Listening to Theresa May’s statement to Parliament today, it seems the British government is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan to face terrorism charges. A new treaty with Jordan aims to address the risk that Abu Qatada, who has already been convicted in his absence there, would be tried again using torture-tainted evidence. The main problem in Jordan, however, is not a lack of legal guarantees but the failure to observe them, a problem the new agreement is unlikely to remedy.
The Prime Minister has said that all options should be on the table, including suspending or even withdrawing entirely from the European Convention on Human Rights. It is extraordinary that in a year when the UK is bidding for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the government is openly contemplating leaving a major human rights treaty just so it can deport an undesirable person.
The Home Secretary deserves credit for defying calls to ignore the courts and put Abu Qatada on the next plane. But if Britain is truly committed to the rule of law, and Abu Qatada is truly a threat, the government should focus its efforts on gathering evidence to prosecute him in the UK, where he can receive a fair trial.
Benjamin Ward is Deputy Director in Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division.