Deputy Political Editor
16th November 2012
Dear Mr Wilson,
The Sun backs torture
The Qatada ruling on Monday was a victory for British justice: instead of caving in to political pressure the
judges upheld the rule of law.
Leading the attack on the law was your article in The Sun on Tuesday 13 November.
By means of a messy series of events including repeated failed appeals by Qatada and a mix-up by the Home
Secretary, the case reached the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). The court handed down
judgement on 12th November 2012, allowing the appeal.
The British court was set up by a British government to deal with appeals in cases where the Home Secretary
has used discretionary powers. In this case, Othman v Secretary of State for the Home Department, its task was
to decide whether Qatada would face an unfair trial if returned to Jordan. This fell under his Article 6 rights
under the European Convention on Human Rights (effected into British law by the Human Rights Act, 1998),
his appeals under Article 3 & 5 having been dismissed by the European Court in Strasbourg.
Specifically, it asked whether there is a ‘real risk’ that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him at
retrial (see para. 18.iii). In spite of Theresa May’s efforts, the Court was not satisfied that evidence obtained by
torture would not be used (see para. 78). Mr Justice Mitting made this decision on the basis of evidence given on
Jordan’s Code of Criminal Procedure and ordinary legal practice in Jordan.
Not because he was ‘soft’. The Sun’s front page on Tuesday was deeply disturbing; it threatens human rights
and the rule of law in Britain.
Human rights apply to all human beings where they are respected. You do not get to choose. Whatever Qatada
has said and whatever he might have place of his right hand, he is still a human. Had he been driven to the
airport and stuck on a plane there was a real risk that, contrary to his human rights, he would have faced a
flagrantly unfair trial. Had that happened, the UK government would have been condoning the use of torture.
The decision on Monday was a testament to the strength of respect for human rights in Britain.
The tirades against individual judges put the independence of the judiciary at serious risk. First, as certain
members are singled out either as left or right-wing, their neutrality is compromised. Second, their very purpose
is to be able make unpopular decisions. SIAC was set up specifically to restrain the power of the Home
Secretary. In Britain our judiciary is independent, ‘we abhor the use of torture’ and we respect the rule of law to
its fullest extent. This is what sets our legal system apart as the finest in the world.
If you want to question the scope of human rights law, you are entitled to do so. If you want to question the
legitimacy of European Law in Britain, go ahead. If you want to question the social background of the judiciary
in Britain, I support you. But the blind fury at hook-handed foreigners being sheltered by money-grabbing elites
that you published on Tuesday menaced the foundations of British principles by attacking the rule of law and
Human Rights. In denouncing the decision, The Sun was backing torture.
Maurice Banerjee Palmer