Article 6 of the Convention did not require an “irreducible minimum of information” that had to be provided to appellants in proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission about the risk they posed to national security.
In their appeal against decisions of the respondent secretary of state to deport them on grounds of national security (upheld by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC)) the appellants all claimed that they would be at risk of ill-treatment if they were deported. They had obtained relevant information which had been provided on the understanding that it could only be made available if there were clear guarantees that it would not become known to their national government.
R (on the application of ZO (Somalia) and others) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)  UKSC 36 – Read judgment
The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK must provide minimum standards to asylum seekers, including the right to work, whether or not their first asylum application has failed. Asylum seekers will now be able to work if they have been waiting for over a year for a decision.
The ruling is the latest in a line of court defeats for the Government on its asylum policy, including the recent High Court ruling that part of the fast-track deportation system is unlawful, as well as the Supreme Court’s rejection of the policy of sending gay asylum seekers back to countries where they may face persecution for their sexuality.
Medical Justice, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1925 (Admin) (26 July 2010) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that a fast-track scheme for the removal of failed asylum seekers with little or no notice is unlawful as it does not provide sufficient access to justice.
Permission to appeal has been granted but the decision could put a stop to the policy being implemented for the time being.
The challenge was brought by Medical Justice, a charity which advises asylum seekers, represented by the Public Law Project, a legal charity which aims to improve access to public law remedies (see their press release here). The policy being challenged came into effect in January 2010, and gives individuals who fall into certain specified categories and who have made unsuccessful claims to enter or to remain in the United Kingdom, little or sometimes no notice of their removal directions.
The Ministry of Justice is proposing to change the rules on who can apply for international arrest warrants for suspected war crimes. The changes will make it necessary to get the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be granted.
The present system means that the threshold for an arrest for war crimes is low, and as such visiting ex-ministers can be arrested if only limited (or “flimsy” as the MoJ puts it) proof of the alleged crime is presented to a magistrate. The highest profile cases have been those involving ex-ministers from Israel, and in particular Tsipi Livni. As a result of the threat of arrest warrants, Israeli ex-ministers have largely stayed away from the UK.
As the MoJ statement says, war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, and a small number of other grave offences, are subject to universal jurisdiction. This enables prosecution to take place here even though the offence was committed outside the United Kingdom, and irrespective of nationality.
R (on the application of S) (Claimant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Defendant) & (1) Amnesty International & AIRE Centre (2) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Interveners) (2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (“the Charter”) could be directly relied on in the UK in a decision on the removal of an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece.
This Charter combines the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms 1950 (“ECHR”) with the fundamental social rights set forth in the European Social Charter and in the Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Employees. The decision could see the introduction of “social and economic” rights into the UK for the first time, but it could also place an unmanageable burden on member states to comply with the wide-ranging charter.
A reference to the European Court of Justice will now be made in respect of the application of the Charter in the context of return of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation. The Regulation is the cornerstone of EU refugee law, establishing a system of determining responsibility for examining asylum claims and ensuring that each claim is examined by one Member State rather than allowing multiple applications for asylum submitted by the same person in several Member States with the sole aim of extending their stay in the EU.
Al Jedda V Secretary Of State For Defence EWCA Civ 758 – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has found that there was no breach of the “essence” of a right guaranteed under the Iraqi Constitution to have a prisoner’s detention reviewed by a judicial authority when the reviewing authorities were not judges, but had the necessary judicial qualities.
Mr Al Jedda was detained in Iraq in 2004 by British forces on security grounds. He was suspected of being a member of a terrorist group said to be involved in weapons smuggling and explosive attacks in Iraq. He remained in detention until 30 December 2007 in Iraq but was at no time charged with any offence.
The case has had an interesting route through the courts which is worth summarising briefly. Continue reading →
Babar Ahmad, Haroon Rashid Aswat, Syed Tahla Ahsan and Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza) v United Kingdom – 24027/07  ECHR 1067 (6 July 2010) – Read judgment
The European Court of Human Rights has delayed the extradition of four men, including the notorious Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza), from the United Kingdom to the United States due to concerns that long prison sentences and harsh conditions in a “supermax” prison could violate their human rights.
In this admissibility application, the four men mounted a wide-ranging attack on the US Justice system to the Strasbourg court, in terms usually reserved for lawless rogue states. The men claimed their extradition would put them at risk of harsh treatment, extraordinary rendition and the death penalty, amongst other draconian penalties. They said that the trial of non-US citizens on terrorism charges would lead to a “flagrant denial of justice”.
HJ (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 31 (07 July 2010) – Read Judgment
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s “Anne Frank” policy of sending back gay refugees to their home countries where they feared persecution is unlawful as it breached their human rights..
HJ and HT are both homosexual men and had been persecuted in their home countries – Iran and Cameroon respectively – after their sexual orientation had been discovered.
The court criticised the controversial policy, practised since 2006, of telling gay asylum seekers who feared prosecution in their home countries to hide their sexuality upon their return, rather than granting them asylum. In the Court of Appeal the men’s barrister had referred to this as an “Anne Frank” policy, in that, like Anne Frank, the men would be safe if they hid from authorities but not if they didn’t.
The Supreme Court has ruled against a man who challenged his immigration decision to remove him to the Palestinian National Authority on the basis that he could not go back as he would not be allowed back in to the place of his birth.
The challenge was based on the contention that the “country” or the “territory” stated in the notice of the decision was not one that satisfied the requirements of the 1971 Immigration Act 1971, and therefore the decision was unlawful under Section 82 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”)
The appellant, who was born in Gaza in 1985, had been living in Libya since the age of 5. In 2007 he entered the UK clandestinely in a lorry, and subsequently claimed asylum. This was rejected by the Secretary of State. His appeal of this decision was dismissed by the Immigration judge. She also dismissed this appeal insofar as it was based on the contention that the original immigration decision to remove him was “not in accordance with the law”.
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the head of the UK Supreme Court, has responded to accusations that the Human Rights Act is hampering the fight against terrorism, and that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”.
With reports this morning that the Government has written to High Court judges encouraging then not to delay a deportation flight to Bagdad, the speech presents a well timed defence of judicial independence.
The Gresham Special Lecture: The Challenges of the new Supreme Court is available in text and audio format. Lord Phillips used the opportunity to defend the judiciary in light of their regular use of the Human Rights Act to limit the effects of the anti-terrorism laws enacted by the government in the past decade, including controversial measures such as control orders and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). He said:
After 9/11 the British Government decided that the threat of terrorism in Britain was such as to amount to a public emergency threatening the life of the nation and purported, on that ground, to derogate from the Convention.
In relation to the UK, Amnesty’s report condemns the UK’s continuing reliance on “diplomatic assurances” in deportation cases where individuals were likely to be at risk of torture or other abuse if sent to countries where the Government accepts they would otherwise be abuse, in particular Algeria and Jordan. The report summarises that:
Reports implicating the UK in grave violations of human rights of people held overseas continued to emerge. Calls for independent investigations into the UK’s role in these violations went unheeded. The government’s attempts to return people to countries known to practise torture on the basis of “diplomatic assurances” (unenforceable promises from the countries where these individuals were to be returned) continued. The European Court of Human Rights found that, by detaining a number of foreign nationals without charge or trial (internment), the UK had violated their human rights. The implementation of measures adopted with the stated aim of countering terrorism led to human rights violations, including unfair judicial proceedings.
The authorities’ statutory power to detain pending deportation had to be motivated purely by the need to remove a subject from the United Kingdom, not to ensure his surrender into custody of the authorities operating in the receiving country. A subject detained not only for the purpose of effecting his removal from the UK, but also for the purpose of investigating whether acceptable arrangements could be made to return him into detention in the receiving country, was being detained unlawfully.
The claimant sought damages and declaratory relief against the defendant both at common law for the tort of false imprisonment and pursuant to s. 6(1) and s.7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, by reason of a claimed breach of Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Human rights challenges to deportation and extradition seem to be constantly in the public eye. Gary McKinnon’s battle against extradition has caught the public, as has the now notorious “Pathway Students” terrorist deportation case. An examination of three recent decisions highlights the various ways in which the courts approach the human rights arguments in such cases.
There have been a steady stream of high-profile deportation and extradition decisions in the past few weeks, none more controversial than the “Pathway students” case, where two suspected terrorists were saved from deportation to Pakistan as they were thought to be at risk of torture or death upon their return. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Human Rights Act is being invoked in a growing number of asylum and immigration case, although it does not say whether the number of successful uses of the Act has increased.
Abid Naseer, Ahmad Faraz Khan, Shoaib Khan, Abdul Khan and Tariq Ur Rehman (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent), Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 18 May 2010 – Read judgment
Two men suspected of attempting to mount a mass casualty attack can stay in the UK because they risked ill treatment if they were to be sent back to Pakistan. Rosalind English examines whether the extra territoriality reach of Article 3 makes a mockery of the core protections provided by European Convention on Human Rights.
Risk of torture
The alleged operatives appealed against deportation orders/refusals of re-entry on the grounds that they risked ill treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights at the hands of the Pakistani security services. Appeals against deportation were upheld because the reassurances as to the safety of their return was based on evidence that could not be disclosed in open court.
ZN (Afghanistan) (FC) and others (Appellants) v Entry Clearance Officer (Karachi) (Respondent) and one other action, UKSC 21. Read judgment
The Immigration Rules, which applied lighter requirements for entry clearance for the dependants of persons granted asylum than for other British Citizens, should be interpreted to mean that a person should always be a refugee for the purposes of Rule 352D even though that status has technically expired on grant of citizenship.
This appeal raised a question the true construction of the Immigration Rules, House of Commons Paper 395 (‘HC 395’): what rules apply to family members seeking entry to the United Kingdom, where the sponsor has been granted asylum and has subsequently obtained British citizenship. Put another way, the issue was whether the sponsor must enjoy refugee status at the time his spouse or child seeks to join him under the paras 352A and 352D.
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