UK Liberty

Very good!

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 1, 2007

The BBC:

Tony Blair’s supporters can point to the Human Rights Act as evidence that, whatever the complaints of his critics, he was a true believer in civil liberty.

‘Was’ being the operative word – even if true.

I don’t believe Tony is stupid. I don’t believe he is evil. It seems to me that leaves one thing: he lends little to no weight to civil liberties, especially when it comes to suspected criminals and terrorists – the very people most likely to need them.

He can put on his CV that his Government was responsible for, say, the Human Rights Act, but that’s just something he’s put on his CV. It means little else to him.

Is it a vote-winner? He’ll claim responsibility for it. Is it a problem? Then it’s the wooly liberals and judiciary who are at fault.

In short, Tony wants what is expedient.

One of the things that influenced my opinion can be found in Youssef. Long story but the relevant bit is where our government attempted to obtain certain assurances from the Egyptians (see para 13) in respect of four men we were trying to deport, who were simultaneously challenging their detention with a writ of habeas corpus. The Egyptian government had a poor record of torture in custody.

The Egyptians objected to the assurances by letter, Tony obtained a copy, and with reference to the assurances wrote on it, “This is a bit much. Why do we need all these things?”

Indeed, why should we be assured that, for example, the deportee “shall receive no ill treatment whilst in detention”, or that “they shall receive a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial judiciary”?!

I’m not entirely sure what in particular he objected to or whether it was the whole lot. But I believe the requests reasonable for a government that wants to avoid a successful challenge under Article 3 of Convention, specifically:

1. They shall receive no ill treatment whilst in detention; and
8. That, during any term of imprisonment, arrangements would be agreed for regular (at least monthly) access by British Government officials and independent medical personnel.

There were several communications between the Home Office, the FCO, and Tony’s Secretary – with Tony writing on various letters to the effect of, we were the ones being unreasonable!

The Egyptians wouldn’t budge.

Eventually Tony’s secretary wrote to the FCO:

… the Prime Minister is not content simply to accept that we have no option but to release the four individuals. He believes that we should use whatever assurances the Egyptians are willing to offer, to build a case to initiate the deportation procedure and to take our chance in the courts. If the courts rule that the assurances we have are inadequate, then at least it would be the courts, not the government, who would be responsible for releasing the four from detention.

In other words, no point of principle there, “we simply mustn’t break Article 3″, it’s all about what is expedient, “we want to get rid of these people, we’ll take our chances in the courts, and if we fail they will be the ones to blame”.

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3 Responses

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  1. Jack Straw on liberty « UK Liberty said, on December 18, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    […] Also have a look at Blair’s views regarding the law vs. expediency. […]

  2. Moving the goalposts « UK Liberty said, on April 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    […] they are unlawful.  I cannot help but feel there is a thinking in Government that, like in Youssef v Home Office, “at least it would be the courts, not the government, who would be responsible” for […]

  3. […] As a symptom of Blair’s somewhat peculiar perspective on the criminal justice system, I’d also like to mention that he demanded to know of Foreign Office officials why they were seeking assurances of Egypt that people deported there would not be subject to “ill treatment whilst in detention” and that they would “receive a fair and public hearing” – according to him, such things were, and I quote, “a bit much“. […]


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