You are here

Law Lords ruling on Babar Ahmad - SACC statement

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Wednesday 13 June 2007

SACC is stunned by the Law Lords decision on Monday not to hear Babar Ahmad's appeal against extradition to the US. In December last year the High Court in London, despite rejecting Babar Ahmad's appeal, gave certification for his case to be taken to the House of Lords. But the Law Lords ruled on Monday that the two points of Law presented to them were not matters of "public importance" and hence rejected the appeal.

Since when have legal points surrounding allegations of a global terrorist conspiracy not been matters of public importance? Since when have arguments about human rights abuses by Britain's closest ally, the US, not been matters of public importance?

The Law Lords have in recent years earned a reputation for standing up to the government, most notably in ruling against detention without charge and in ruling against the use in British courts of evidence obtained under torture.

This time it looks as if something or someone has frightened them very badly. There seems no other way to explain their extraordinary decision. They haven't rejected Babar Ahmad's appeal on its merits. They have simply announced that they don't want to think about it. Perhaps they anticipate that, were they to consider the case, they would be driven to conclude that Babar Ahmad is right. Perhaps they believe that the government wouldn't respect their decision. Perhaps they fear they would come under irresistible pressure to reach a ruling acceptable to the government. Perhaps they would rather abdicate their responsibilities than be forced to distort the law in that way. These are astonishing possibilities. But there seems no other way to explain Monday's decision.

The decision means that Babar Ahmad's transfer to the US is no longer an extradition. It is an extraordinary rendition - a transfer outside the rule of law.

But the decision is even more serious than that. It means that Britain's justice system has been decapitated. We no longer have an effective court of last resort. That means that we no longer have a justice system at all.

There is a way out of the crisis. It is still in John Reid's power to block the extradition. The Home Office has fought tenaciously to have Babar Ahmad extradited. But John Reid has to realise that he has won a victory that is too big for him. He is staring into the abyss. The door to fascism stands open. If he blocks Babar Ahmad's extradition the door will quietly close again, and the Law Lords decision will go into the history books as nothing more than a quirky footnote. Otherwise, the future for our country looks very dark indeed.

If there really is a case against Babar Ahmad, it can be heard in this country. That's all that Babar Ahmad and his family have ever asked for. Even District Judge Timothy Workman, who in May 2005 ruled in favour of Babar Ahmad's extradition, said at the same time that he was surprised the case wasn't being brought in this country. He described the case as "difficult and troubling".

Under the Extradition Act 2003, British citizens can be extradited to the US without any need for the evidence against them to be presented to a British court. The merits of the case against Babar Ahmad have never been considered in Britain. His appeal against extradition has been solely on human rights grounds.

This is one of the most important legal issues ever to face our country. So far, it appears to have been covered only by the Wimbledon Guardian, by This is Hertfordshire and by the Socialist Worker. It looks as if the media have gone missing in action at the same moment as the Law Lords have walked out on us.

More information