Detainee OO: - The Cruellest Case in a Catalogue of Cruelty
Statement from Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, 1 June 2006
(There is at present a Contempt of Court Order by SIAC prohibiting the publication of the name. Instead he has been given the initials "OO" by SIAC).
The decision by the then Home Secretary last August to lock people up and deport them to countries which actively practiced torture was a shocking one. All of the men arrested on August 11th last year had already been accepted by the Home Office as being so at risk in their respective countries of origin that they could not be deported; i.e. they were acknowledged as being in grave danger.
The Home Office's sudden decision was that they could be deported, and that all the UK had to do to avoid being in breach of its binding obligations under the Refugee Convention was to get the country of origin to sign an agreement that they would not torture those particular individuals. Thus the United Kingdom broke ranks with the International Human Rights Community who view such memoranda as giving the green light to those countries that continue to practice torture as the norm in their society. Furthermore, such memoranda are universally acknowledged as "not to be worth the paper that they are written on".
However the most shocking and the most baffling decision to deport an acknowledged refugee came on 26th January 2006, when a wheelchair-bound stroke victim, a respected and law abiding imam, (who had never been questioned by the police in this country where he had lived since 1991 entirely lawfully with his family (all British citizens), was suddenly arrested. This arrest came as the cruellest shock of all to the informed community however accustomed that community had become to injustice and cruelty. In the most simple of humanitarian terms, even the police who arrived at Detainee OO's house to arrest him on the orders of the Home Secretary were shocked; they had not been warned to expect a man unable to walk, confined to a wheelchair, paralysed down one side, suffering from diabetes and possible kidney failure. His general practitioner and the doctor who had treated his strokes immediately signalled their extreme concern; an application for bail was initiated the day after his arrest; but SIAC in return gave the Home Office the latitude of extended time to respond to the urgent medical reports filed within 24 hours on behalf of Detainee OO.
Meanwhile the Home Office served its "evidence" as to why Detainee OO was a risk to national security and why he should not be granted bail. Their objections revealed nothing concrete with which Detainee OO could even grapple. It was simply stated "he is assessed to be a member of an Islamist extremist group which has been linked to extremist activity in the UK and overseas" and it was suggested that there was a significant risk that he, an immobilised invalid could abscond even if allowed home under conditions which amounted to complete house arrest. The Home Office used SIAC's secret hearing procedure to make good its case. No one knows what is said there. SIAC refused Detainee OO bail despite compelling medical evidence.
He had to be taken almost immediately from prison to hospital with bleeding to the brain. A second bail application was immediately initiated.
It was again refused. Even Detainee OO's own attempts to monitor his food within Belmarsh prison (in order to intake the few foods he knew that his system could absorb, he being a trained medic himself) met with the suggestion that his condition was his fault because he was "not cooperating" with Belmarsh. He was refused bail a second time.
On Thursday night he was rushed again from Belmarsh to hospital, suffering again from bleeding from his brain.
This time, his condition was even graver; he was transferred overnight to a specialist neurosurgical unit where drainage could take place; he for a while showed no reflexes at all; he remains unconscious. His family have struggled to see him. Every conceivable difficulty has stood between them and their vigil with a man unlikely now to survive more than days.
There is no prospect whatsoever that this man could be deported. To subject him and his family to any continuing pretence that this is possible is merely a device that impacts totally upon their rights (and his) to privacy, to respect for their religion and their family life and their right to freedom from the infliction of cruel and inhuman suffering, mental and physical.
This is the cruellest case in a catalogue of cruelty. We should be ashamed.
Birnberg Peirce, 1st June 2006