Back in 2009, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush Administration, wrote an article for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public policy. In his article, Chertoff contended that international human rights law was hampering the fight against terrorism and as a classic example he cited the case of a radical Islamist Jordanian preacher named Abu Qatada.
The worthy preacher had earned the nickname of "Al Qaeda's Ambassador to Western Europe". Qatada entered the United Kingdom illegally from Jordan where he was suspected of terrorism. However, given the contemporary law regarding migration (that is also hampering Israel's ability to stem the flow of illegal migrants pouring over the Egyptian border into Israel ) Chertoff claimed that a Catch-22 had been created.
The same open advocacy of terrorism that makes someone a threat to a host country allows that same person to argue that he will not be treated fairly in his home country. Once that argument is raised, Western Civilization's hands are often tied. The individual cannot be deported, nor can he be held for something he has not yet done. The result is that a person who has no legal right to be in a country and poses a clear danger to its citizens cannot be jailed in that country nor removed from it.
Yesterday came the sequel to this saga. The British government believed that it had actually found a way to deport Abu Qatada back to Jordan. It had reached an agreement with the Jordanian government under which the Jordanian authorities pledged not to employ torture or other human rights violations against Qatada. Pending his deportation, Qatada was lodged at a high-security prison.
The British government failed to reckon with the European Court of Human Rights. That court ruled that the British government could not deport Qatada. While Qatada was immune from torture, some of the evidence that would be used against him could have been procured via torture. Therefore, although the court believed that the agreement between Britain and Jordan would be honored and Qatada would not be ill-treated, he still would not receive a fair trial in Jordan and therefore must be allowed to stay in Britain.
This means that Qatada, who has cost the British tax payer more than £1 million in prison costs, legal fees and welfare benefits could be back on the streets in three months and enjoying the hospitality of the British government together with his wife and five children.
The decision may also set a precedent that one cannot deport a person to a country where the standards of justice to not match up to British standards.
The British government's is already upset at some of the ECHR rulings, for example, the decision ignoring British law that would give prisoners the right to vote.
The Cameron government has made no secret of the fact that it would like to limit the court's jurisdiction. Yesterday's verdict may provide it with more ammunition.