January 31, 2012
Following the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling about Abu Qatada’s extradition the anti-Human Rights Act (HRA) brigade have been out in force. In his recent speech about the ECHR David Cameron claimed that the ECHR was in danger of undermining public support for civil liberties. This claim was accurate in large part because the same right wing newspapers that support him have been busy whipping themselves up into a self-righteous rage about the EHRA.
The UK government has received good results from the ECHR recently (not that you would know it) as they ruled that the system of whole life tariffs was not a form of torture. Forty six prisoners in the UK are currently serving whole life sentences and following an application from Jeremy Bamber, Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter (who are between them guilty of murdering nearly a dozen murders) the ECHR ruled that it was not “inhuman and degrading” for them to die in jail. The ECHR also approved the UK’s policy of deportation with assurances (assuming reliable guarantees against torture are given) in spite of the policy being strongly criticised by Amnesty International. Needless to say these cases are nowhere to be found in the anti-HRA pieces from Michael Burleigh in the Daily Mail, Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph and Douglas Murray in the Daily Express. Instead the ECHR is presented as a judicial factory producing ‘outrages’ to be inflicted on the UK, even though the government wins the vast majority of applications to the court. Additionally these critics do not mention that Abu Qatada has not been convicted, let alone faced a criminal trial, in the UK. Whilst he is definitely unpleasant and has been involved with terrorist organisations, the fact that neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor the Director of Public Prosecution has been able to bring him to trial over a ten year period, despite numerous changes in the law, is illustrative of how the problem is much wider than ‘activist judges’ at the ECHR.