Many MPs called for any changes in the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 so that in effect, it will prevent the extradition of pending cases such as that of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and Gary McKinnon and several other men who have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights asking for their extradition to the US to be blocked The debate went ahead after the Backbench Business Committee’s u-turned on an earlier decision to refuse to list the third most popular e-petition [140,529 signatures] for a full House of Commons debate; instead the motion was been relegated to form part of a pre-existing discussion on extradition.
The motion reads: “That this House calls upon the Government to reform the UK’s extradition arrangements as a matter of urgency to strengthen the protection of British citizens: by introducing a Bill in Parliament to enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its Fifteenth Report of 2010-12, and by pursuing such amendments to the UK-US Extradition Treaty 2003 and the EU Council Framework Decision 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant as are necessary in order to give effect to such recommendations.”
One hundred leading barristers signed an open letter to the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, requesting a full Parliamentary debate.
Among the many to condemn the earlier decision to relegate the debate to the second Commons chamber where not all MPs were permitted to participate and where there was no vote, is Shadow Justice Secretary and Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan.
Khan said he was “thoroughly disappointed that this debate is taking place in the second Commons chamber, Westminster Hall, rather than the main Chamber. It is a remarkable achievement for Babar’s family to have obtained more that 140,000 signatures on the petition. The case of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan raises important issues which deserve a substantive debate in the House of Commons main chamber.” Supporters including Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Dr Caroline Lucas have called for a full public inquiry into the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after learning that it has admitted for the first time that it was never shown the evidence in relation to Babar Ahmad upon which it could have made a decision to prosecute him here.
Dr Lucas made the claim based on a letter dated November 22 in which the CPS states that the police did not send them the evidence on which Ahmad is being prosecuted in the US, for it to make a decision. Instead the police, having searched Ahmad’s house in December 2003 and detained him under the Terrorism Act for six days, sent the evidence to the US.
No review has taken place of the evidence that was sent to the US, even though it was all seized by the Metropolitan Police for investigating offences in the UK.
In a statement to The Muslim News CPS said it had two separate roles “acting on behalf of the USA in the extradition proceedings and secondly as the UK domestic prosecutor.”
“In relation to acting on behalf of the USA, the CPS was sent some of the evidence gathered by the US authorities upon which a prime facie case was argued, as is normal procedure in extradition matters. We were never in possession of all the US evidence and have never claimed otherwise. The CPS extradition unit can not and does not share information as it is bound by a duty of confidentiality.”
“In relation to our role acting as domestic prosecutor, the CPS was sent some evidence obtained by UK police and we advised in relation to that. It is not the role of the CPS to carry out investigations but rather to consider evidence provided by the police. At the time this advice was given, domestic prosecutors were aware of the nature of the evidence in the possession of the US but the material was never subject to review in this country as it forms part of the case built by the US.
“The CPS, in its domestic role, would not be party to evidence from a country requesting extradition and we have never said otherwise.”
However Ahmad’s father Ashfaq told The Muslim News: “It is quite shocking to learn that the CPS made no effort to examine the evidence seized from Babar’s home but instead simply outsourced our criminal justice system to the US. Had it examined the evidence, then it could quite easily have prosecuted Babar in the UK.”
The US Ambassador, Louis Susman, told the Foreign Affairs Committee the treaty had already been “rigorously” scrutinised by the Home Secretary appointed Baker Review which consisted of “a ‘blue ribbon’ panel of legal professionals to evaluate the treaty” who concluded the treaty “is balanced, fair, and needs no changes.”
Susman addressed what he called inaccurate perceptions about the treaty and insisting, “the standard that each country has to meet to extradite someone is the same” and that extradition request are only made for serious crimes. “It is not easier to extradite someone from the UK than from the US. The US has never denied an extradition request from the UK under the treaty. The UK has refused on seven occasions,” said Susman
However, a spokesman for Babar Ahmed campaigners dismissed the use of the Scott Baker Review to legitimise the current treaty: “It is unanimously accepted that the Scott Baker Review was a complete whitewash which is why Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has ordered a new review,” said the spokesman.
The Human Rights group Scotland against Criminalising Communities (SACC) went a step further and accused the US Ambassador of “bullying” MPs “out of voicing any criticism of the US.”
In a statement to The Muslim News Chair of SACC, Richard Haley, said: “The Ambassador’s statement has been described as ‘strong language for a diplomat.’ I’d put it more plainly. It is an attempt at crude bullying.”
The European Court of Human Rights is currently considering whether to block a number of extraditions from Britain to the US because of the likelihood that the individuals concerned would be subject to solitary confinement in the US.
“Ambassador Susman claims that it is no easier to extradite someone from the UK to the US than vice versa. Many campaigners have rightly drawn attention to the apparent imbalance between the two procedures as an indicator that something is amiss. But this apparent imbalance isn’t the most important issue. We want justice, not balanced injustice. Evidence-free extradition promotes injustice and it should stop.”