Updated |The UK public only really worries about terrorism after an attack or a credible threat of one. Certainly, at the moment, it would take a serious threat to knock the Shakespearean drama of phone-hacking off the front pages. Nevertheless, the government and others continue their efforts to contain the threat, and it is perhaps a sign of the strategy’s success that we are not unduly worried by it.
Part of that strategy is that under terrorism law the secretary of state must appoint a person to review the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and in particular proscription of organisations, stop and search powers, arrest and detention powers and prosecutions for terrorist offences. To that end, the new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has released his first annual report.
The decisions by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda, handed down last Thursday, have generally been hailed as leap forward for human rights protection. We have already provided a summary of the decisions and pointed to some of the commentary here.
However, it is worth considering the core parts of these rulings a little more carefully. Without wishing to put too much of a dampener on the initial excitement from human rights campaigners about the outcome, the Court’s reasoning is perhaps not quite the radical breakthrough it first appeared to be. In fact, as Judge Bonello pointed out in his concurring opinion (which has drawn a lot of attention for his comments about ‘human rights imperialism’), the principles governing jurisdiction under Article 1 of the ECHR are not that much clearer following these decisions.
Updated | The legal blogs have been busy reporting on this morning’s important decisions of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda – see my post.
There has been coverage already from PHD Studies in Human Rights, the Human Rights in Ireland Blog (update – see also EJIL: Talk: “Let me put this as strongly as I can: this is as close as we’ve ever come to the European Court overruling Bankovic. And good riddance – except, as we will see, the Court’s disavowal of Bankovic is only half-hearted at best.”). The Guardian has also published an article on the case in which Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers claims that the decisions will reopen the case for a wider public inquiry into alleged detainee mistreatment in Iraq; the firm recently failed in a judicial review of a decision not to hold a public inquiry on behalf of 127 Iraqis.
Many thanks to Antoine Buyse of the ECHR Blog for highlighting the lyrical and eminently quotable concurring opinion of Maltese Judge Giovanni Bonello, who since writing the judgment has retired from the court. Bonello said that he would have applied a slightly different “functional jurisdiction” test to decide whether the applicants fell within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that from 1 May 2003 to 28 June 2004 the UK had jurisdiction under Article 1 (obligation to respect human rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of civilians killed during security operations carried out by UK soldiers in Basrah.
The court went on to find in Al-Skeini that there had been a failure to conduct an independent and effective investigation into the deaths of the relatives of five of the six applicants, in violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention. The court awarded 17,000 euros to five of the six applicants, in addition to 50,000 euros in costs jointly.
In Al-Jedda, the court found a violation of Article 5 (1) (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention in relation to the internment of an Iraqi for more than three years (2004- 2007) in a detention centre in Basrah.
The Human Rights Act applies in the UK. That much is clear. Whether it applies outside of UK territory is a whole other question, and one for which we may have a new answer when the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights gives judgment in the case of Al-Skeini and others v. the United Kingdom & Al-Jedda v. the United Kingdom next week.
The court is to give its long-awaited ruling at 10am (Strasbourg time) on Thursday 7 July. In short, the 7 applicants in the case were killed, allegedly killed or detained (Al-Jedda) by British forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. Both of the claims reached the House of Lords in the UK (now the Supreme Court), and in all but one case, which involved a death in a military detention centre, the court found that the Human Rights Act did not apply in Basra at the time, and therefore the UK military had no obligation to observe the requirements under the European Convention on Human Rights, and in particular article 2 (the right to life) and article 5 (right to liberty).
IR (Sri Lanka) & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 704 – Read Judgment
The Court of Appeal has rejected an argument that Article 8 of the European Convention of Rights (ECHR), the right to private and family life, requires that those challenging deportation and exclusion decisions on grounds of national security in proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) have to be given sufficient disclosure of the case against them to enable them to effectively instruct the special advocate representing their interests.
In his book “The Rule of Law”, the late Lord Tom Bingham enumerated a number of sub-rules to give content to that cardinal, oft-cited but rather vague constitutional principle. Unsurprisingly, one such sub-rule was that adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair, an idea which found expression in documents as old Magna Carta. In turn, this entails that, as Lord Mustill stated in In re D (Minors) (Adoption Reports: Confidentiality)  AC 593, “each party to a judicial process should have an opportunity to answer by evidence and argument any adverse material which the tribunal make take into account when forming its opinion”.
London Borough of Hillingdon v. Steven Neary  EWHC 1377 (COP) – read judgment here.
The Court of Protection (“COP”) emphatically ruled last week that a local authority unlawfully detained a young man with autism and learning difficulties for almost an entire year, breaching his right to respect for family life as a result.
I watched Panorama’s exposé of institutional abuse of adults with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View Hospital with mounting horror. What legal mechanisms were available to prevent abuses like this, or bring justice to victims?
There can be little doubt that the acts of the carers towards the patients were inhuman and degrading, a violation of their Article 3 rights. It is highly questionable whether the establishment fulfilled their rights to privacy and dignity under Article 8, the right to private and family life.
Kambadzi v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 23 – Read judgment
The Supreme Court has decided by a majority that a failure to review the detention of an immigration detainee, in accordance with immigration policy, meant that his detention was unlawful.
Immigration law always has the potential to be a political tinderbox, particularly in tough economic times when unemployment rates are high. Indeed, persistent governmental rhetoric about taking net migration “back to the levels of the 1990s” and “protecting the public” might seem to suggest that “tough on immigration” is the new “tough on crime”. The issues can be particularly acute in relation to foreign national prisoners (“FNPs”). This was demonstrated in 2006 when the Home Secretary Charles Clarke was urged to resign when it was discovered that about 1,000 FNPs had been released without being considered for deportation.
BM v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 366 (05 April 2011) – Read judgment
Another control order has been ruled unlawful and quashed by the court of appeal, on the basis that the evidence relied upon to impose it was “too vague and speculative”.
Control orders are a controversial anti-terorrism instrument (see this post) which are soon to be replaced with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures. These will impose less onerous restrictions upon a terrorist suspect. No doubt they will be approached by the courts at some stage. In the meantime, there are still 9 control orders in operation under the current regime. One has just been quashed by the court of appeal.
We have already reported on this appeal by three foreign nationals who have served sentences of imprisonment in this country (“FNPs”). They were detained pursuant to Schedule 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 and their challenge to the legality of this detention was successful. But the appeal was secured by a majority of 3 with strong dissenting opinions which merit close consideration here.
The Supreme Court has ruled that it was unlawful and a “serious abuse of power” for the Home Office to follow an unpublished policy on the detention of foreign national prisoners which contradicted its published policy. Two convicted prisoners were therefore unlawfully detained.
This fascinating 6-3 majority decision could be important in respect of setting the boundaries for the courts’ scrutiny of executive powers. It is also, for the record, not a decision which is based on human rights. The appellants are both convicted criminals (and foreigners too), so the court may be criticised for upholding their human rights despite their criminal actions. But this is a case decided on traditional public law grounds, which preceded the human rights act by many years. As Lord Hope put it:
R (BB) v. Special Immigration Appeals Commission and Home Secretary – Read judgment.
The Divisional Court has ruled that bail proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (“SIAC”) are subject to the same procedural standard under Article 5(4) of the European Convention (the right to liberty) whether they take place before or after the substantive judgment. That standard is that the applicant must be given sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions in relation to those allegations, as set out in A v United Kingdom and R (Cart) v. SIAC.
This decision forms the latest in a string of cases considering the extent to which the Government can rely on secret or ‘closed’ evidence in defending appeals by individuals challenging decisions made against them. A judgment by the Supreme Court is imminently expected in the conjoined cases of Al-Rawi v. Security Service and Tariq v. Home Office (see helpful summary here and our analysis of the broader issue of open justice here), which consider this issue in relation to civil damages claims and employment law claims. However, BB is the High Court’s most recent pronouncement on the position in the fraught area of immigration and national security.
P and Q by the Official Solicitor, their Litigation Friend v Surrey County Council and Others (Equality and Human Rights Commission, Intervener)  EWCA Civ 190- read judgment
What does it mean to be “deprived of liberty”? This is not an easy question, and there are a wide variety of relevant factors. For instance, the amount of space a person is free to roam in, the degree of supervision and the amount of time away from their main residence are matters which are likely to vary greatly from case to case. There are many borderline cases.
In an important recent case, the Court of Appeal has found that there was no deprivation of liberty, within the meaning of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, when two people with moderate to severe learning difficulties are cared for in a foster home and a specialist home for adolescents respectively.
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