So, Mrs May has got what she wanted. Abu Qatada has gone. But who exactly won? Like millions of other law-abiding UK residents, he had wanted to stay. The government feels it can claim victory as it got him to do something which he hadn’t wanted to do. But his deportation was possible only because it is now illegal for the courts in Jordan to use evidence which has been extracted under torture. And he did drop his old objection to going.... That’s some victory for any Home Secretary.
The problem is Mrs May wanted to get rid of him well before the legal safeguards for his fair trial were put in place. His human rights didn’t matter because she had decided he was a dangerous man. The Human Rights lobby irritated the government. She tried to wash her hands of him and the lobby, but the courts wouldn’t allow it. If she has her way, this so-called victory will now be used as an excuse to withdraw altogether from the European Convention on Human Rights. That would be some victory for any Home Secretary.
The Human Rights lobby should, in fact, be applauded for making governments respect the need for a fair trial and the rule of law. If Mrs May was tortured into confessing to a crime she did not commit, or implicating an innocent person in a crime, she would look to a fair trial and the rule of law. If Mrs May was tortured into confessing to a crime she did commit, or implicating a guilty person in a crime, she would look to a fair trial and the rule of law. This is everybody’s right, although some people, such as Mrs May’s supporters in the battle over Abu Qatada, might think a dangerous woman did not deserve it.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Abu Qatada will be found guilty in a trial in Jordan. In fact, if he has a fair trial, there is every chance that he will be acquitted. There is no guarantee, either, that the British Government will not disregard the basic human rights of other individuals. If this happens, sooner or later an innocent person will suffer.