Lawyer for terror suspects hits out at ECHR decision in extradition case

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s legal advisers have secured a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that will see the extradition of five alleged terrorists, prompting the lawyer representing three of them to slam the judgment.


Court room of the ECHR
Court room of the ECHR

The ECHR has ordered radical cleric Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects to be tried in the US after concluding that there would be no violation of human rights for those facing possible life and solitary confinement sentences in a ‘supermax’ prison.

The Government’s in-house legal counsel Derek Walton prosecuted the extradition case.

Birnberg Peirce & Partners partner Gareth Peirce represented Babar Ahmad, Haroon Rashid Aswat, Syed Tahla Ahsan and Adel Abdul Bary. She instructed Ben Cooper of Doughty Street Chambers for all four men.

Aswat had his case delayed for consideration of mental health issues.

For Hamza, Arani & Co partner Muddassar Arani instructed Alun Jones QC of Great James Street and Ben Brandon of 3 Raymond Buildings.

And for Khaled Al-Fawwaz, Quist Solicitors’ Akhtar Raja instructed John Jones of Doughty Street Chambers.

The court said Britain would not violate EU human rights rules by extraditing the suspects.

However, a statement from Peirce’s firm following the verdict said that the decision was made on the basis of “disputed statistics” and questioned why the suspects are not being tried in their own country.

It said: “The court’s judgment does not address at all the burning issue in these cases, and one that has been the focus of intense debate in the UK for the past six years, namely why in all logic, fairness, and practical common sense are not British citizens – whose UK actions are forming the basis of prosecution in the US, and where all of  the evidence on which they are being tried was accumulated in its entirety in the UK by UK police and shipped lock stock and barrel to US prosecutors – being tried in their own country?

“In each of the cases decided by the European court today what has been emphasised by the appellants throughout is not that any accused should ’avoid justice’, but that they should be tried and if appropriate convicted in the country in which the claimed evidence was found, in which the relevant witnesses are present (both for the prosecution and the defence) and in which none of the serious issues raised in the European Court’s extended proceedings would have arisen.”

Ahmad – who has been held for eight years without trial, a UK record –  and the other suspects had argued that in the US they could face prison conditions and jail terms that would expose them to “torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in breach of the European human rights code”.

The Strasbourg court rejected those claims, saying in a ruling today that “detention conditions and length of sentences of five alleged terrorists would not amount to ill-treatment if they were extradited to the USA”.

However, the court said the five “should not be extradited” until its judgment becomes final — a move that could take months — or until a possible appeal process ends.