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May shows contempt for Human rights, justice and Muslims

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)
Tuesday 16 October 2012

SACC welcomes the Home Secretary’s decision to block Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the US. But we are appalled that she chose to use her statement to Parliament on this matter to argue that the recent shocking extradition of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and three other men demonstrates that Britain’s extradition arrangements with the US are “broadly sound.”

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

“Stopping Gary McKinnon’s extradition was the right thing to do. Theresa May’s decision is a reminder that, in these matters, the buck stops with her. Had she wished to, she could as easily have stopped the extradition of Talha Ahsan, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome as Gary McKinnon does. She could also have stopped the extradition of the four other Muslim men sent to US wth Talha Ahsan, all of whom are likely to suffer inhumane treatment.

“Apart from her spasm of apparent humanity towards Gary McKinnon, everything else about the Home Secretary’s statement reveals a calculated contempt for human rights, justice and Britain’s Muslim community. It will be remembered for a long time.

“SACC will continue to fight for justice for the five Muslim men extradited to the US, for a full and open inquiry into the circumstances leading to their extradition and for genuine reform of Britain’s extradition arrangements. The changes that Theresa May sketched out today are cosmetic and flawed and unlikely to give any real protection to anyone else placed in the same predicament as these men.”

Had he been extradited, Gary Mckinnon would have had extreme difficulty working effectively with his defence lawyers while incarcerated in harsh and coercive conditions far from the support of his family. His mental health would inevitably have deteriorated in pre-trial detention and, if convicted, while serving his sentence. Long-term solitary confinement is widespread in US prisons and is in all cases cruel and inhuman and a violation of Article 5 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But Mckinnon’s difficulties as an Asperger’s sufferer would have made the cruelty and inhumanity especially sharp.

So it’s obscene that the reason Theresa May gave for blocking McKinnon’s extradition is the “high risk of him ending his life.” That’s tantamount to saying that ill-treatment only amounts to torture if the victim is likely to commit suicide. Gary Mckinnon is entitled to humane treatment whether of not he is likely to commit suicide.

And so is Talha Ahsan, who is now confronting all the inhumanity that Gary Mckinnon has escaped.

After Talha Ahsan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2009, Dr Quinton Deeley said:

"It should be noted that by virtue of his Asperger’s syndrome and depressive disorder, (Talha) is an extremely vulnerable individual who, from a psychiatric perspective, would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders and co-morbid mental health problems, with a level of security dictated by his risk assessment."

Theresa May attempted to sugar the pill of racism and injustice by telling MPs that she intends to make some adjustments to Britain’s extradition arrangements. But the changes she sketched out today are illusory and are based on the widely-criticised Scott Baker report.

She says that, “as soon as parliamentary time allows” she will introduce a “forum bar” – a mechanism to allow UK courts, in cases where prosecution is possible in both the UK and in another state, to bar prosecution overseas, if they believe it is in the interests of justice to do so. But the details of the forum bar are still to be worked out, and Theresa May has made it clear in her statement that she believes that the decision to extradite Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan showed the soundness of Britain’s extradition arrangements. So it isn’t likely that she intends the “forum bar” to be set in a way that might impede the extradition of future Ahmads and Ahsans.

Worryingly, she also says that she intends to restrict the access to the courts by people caught up in future extradition battles by introducing a “permission stage” for appeals.

Perhaps most crucially of all, she says that she will not re-introduce the requirement for British courts to be provided with prima facie evidence in support of an extradition request.

The reforms that Theresa May is proposing are likely to make extradition to injustice and solitary confinement in the US easier, not harder.

Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan have now been in jail in the US for ten days but their families haven’t yet had a phone call from them. The British Government needs to act urgently to end the men’s incommunicado detention if it intends to be taken seriously on human rights issues.