EU May Set Up Hurdles to British Plan to Deport Islamists
July 7, 2008 - 8:16 PM
(CNSNews.com) - Already under fire from United Nations rights officials, Prime Minister Tony Blair this week faces the possibility that the European Union may complicate plans to deport foreign-born radical Islamists who incite terrorism in Britain.
On Thursday, E.U. justice and security commissioner Franco Frattini is due to unveil a new directive covering how member states should deal with the issue of getting rid of unwanted foreign nationals and failed asylum-seekers.
The document will emphasize the need for countries to abide by international treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and a 1951 U.N. refugee convention.
The ECHR prohibits deporting individuals to a country where they could face "torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," while the refugee treaty says no state may return a refugee to a territory where his life or freedom would be threatened.
The E.U. directive will include provisions for people under expulsion orders to appeal their removal, and set restrictions on the amount of time a government may detain an individual after a court has ordered deportation.
The directive seeks to establish a common policy for the 25 member states, to prevent illegal immigrants from exploiting differences in standards set by individual European countries.
Like other member states, Britain will have the right to opt in or out of the rules. In the past the Labor government has supported moves to establish a common E.U. asylum policy.
Following the July 7 London bombings, however, the government announced a broad clampdown on terrorism and incitement.
It also published a list of "unacceptable behaviors" that would provide grounds for deporting non-British citizens, including spreading views that "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs or seek to provoke others to terrorist acts."
Earlier this month 10 Islamists were arrested pending expulsion. They include a Jordanian -- Abu Qatada, who has close links to Osama bin Laden -- and nine Algerians.
Many of the radical clerics and other Islamists accused of fomenting violence in Britain and other European countries are refugees or asylum-seekers from Muslim regimes in the Middle East or North Africa.
Britain's Home Office said it would only deport radicals after obtaining written assurances from the governments in their countries of origin that they will be properly and humanely treated.
One such agreement has already been concluded with Jordan and others are being negotiated, but human rights campaigners claim they are meaningless and violate international law. They have also predicted legal challenges.
Blair's plans appear to enjoy considerable support, however. The official Conservative Party has backed them, and 73 percent of people polled by the Guardian newspaper a fortnight ago said they were willing to forgo some civil liberties to improve security.
On the other hand, left-wing London mayor Ken Livingstone is backing a campaign together with mainstream Muslim groups, human rights campaigners, lawmakers and others calling for "broad consensus" in the fight against terrorism.
In a statement they voiced concern that some of the anti-terror proposals may "risk criminalizing or excluding people who condemn terrorist attacks and whose cooperation is indispensable to the work of the police in fighting terrorism."
One of the signatories, Muslim Labor lawmaker Sadiq Khan, said there was a danger the government moves "could end up stifling the ability of Britons to stand up for those living under oppression abroad. Who decides if someone is a terrorist or freedom fighter?"
Last week the U.N. Commission on Human Rights' special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, intervened in the debate, saying "diplomatic assurances" were not effective safeguards and urging Britain not to send individuals to countries where they faced the risk of torture.
Nowak decried what he called a "tendency in Europe to circumvent" international obligations in this regard.
The British government in 1998 passed the Human Rights Act, enshrining in domestic law the provisions of the ECHR.
Blair warned earlier that he would seek to amend the Human Rights Act in the event that British judges act to frustrate the government's deportation plans.
France, too, recently announced its intention to tighten up anti-terror laws, and Italy passed laws that will facilitate the expulsion of terror suspects.
Alongside the moves in Europe, Australian government ministers too have warned foreign-born radical Muslims to meet acceptable standards of behavior or go elsewhere.
The developments prompted Islam specialist Daniel Pipes to observe in a column this week that there had been no corresponding move in the U.S..
"No major U.S. politician has spoken of making American-based Islamists unwelcome," he wrote. "Who will be the first?"
Islamists, Get Out (Aug. 30, 2005)
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.