Liberty Statement on Government Proposals to Deport Suspects to Countries That Torture



Press Release for Immediate Use

Liberty Statement on Government Proposals to Deport Suspects to Countries That Torture

The Government today announced its new guidelines for deporting and excluding people from the UK. The new rules arose out of a consultation launched by the Prime Minister on the 5th August. Despite warnings from international human rights monitors the Government has still to convince human rights campaigners that sufficient guarantees of safety have been gained.

Commenting on the situation James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, said:

« Today’s announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the Government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture? What has always separated us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured- that is the standard we need to maintain.

“Our view is clear we- believe it is better for terrorist suspects be tried than shuffled around world, if they have to be deported then at the very least there must be corroboration and robust involvement from international human rights monitors.”.

For more information call the Liberty Press Office on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128

Under international conventions the UK government cannot send people back to a country where they might face torture, mistreatment or the death penalty. Downing Street has previously announced it reached a « memorandum of understanding » which removes this bar to deportations.

Liberty took part in the recent Home Office consultation concerning the grounds on which people could be deported. The text of the contribution is below.

16 August 2005

Exclusion or Deportation from the UK on non-conducive grounds: consultation document

I write following the publication of a consultation document relating to the exclusion or deportation of individuals from the UK on the grounds that they are non-conducive to the public good.

Liberty accepts and understands that successive Parliaments have granted the Home Secretary a very broad discretion in relation to this subject – the discretion to exclude or deport any person he considers to be non-conducive to the public good. This wide statutory discretion is, and always has been, subject to normal public law principles such as rationality, and the government’s obligations under domestic and international human rights law. Liberty has already publicly voiced its concerns about the possibility of some deportation violating the rights guaranteed by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights or the Refugee Convention, and will not therefore repeat those concerns here. We note also that as Home Secretary, you are already obliged to take various factors into account when making a decision to deport an individual, including the length of time they have been in the UK, any family or other ties to the UK and any other compassionate grounds.

Liberty shares your fears, and those of the wider public, about the threat to the UK from terrorism. We agree that there is a need to take steps to protect ourselves from this very real threat. Liberty therefore takes no issue with the use of this discretion to exclude or deport people who pose a threat to the UK, subject always to the normal principles of public law fairness and human rights. Whilst it is always better for world and national security that truly dangerous suspects are prosecuted, where persecution is not in issue, exclusion or deportation is a more proportionate response than the creation of over-broad criminal offences or, worse still, internment.

If you propose to use this discretion to deport or exclude more often in the future, then we welcome the publication of guidance on the type of behaviour that would lead to a decision that someone is not conducive to the public good. Such guidance is the only way to ensure predictability and consistency of approach. However, guidance can only be helpful if there is a sufficient degree of clarity as to the various examples of unacceptable behaviour.

From the list of examples of unacceptable behaviour published in the consultation document, Liberty has concerns over the inclusion of ‘justify(ing) or glorify(ing) terrorism’ as a grounds for exclusion or deportation. The other examples, inciting or advocating violence or hatred, are clearly acts that threaten our society and our way of life. But there must be further discussion over excluding or deporting those who justify or glorify terrorism. What exactly is meant by “terrorism”? The broad definition of terrorism contained in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 will be even broader in the context of immigration decisions. What kind of behaviour constitutes “justification”? Could this cover political debate about the circumstances in which it is acceptable to take up arms against non-democratic regimes across the world?

Without some further explanation this example is vague, counter-productive to your obvious aim of greater clarity, and could be seen as contrary to the ‘UK’s culture of tolerance’, which we all want to protect. It is also sensitive in the context of the community relations that are vital to ongoing intelligence efforts. For example, before the war in Iraq would it have been seen as justifying terrorism for an Iraqi asylum seeker to voice his opinion that Saddam Hussain was an evil dictator who should be overthrown by violence if necessary?

Whilst we welcome the positive exercise of setting out guidance and examples of when and how this broad discretion will be used, we have some concerns about the lack of clarity and explanation offered in relation to an example that might catch a wide range of people, from those who pose a threat to the UK, to those who are simply voicing dissension about oppressive regimes across the world. Freedom of speech is a vital part of the culture of tolerance that is so celebrated in this country. We urge some clearer indication that political debate should not be restrained for fear of being caught by this broad and rather vague example of unacceptable behaviour.

We welcome the opportunity to comment on these proposals and look forward to our comments being taken on board in any future or final policy document.