What now for the detainees?

What now for the detainees?

Guardian Unlimited Politics, Friday 12th Aug 2005

« Tony Blair now says the « rules of the game are changing »… … »
By Alan Travis

Who is being deported?

The 10 foreign nationals held in maximum security prisons pending their removal have been certified by the home secretary, Charles Clarke, as a « threat to national security ». He refuses to name them but they are believed to be nine Algerians and a Jordanian. They include some of the 11 suspected international terrorists detained indefinitely in Belmarsh before that was ruled unlawful. Abu Qatada is thought to be among them.

Why have they not been thrown out before now?

It has been illegal under the European human rights law to send such people back to countries where there is a risk of the death penalty, torture or other ill-treatment. Tony Blair now says the « rules of the game are changing ». He has secured « no-torture » assurances from Jordan and other countries and will now invite the courts to put national security first.

How long will it take?

It could be as long as a year. Those involved can seek judicial review of the decision to detain them as well as having five days to lodge an appeal against their deportation to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which deals with national security cases. Siac can take evidence from the security services in secret. But those involved also have a right of appeal on a point of law first to the court of appeal, then the law lords, and ultimately the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

Can the process be speeded up?

Not in these cases. But Tony Blair has warned that if the judges raise « legal obstacles » to the men being thrown out he will amend the Human Rights Act so that judges in London accept the guarantees from countries such as Jordan as legally binding. He also says he is prepared to pass legislation saying that, in future deportations, if those involved appeal it will not halt the deportation process. They will be able to appeal all the way to Strasbourg if necessary but will have to do it from outside Britain.

What happens to the 10 facing deportation in the meantime?

They will be held in maximum security prisons at Full Sutton, near York, and Long Lartin, in Worcestershire. For some who have been under anti-terrorist « control orders » after being held in Belmarsh for several years it will mean a return to top security conditions.