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Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism/Immigraiton Policy in the UK

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

The hits just keep coming today for me — a flood of useful things to post.  This one is about a speech that the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, gave yesterday in which she proposed that the UK consider withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Some of the strictures of the ECHR have been a thorn in the side of Britain (and, I might add, other nations of Europe) in their efforts to fight terrorism and control their own immigration policy.  One of the noteworthy cases in the UK involved Muslim cleric Abu Qatada.  The UK (both the current Conservative and earlier Labor goverments) had wanted to deport the cleric to Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges that are pending there.  But the European Court on Human Rights (also unhelpfully abbreviated ECHR) ruled in January 2012 that he could not be deported because a trial in Jordan might be tainted by evidence obtained under torture in violation of the ECHR.

Many will, of course, see this as a good result.  The ECHR reflects certain fundamental values that have been interpreted to prevent any signatory from returning an individual to a country where he may be tortured.  But these non-refoulment obligations have chafed and arguably resulted in countries having the inability to remove dangerous individuals from their territory.  Now May is suggesting that the UK simply withdraw from the convention.  It bears noting, perhaps, that some see May as a successor to Cameron in the Tory party.

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