Sunday, June 26 2016

'See you later, Britain hater': tabloid responses to ECHR extradition ruling

The news has been dominated in the past two days by the European Court of Human Rights’ruling on the deportation of five individuals wanted on charges relating to terrorism in the US.

Those to be extradited include Abu Hamza, the Egyptian-born cleric who has been found guilty in the UK on charges relating to inciting racial hatred as well as charges relating to terrorism, and Babar Ahmad who has been held without charge in the UK for almost eight years. The ECHR ruling states that the extradition and possible life sentences of solitary confinement in a ‘supermax’ prison would not violate the human rights of those being extradited.

Notwithstanding the importance of the EHRC ruling, there has been an outburst of commentary and coverage in the tabloid papers particularly regarding the extradition of Abu Hamza. The coverage veers away from the significance of the law and presents the issue as a personal vendetta against one individual.

For example, the Daily Express carries an article titled, ‘Abu Hamza gets the boot so why isn’t he on a flight out of Britain?’

The article states, “A huge groundswell of public support and scores of MPs are calling for the five fanatics to be sent packing after a landmark court ruling yesterday said they could be extradited to the US.”

“But the five have been given three months to appeal against the European Court of Human Rights judgment. If, as expected, they do so, they could stay in Britain for the foreseeable future. 

“Their right to appeal to the European Court’s Grand Chamber means it could be months, if not years, before they leave the UK.”

Note that the Daily Express does not substantiate why all five men pending extradition qualify as ‘fanatics’, and portrays them all as ‘criminals’ or guilty until proven innocent. Neither does it note that Babar Ahmad, one of those appealing extradition, has been detained in the UK for almost 8 years without charge.

The Daily Mail similarly describes the extradites as ‘Muslim fanatics’ and ‘Islamist extremists’, stating, 

“Britain was last night finally on the verge of being rid of hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza after Euro judges ruled he could be extradited to the U.S. on terror charges.

“The European Court of Human Rights said it was satisfied Hamza and a band of fellow Islamist extremists would be well-treated in America.

“David Cameron, who had been braced for a defeat, breathed a huge sigh of relief at yesterday’s decision.”

The Daily Star writes, “Hate preacher Abu Hamza was last night facing life in one of ¬America’s notorious ¬supermax prisons after Euro judges yesterday granted his extradition.

“Britain scored a major victory when he dramatically lost his eight-year bid to avoid justice.

“The 53-year-old one-eyed fanatic is wanted in the US for trial on 11 ¬terrorism charges which could lead to him being sentenced to 100 years ¬behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement.”

The Sun however outdoes all of the papers with a front page headline, ‘See you later, Britain hater’, referring to the extradition of Abu Hamza, and makes no qualms about its personal vendetta to “kick him out”:

“Evil Abu Hamza was last night finally facing the boot from Britain — the country he loves to hate. 

“A European Court ruling means the hook-handed cleric’s extradition to the US on terror charges can go ahead as it will NOT breach his human rights. 

“Barring a last-ditch appeal, it means victory for The Sun’s eight-year campaign to kick him out.”

The Sun has no qualms in portraying Abu Hamza as a folk-devil, having in the past started the ‘Sling Your Hook’ campaign to ‘Get Rid of Hamza’. 

All of the papers mentioned the continued ‘struggle’ to have Abu Qatada deported to Jordan where he is wanted on terror charges. None of the papers however, seem to give credence to the judicial system’s role in checking the executive, particularly in cases that are riddled with politics. As Mary Riddell writing in the Daily Telegraph yesterday stated: 

“Human rights extend to the despicable as well as to the righteous, just as all are equal under the law.”

Riddell makes reference to “the cases where the judiciary has correctly checked the power of the executive” citing the recent case involving Sheikh Raed Salah. She writes: 

“In the latest reversal for Mrs May, a judge strongly criticised her attempt to deport a Palestinian activist, ruling that she was wrong about the danger posed by Sheikh Raed Salah. In a decision labelled “entirely unnecessary”, she had been misled about his supposedly anti-Semitic poetry and planned to ban him on the basis of a fragment from an old sermon. 

“His case illustrates the right of every individual to protection against an overweening state. The balance between Parliament, the executive and the judiciary is vital and endlessly fragile. At times, judges veer towards the political arena; at others, politicians attempt, with the public urging them on, to usurp the role of judges. We are now at such a moment. 

“British justice is imperfect. It is, none the less, the envy of a world in which human rights are routinely squandered. That is why Britain has a duty, at home and in Europe, to offer an example and a warning to tyrants and torturers everywhere. It is why citizens should be less frightened of truculent agitators, as long as the security services are vigilant, than of the secret courts favoured by ministers. It is also why the Government cannot ever summarily over-ride the rulings of the Strasbourg court, to whose jurisdiction we are bound.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 23:21

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