Our deportation plan may be illegal, admits Blair
By Andrew Sparrow in Beijing, 06/09/2005
Tony Blair admitted yesterday that there was a « major question » over the legality of the Government’s plans to deport certain Islamic extremists.
In his first broadcast interview since his return from holiday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government was planning to change the law if judges ruled that the tactics being used to try to deport extremists were illegal.
He also said that the video released last week showing one of the London suicide bombers talking about his plans showed why the Government had to challenge extremism in the Muslim community.
In the past, judges have refused to deport foreign extremists to countries such as Jordan and Algeria, even when they were suspected of involvement in terrorism, because it is illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights to expose someone to the risk of torture.
Mr Blair announced before his summer holiday that the Government was planning to deal with this problem by signing memorandums of understanding with the countries accused of abusing prisoners.
Under the agreements, one of which has already been signed with Jordan, foreign governments will promise not to mistreat anyone deported to their country from Britain. The Government followed up the announcement by launching deportation proceedings against 10 extremists.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Blair admitted yesterday that judges might refuse to accept the assurances given in the memorandums of understanding.
Asked why no deportations had yet taken place, the Prime Minister said: « You can serve the orders for deportation swiftly, but the legal process then takes some time to determine.
« But there’s a major question as to whether, on the basis of understandings with countries to which we want to return these people, we will be able to within the courts. » Speaking in Beijing, at the start of a four-day tour of China and India, Mr Blair said the Government might have to amend the law to stop judges blocking its deportation cases.
Commenting on the video released last week showing Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the bombers involved in the July 7 attacks in London, Mr Blair said: « In the end, we have got to challenge the idea that a section of our country is being victimised by our country. »
The Government had to « challenge them head on – to say it’s absurd of anybody growing up in our country to say they are a victim or have a grievance on these issues ».
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said he had warned the Government that it would have to change the law to enable it to deport some of the extremists staying in Britain.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: « We have called for action to ensure that British courts behave in a similar way to some European courts on all this. »