Warning: Lord Carlile
Lord Carlile said rulings by the European Court of Human Rights had undermined efforts to deport dangerous individuals intent on causing mayhem.
The Liberal Democrat peer and QC attacked the court for refusing to allow the risk of harm to British citizens to be weighed in deportation hearings. Instead, only the human rights of the suspected terrorist can be taken into account.
‘The effect [of the court’s rulings] is to make the UK a safe haven for some individuals whose determination is to damage the UK and its citizens – hardly a satisfactory situation save for the purist,’ he said.
His comments will heap further pressure on ministers over relations with the Strasbourg court.
Conservative MPs are already in open revolt over plans to give thousands of prisoners the right to vote following the court’s judgement that prisoners must have access to the ballot box.
Last night Dominic Raab, Tory MP for Esher and Walton, said European judges’ law making was ‘out of control’.
He added: ‘It is not the job of an international court to re-write British laws on deportation, parental discipline or prisoner voting. It is high time we drew a line in the sand.’
Under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights individuals are protected against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. The clause allows foreign terror suspects to fight deportation on the grounds that they would be tortured in their home countries if returned. A string of terrorists have taken advantage of the clause.
Britain has argued that the courts should be allowed to take into account the risks posed to its citizens.
But the unelected judges ruled, in the 1996 Chahal judgment, that the only factor of importance was the protection of the human rights of terror suspects.
The European convention has been incorporated into British law in the Human Rights Act. British courts have to apply rulings of the European court.
Lord Carlile’s comments make clear how Britain’s efforts to deport foreign terror suspects have been hamstrung by the court.
THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY BUT NO DEPORTATION
Al Qaeda operative Abid Naseer
The pair were planning a 'mass casualty attack', probably against shoppers at the Arndale Centre in Manchester over the Easter holiday last year.
But judges said Naseer, 24, and 26-year-old Faraz Khan - who came to Britain as students - should not be sent back to Pakistan because of the risk they could be tortured.
Critics branded the judgment by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was 'outrageous' and Home Secretary Theresa May expressed her disappointment.
The issue of human rights is potentially divisive for the coalition, with Tory MPs insisting the party should stick to its manifesto pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act, brought in by Labour, and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
In an attempt to deal with the issue, Labour made deals with countries with dubious human rights records in which they pledged not to torture anyone returned to them.
These ‘deportation with assurances’ (DWA) agreements exist with Algeria, Libya, Jordan, the Lebanon and Ethiopia. Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to step up efforts to make more agreements and send more foreign terror suspects home. But Lord Carlile, in his sixth and final report as independent reviewer of terror legislation, wrote: ‘The negotiation of DWAs is a time-consuming process.
‘Even where successfully agreed, there is no guarantee the courts will accept them, given the relatively low threshold required for an individual to avoid deportation.
‘The Government sought by intervention in the European Court of Human Rights to argue that where a person seeks to resist removal on the grounds of risk of ill-treatment in their home country, this may be balanced against the threat they pose to national security if they remain.
‘And where the person poses a risk to national security, this has an impact on the standard to which he must establish a risk of ill-treatment. The court rejected both arguments. This leaves the UK reliant on DWAs.’
Lord Carlile’s comments angered human rights groups. Kate Allen, UK director at Amnesty International said: ‘The global ban on deporting people to countries where they’re at risk of torture exists for a very good reason – to protect us all from the threat of being tortured.’
The Tory manifesto included a pledge to abolish the Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, but this was kicked into the long grass after discussions with the Lib Dems over forming the Coalition.