You are here

Strasbourg judges reject terrorism suspects' extradition appeal

Further appeal possible before extradition goes ahead

16 April 2012


The European Court of Human Rights has disappointed many of its critics by rejecting the claims

 of five men charged with terrorism offences in the US that extradition would violate their human rights.

Abu Hamza, who has a hook instead of a hand and used to preach at Finsbury Park mosque, Babar Ahmad and three others argued that their potential imprisonment in an American ‘supermax’ prison in the Rockies would amount to inhuman and degrading treatment under article 3.

The ECtHR had already ruled, in 2010, that Hamza’s appeal under article 3 was inadmissible because his severe disabilities meant there was no “real risk” of him spending more than a short period at the top security ADX Florence jail in Colorado.

Once again, the Strasbourg judges rejected Hamza’s complaints, saying that his disabilities were severe, “not least the fact that both his forearms have been amputated”, and that fact alone would make his detention at ADX Florence “impossible”.

In four other cases, the court held that there was a real risk of detention at ADX Florence.

Ruling in Babar Ahmad and others v UK (application nos 24027/07 and others), the ECtHR said there was no dispute that physical conditions at the supermax prison, such as the size of cells, met the requirements of article 3.

Instead, the applicants’ complained about the alleged lack of procedural safeguards before they were sent there and the “restrictive conditions and lack of human contact”.

However, the court found there was no basis for the applicants’ submission that placement of the men would take place without safeguards. It held that not all inmates convicted of terrorism offences were housed at the prison and the Federal Bureau of Prisons applied “accessible and rational criteria” before deciding whether to transfer people.

“There is nothing to indicate that the United States’ authorities would not continually review their assessment of the security risk which they considered the applicants to pose.”

Abu Hamza and the four others also claimed that if any of them were given a life sentence it would be “grossly disproportionate” and a violation of article 3.

The ECtHR said that due regard must be given to the fact that “sentencing practices vary greatly” between nation states and found that the applicants had not demonstrated that there would be a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment reaching the threshold of article 3.

However, the Strasbourg judges added that the UK government should not extradite the men until they had decided whether or not to appeal the court’s Grand Chamber.

The court adjourned its ruling on the fate of a sixth man, Haroon Rashid, on the grounds of his mental health problems.

Categorised in:

Police & Prisons