Issan Ghazni welcomes the Home Secretary’s long-overdue announcement that Gary McKinnon will not face extradition to the US.
I have long campaigned for, and argued that, as Gary’s alleged crime was committed on British soil – a British judge should decide if he should face justice here in the UK. I have always been unequivocal that Gary McKinnon should not be extradited.
It was clear from the outset that he was too vulnerable to be uprooted from his family, friends and social environment to be sent to the US – if there was a case to answer it should be here in the UK.
After an unnecessary and tortuous experience lasting for 10 years –The Home Secretary has now finally stopped his extradition on the basis that it would be incompatible with his human rights – and let me tell you…I am absolutely delighted!
Most significantly, the Government has finally indicated a shift in its thinking and has committed itself to amending the US-UK extradition process.
What does this mean? Well, the long campaigned for and so-called “forum bar” is now to be introduced. This means that British courts can now decide to block a request for extradition if it is in the interests of justice to try the case here. By taking the matter out of the hands of the Home Secretary, overall transparency of our extradition arrangements will certainly increase and strengthen safeguards for defendants.
This is a major change in extradition law – campaigners and critics, including many leading human rights bodies, charities and MPs, are saying that this reform should have come sooner.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, has today said: “This is a great day for rights, freedoms and justice in the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary has spared this vulnerable man the cruelty of being sent to the US and accepted Liberty’s long-standing argument for change to our rotten Extradition laws.”
There are however still inconsistencies in the way Teresa May has dealt with other cases. There are today accusations by supporters of Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan who were both extradited to the US recently in a fanfare of publicity…they accuse the Government of “blatant old-fashioned racism”, pointing out the similarities in the cases as they were also using computers in the UK and the latter also has Asperger’s Syndrome. My view is though, warts and all…better late than never.
No room for complacency though…whilst I welcome the long-awaited reforms as refreshing and a starting point to putting justice and fairness back into our extradition laws, I would urge some caution. The devil will still be in the detail and the term ‘interests of justice’ is a bit woolly. Some experts on the blogosphere today have been arguing that judges are still likely to extradite unless the presumption is clearly set down that the onus is on the requesting state to prove trial should be abroad.
In addition, let’s not forget that Richard O’Dwyer still faces extradition to the US and the Home Secretary has confirmed that prima facie (basic case) won’t be extended. What a cop out! No citizen should never be extradited to stand trial in a foreign country without evidence being presented first in a British court to prove there is a basic case against them.
For the moment though, let’s savour the sweet taste of fairness and justice. I have been campaigning for changes in the UK-US Extradition Treaty for a while now, gathering a petition, speaking at conference fringe meetings, writing letters, lobbying our MPs and Peers, handing out leaflets and writing articles to create the political climate necessary for change. All the efforts of people up and down the country backing campaigns such as those led by Liberty’s ‘Extradition Watch’ should today be congratulated and encouraged to continue until we see a total rebalance of the Extradition Treaty.
That’s why I’ll be continuing with my petition.
For more information about my petition, please download my pamphlet.
You can sign the petition here.