Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Thursday, August 25, 2005
"The human rights of those people who were blown up on the Tube [subway] in London on July 7 are, to be quite frank, more important than the human rights of the people who committed those acts," Home Secretary Charles Clarke told Britain's commercial ITV News network.
"It is a balance, of course, and I acknowledge that there are real issues that have to be addressed, but I wish the U.N. would look at human rights in the round, rather than simply focusing all the time on the terrorist," he said.
Clarke was responding to a statement issued by Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, who urged Britain not to deport radicals to countries where they face the risk of torture.
After four Muslim terrorists killed 52 people and themselves on the London subway and a bus last month, the government announced plans to crack down on terrorism and those who promote it.
Britain is in the process of negotiating agreements with Middle Eastern and North African countries ahead of plans to deport extremists to those countries. Police three weeks ago detained 10 suspects the government wants to expel, including the al Qaeda-linked Jordanian cleric, Abu Qatada.
The first such bilateral agreement, signed with Jordan, states that any citizen of one country deported to the other "will be treated in a humane and proper manner, in accordance with internationally accepted standards."
But Nowak argued that such agreements would not guarantee that torture or ill-treatment would not occur.
"Diplomatic assurances are not an appropriate tool to eradicate this risk," he said, decrying what he called a tendency by European governments to circumvent their duty not to deport a person if there was a serious danger of torture.
Clarke has announced that deportations will begin shortly.
He released a list of "unacceptable behaviors" that would be grounds for deporting, or excluding entry to, any non-British citizen.
The list includes the expression of views which "foment, justify or glorify" terrorism, which provoke others to commit terrorism or which foster hatred that could lead to "inter-community violence" in Britain.
It covers such views disseminated verbally, on the Internet, in written or published form, or by individuals in positions of responsibility, such as teachers or community leaders.
Clarke said the measures were necessary in the face of the "real and significant" terrorist threat facing Britain but added that they were "not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues."
He said a database would be compiled of individuals around the world who would be unwelcome in Britain on the basis of their behavior, and the list would be used by immigration officials.
Human rights campaigners and lawyers have already warned of legal challenges to the planned deportations. Appeals would most likely invoke the Human Rights Act -- legislation passed by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government in 1998 and based on the European Convention on Human Rights.
Blair said earlier that if "legal obstacles arise," he would seek to amend the Human Rights Act.
A senior Conservative Party lawmaker and likely candidate for the party leadership, David Cameron, said in a speech Wednesday that if international conventions get in the way of deporting foreign nationals who pose a threat to Britain, then the country should withdraw from them entirely, "perhaps temporarily."
Liberty, a British rights group, said the government still had to convince human rights campaign that sufficient guarantees of deportees' safety had been obtained.
"We believe it is better for terrorist suspects to be tried than shuffled around the world," said Liberty's legal director, James Welch. "If they have to be deported, then at the very least, there must be corroboration and robust involvement from international human rights monitors."
The Muslim Council of Britain, Britain's largest Islamic umbrella group, said Clarke's list of unacceptable behavior was "too wide and unclear."
MCB Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie called for "full and proper" consultation on the policy, saying the measures should be "practical and capable of being successfully implemented, and not merely sweep under the carpet contrary and uncomfortable opinions."
He also worried that deporting or banning entry to someone for expressing support for "liberation movements ... would be viewed as oppressive."
See Earlier Story:
Most Britons Would: Sacrifice Liberties for Better Security (Aug. 23, 2005)
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