Britain should turn its back on the European Court of Human Rights because its
rulings on the extradition of terrorist suspects risk undermining the
special relationship, a former US ambassador said.
By Jon Swaine, Christopher Hope and Duncan Gardham
10:00PM BST 09 Apr 2012
The court will rule on whether six men, including Abu Hamza, should be
extradited on terrorism charges to the US.
John Bolton, the American ambassador to the UN under George Bush, said:
“Britain should renounce the jurisdiction of this court. It’s a question of
what do British people want to do? Do you want to be an independent nation,
or do you want to be a county in Europe?
“This is just another example of Britain’s mistake in allowing European
institutions to develop to the extent they have. It is yet another
infringement on British sovereignty that undercuts its ability to cooperate
with the United States.
“It also calls into question the ability of Europe as a whole to be an
effective partner in the war against terrorism.”
Estimates obtained by The Daily Telegraph suggest that it has cost the
taxpayer £2.6 million to keep the six men in high-security jails. A further
£1.5 million is estimated to have been spent on legal costs, including legal
aid for the men, and thousands more on benefit claims for their families.
The men have been fighting extradition on human rights grounds for up to 14
Hamza is wanted in the US on 11 charges related to taking 16 hostages in Yemen
in 1998, promoting violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2001 and nationals wanted
in the US – Haroon Rashid Aswat, Babar Ahmad and Seyla Talha Ahsan – are
also fighting extradition, alongside Egyptian-born Adel Abdel Bary and
Khaled al-Fawwaz, from Saudi Arabia.
Al-Fawwaz, allegedly a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and Bary are both
wanted in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa which
killed 223 people.
All six have been indicted on charges of alleged terrorism in the US and argue
that the conditions of their detention in a “supermax” prison would amount
to inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3 of the Human Rights code.
The regime, originally designed to remove troublesome prisoners from the main
prison population, involves life in solitary confinement in a cell measuring
11ft 5ins by 6ft 6ins for 23 hours a day. Prisoners are fed through the door
and allowed out for only one hour a day to exercise alone in a concrete pen.
Hamza, who would not be incarcerated in one of the prisons because of his
disability, says that a sentence of life without parole would amount to a
breach of his human rights.
Last night Conservative MPs urged the Government had to replace European human
rights laws with a British Bill of Rights.
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: “This is a crazy waste of money, and shows
once again why we need a British Bill of Rights. People will find it
Nick de Bois MP, a member of the Commons justice committee, added: “We have a
very distorted system that allows taxpayers to pay an obscene amount of
money as a result of the discredited European justice system exploited by
these suspect terrorists.”
Mark Pritchard MP, said Hamza’s original student visa must be “the most costly
ever granted”, adding: “If he had been asked to return to Egypt after his
studies in Brighton in the 1980s, the British taxpayer would not now be
footing this huge bill.”
Keith Vaz MP, the Labour chairman of the Commons’ Home affairs select
committee, said it was a “cause for concern” that it was taking so long to
extradite people Britons to face charges, compared with France.
He said: “The contrast between what President Sarkozy has been doing – using
his powers to deport people – where we take a long time is a cause for
“We need to look at primary legislation. We need to examine what is happening
in other countries. We are the only country that can remove people slowly.”
Charles Stimson, Deputy Assistant Defence Secretary for Detainee Affairs under
George W. Bush, added: “We have a special relationship and it needs to
continue. But I’m hopeful that the momentum is toward bringing them here.
“This is a special case and Abu Hamza is clearly dangerous and we have
legitimate law-enforcement interests in bringing him here to face federal
Richard Perle, another former Bush administration official, said: “I sincerely
hope the court does not make this judgment, as I am sure it would then be
invoked in every other case. But if it forced to choose, then the UK should
certainly ignore it. I don’t know of any mechanism by which the court could
He added: “The relationship between the US and UK is large enough to survive
this, but it would do real damage.”
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