On Friday, the European Court of Human Rights made its final decision that British citizens Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan were to be extradited to the United States.
Babar Ahmad responded by indicating that his case had “exposed the fallacy of the UK’s extradition arrangement with the US, and I can now leave with my head held high having won the moral victory.”
Not only did he expose a system that is arbitrary and unfair but he also exposed a society that, on the whole, does not care about protecting and fighting for the basic rights of British citizens. For that, we should all be completely ashamed of ourselves.
From those who represent us in government to mainstream media outlets right down to the Muslim community, we have all played a part in allowing this grave injustice to occur under our names.
It is no secret how deeply flawed and problematic the extradition arrangements between the US and UK are. Under such a system, every one of us is vulnerable to being picked up and flown out without having been found guilty of a crime. Such a process, however, has been allowed to continue with impunity for one simple reason – we, the British public, allow it to go unchecked.
The number of Muslim organisations, mosques and activist groups have been minimal at voicing their concern against the human rights abuses carried out under the Extradition Act. Only a handful of mosques and Muslim groups across the country felt it necessary to address and campaign for Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. Those organisations who did not campaign claimed that the issue was controversial and irrelevant to the welfare of Muslim communities. However, the reality is that it wasn’t controversial at all and it was very relevant for the Muslim community to be aware of such men and in particular, the Extradition Act 2003.
The men facing extradition were not asking to be freed from custody. All they were asking for was a trial in Britain – a right that is, in theory, given to every British citizen. For due-process and basic rights to be ignored and violated in such a manner is extremely worrying and should be a concern for every individual living in Britain.
Grouping Abu Hamza with Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan was a method used to cover up the blatant injustice being exercised against these two men. What is even more disturbing, however, is that the majority of mainstream media outlets followed suit by headlining the events leading up to Friday as Abu Hamza and four other terror suspects. Only a limited number of media outlets even bothered to report on Babar Ahmad, whilst Talha Ahsan’s voice has been virtually silent apart from a few opinion pieces and blog posts.
Let us also not forget those politicians who have failed to raise their voices against such gross violation of basic rights. In August 2011, an e-petition calling on parliament to debate the Babar Ahmad case attracted close to 150,000 signatures, making it eligible for a full debate. Those 150,000 signatures were, however, completely ignored by our elected leaders when parliament refused to debate the case. Following on from the e-petition, an Early Day Motion (EDM-128) was signed and supported by 62 MPs. Only 62 MPs believe it is their responsibility to challenge a system where British citizens can be taken away and shipped to the US without ever having been found guilty of a crime under British law.
Immediately after the ruling, the home secretary ordered the movement of both men to the US without their families having a chance to say their final goodbyes. The emotional ordeal these families have gone through after years of campaigning tirelessly for their sons to be released has been distressing, to say the least, which the docu-drama entitled Extradition clearly portrays.
Like many of us, I could have done more to help Babar and Talha. I could have been out on the streets campaigning, protesting and educating people, not to mention, chasing my MP to raise this issue in parliament. If public pressure had been stronger, the outcome and debate, I believe, would have unfolded differently. When the time comes to place an ‘X’ on our ballot paper, Babar Ahmad’s face and the failure of the coalition government to stand up for British citizens should consecutively run through our minds.
All I can do now is tell Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan how sorry I am. Sorry Britain and the community you was once part of, paid taxes and integrated into failed you. Failed to stand up for the principles of democracy and human rights on which we stand for and preach to the rest of world.
I now urge anyone who believes in human rights, democracy and the rule law to take a stand on this issue. Let’s write to our MPs, newspapers and local politicians to demand a review of the unjust and controversial law. Don’t wait until it is you who is fighting extradition.