Watchdog backs expulsion of radicals
The Guardian, Monday 15th Aug 2005
« The founders of the United States of America, of the state of Israel, opponents of Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia, Nelson Mandela, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and many others have been viewed as terrorists by some at one time or another … »
Duncan Campbell and Hugh Muir
The man responsible for reviewing Britain’s anti-terrorism policies yesterday backed government plans to deport radical Islamists but warned against new proposals to restrict judges’ powers.
The organisation Liberty also said the government’s deportation plans were tantamount to condoning torture. A spokesman said that nine of the 10 men facing deportation were due to be sent to Algeria, which had « an appalling record » of torturing suspects.
Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer who acts as the independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, yesterday told BBC News 24: « The government is right to try and reach bilateral agreements with other countries to ensure that people who are present and whose presence is not conducive to the public good can be removed. »
He also dismissed as a « counsel of despair » the idea that no one should be deported because their safety could not be guaranteed.
« France sends people whose presence in France is not conducive to the public good back to Algeria on a regular basis, » he said. « I know of no evidence of those people having been tortured in Algeria that appears to hold good. »
However, Lord Carlile also suggested that government plans outlined last week to make judges consider issues of national security in their decisions were misguided.
« Trying to persuade judges through legal provisions to consider national security is exactly like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, » he said. « The judges do have in mind considerations of national security. They do their best to balance the decisions of ministers with human rights. »
Lord Carlile defended the role of judges, who have come under pressure from the government and the Conservative leader, Michael Howard, over their handling of terror cases.
« You will see that the judges are fearless when they think it is right to ensure that human rights are enforced, » he said, referring to the law lords’ ruling last December that detention of suspects without trial in Belmarsh was illegal.
« Long live the independence of judges, » he added.
Omar Bakri, the north London radical Islamic cleric due to be barred from returning to Britain was still in Beirut last night.
His lawyer, Iqbal Ahmed, yesterday said his status was unclear. « I don’t know if he is even aware of the decision, » he said. The debate over the planned deportations is likely to intensify today after the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, warned that dispatching the « preachers of hate » would only make catching terrorists more difficult.
In a strongly worded submission to the government’s consultation, Mr Livingstone said the proposal to ban figures whose presence in the country was deemed « non conducive to the public good » could also affect those who bitterly oppose extremism.
The mayor’s critique says that using the present wording, ministers would make it illegal for people to support liberation struggles, such as that of the Kurds who opposed Saddam Hussein. While agreeing the government should move to deal with those who advocate terrorist attacks, the mayor urges the government to make clear which acts constitute terrorism and who it regards as terrorists.
« The founders of the United States of America, of the state of Israel, opponents of Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia, Nelson Mandela, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and many others have been viewed as terrorists by some at one time or another, » he said.
« Whatever one’s view on those conflicts, no purpose would have been served by banning or excluding supporters of either side.
« This would be totally counter-productive as it would reduce the trust, and therefore the information from communities whose help is indispensable to the police. »
Mr Livingstone said that any move to « close down or reduce democratic channels of expression » would only be helpful to « those trying to draw young Muslims concerned about these conflicts into support for terrorism ».
A spokesman for Liberty said yesterday that assurances from Algeria and Jordan, the two countries of origin of the 10 potential deportees, were « not worth the paper they are written on ».
« As a country, do we want to be condoning torture? » the spokesman said.