR bullshit to the fore – the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan, lest evidence obtained under torture is used against him – the story in the Wail shows Cameron is not proposing to do anything about the legal basis for the Court’s decision, thus confirming nothing will change and that his posturing is nothing but meaningless hot air:
David Cameron will this week confront European judges blamed for stopping the deportation of extremist Islamic cleric Abu Qatada and tell them: ‘Stop meddling in British justice.’
In a hard-hitting speech in Strasbourg, the home of the European Court of Human Rights, the Prime Minister will demand major reforms in the way the court is run.
He will say European judges must be more in touch with public opinion, accept more UK court rulings and let countries protect their own citizens and stop interfering in ‘petty’ cases.
If we use metaphor to explain what Cameron is doing here it demonstrates once again the fatuous nature of his latest intervention… Cameron has a car that possesses features he does not like. When the car is used the feature delivers performance he is not happy with. But rather than focus on the addressing the feature that is affecting the performance, his solution is to demand the driver is changed. The feature and its performance remain unaffected.
Cameron’s dishonesty is as striking as his lack of principle. Like it or loathe it, the ECHR is not meddling in British Justice as he puts it. The UK is signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and this country’s politicians, past and present, have seen to it this country is bound by its articles making it an integral part of ‘British Justice’. In the Abu Qatada case, below are the passages relevant to the judgement that was passed.
Being resolved, as the Governments of European countries which are like-minded and have a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law to take the first steps for the collective enforcement of certain of the Rights stated in the Universal Declaration;
Have agreed as follows:
The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention.
1.In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgement shall be pronounced publicly by the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
2.Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3.Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
This is not ‘meddling in British Justice’, this has been made a cornerstone of our justice system. And for all his whining, Cameron has no intention of trying to change a single letter of the text. As for the judgement itself, the ECHR has clearly explained why Qatada (Omar Othman) cannot be returned to Jordan.
The UK’s agencies were stupid enough to grant asylum to Abu Qatada in the first place (as they do to so many foreign criminals, terrorists and ne’er do goods who pitch up here) and now want rid of him. The Jordanians have provided a way out for the UK. The UK wants to take it. But Jordan extracts evidence via torture and mistreatment. Why should that bother us? After all, Qatada is believed to be part of Al Qaeda, they engage in terrorism and cold blooded murder and wish us harm, so why should we prevent him from facing Jordanian justice?
My response is grounded in a beautiful piece of dialogue in that great 1960s film, A Man for All Seasons, where Sir Thomas More (Paul Schofield) is arguing with his future son-in-law, William Roper about why he will not arrest Richard Rich and has let him leave the house freely despite his efforts to undermine More:
More: Go he should, if he were the Devil, until he broke the law.
Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
The same holds for Qatada. While Article 6 prevents his deportation to Jordan, the same Article also protects the rest of us from extradition on the basis that ‘evidence’ against us obtained under duress is likely not safe. Abu Qatada may very well be the Devil, but I too will give him the benefit of law for my own safety’s sake! If the UK or Jordan want to put Qatada behind bars for the rest of his life, they should obtain incontrovertible evidence of his guilt in a legal and responsible manner. If they can’t then they have no justification for doing anything other than protecting his rights and liberty.
Cameron’s naked politicking, deceit and ignorance suggest he either doesn’t get it, or more worryingly is determined to trample over our liberties. What this country needs is a man for all seasons. What we have is a man for all soundbites. Truly the heir to Blair.