Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) is deeply disappointed by today's decision by the European Court of Human Rights to allow the extradition of five men from Britain to the US to face terrorism charges, despite the harshness of US prison regimes and the likelihood that the men would be placed under solitary confinement.
SACC believes that the decision has undermined worldwide efforts to put an end to long-term solitary confinement.
The men have 3 months in which to appeal against today's ruling by requesting a referral to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:
"Today's ruling is shocking. It's a slap in the face for Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who has made it clear that he thinks that prolonged solitary confinement is unacceptable.
"Long-term solitary confinement in any form is cruel and inhuman and should be recognised as a violation of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"The Strasbourg judges need to listen to the former prison guard who described ADX Florence, where the men would be sent if convicted in the US, as a 'cleaner version of hell.'"
The European Court of Human Rights seems to have made great efforts to find positive things to say about the form of solitary confinement prevalent at ADX Florence. For example, the judges say that "although inmates are confined to their cells for the vast majority of the time, a great deal of in-cell stimulation is provided through television and radio channels, frequent newspapers, books, hobby and craft items and educational programming."
This sort of technology has a place in prisons. But it is no substitute for normal human interaction.
Three of the men who are the subject of today's ruling - Babar Ahmad, Syed Tahla Ahsan, and Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (better known as Abu Hamza) - are British citizens. The other two men are Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian citizen, and Khaled Al-Fawwaz, a Saudi Arabian citizen. The five men are at present being held in prison in Britain.
The appeal of a sixth man - Haroon Rashid Aswat, a British citizen - is also before the court, but the case has been adjourned pending further submissions. Haroon Aswat was formerly detained in Long Lartin prison but has been transferred to Broadmoor Hospital because of his mental health.
The attempt to extradite of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan is particularly troubling because the offences they are accused of were all allegedly committed in the UK, because the evidence against them was obtained in the UK by British police, and because Britain's Crown Prosecution Service has said that it had insufficient evidence to prosecute the men in Britain. Babar Ahmad says that the handling of his case amounts to "outsourcing" to the US.
The controversial extradition treaty between Britain and the US, which came into effect in Britain at the start of 2004, allows people to be extradited to the US without any requirement for prima facie evidence to be presented in a British Court.
Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar said today:
"It is time that our Government repealed an extradition treaty that treats our own citizens as second class citizens and hands them on a plate to the US.
"The fact that in Babar's case, evidence was not even considered worthy enough to reach court in this country, shows what a travesty of justice it is that he has remained in prison uncharged and untried for so long.
"Nobody should be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, that is the true test of a civilised society which we are repeatedly failing."
Whatever the eventual outcome of the case before the European Court of Human Rights, SACC believes that it is essential, in the interests of justice and in the interests of the British public, for the evidence against Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan to be placed before a British court, for arrangements to made for a full public inquiry into the matter, and for there to be a genuine overhaul of the Britain's extradition treaty with the US.
SACC will continue to campaign against all forms of long-term solitary confinement. In view of the international importance of today's judgment, we hope that these cases will in due course be referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.