In the Queen’s Speech last week, the government presented its legislative programme for the next session of parliament, including a number of bills with important human rights implications. The speech was of particular interest because of the extent to which Brexit and COVID-19 have dominated the prime minister’s time in office so far.
Last Tuesday’s to-do list includes an enormous 31 bills, listed in full here and set out in greater detail here. Two bills with key implications are addressed below.
Rampant spread, fuelled by a combination of a new variant that is around 50-70% more transmissible, plus a lifting of restrictions at the beginning of December, brings us into another national lockdown.
In many ways, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first address of 2021 felt unpleasantly like a return to early 2020.
The original “Stay Home” messaging made a comeback. The Prime Minister was deliberately vague about how long lockdown would last. Big Brother Watch criticised the government for “yet again … evading the democratic process” by denying MPs a meaningful vote on the new national restrictions prior to their televised announcement to the nation, or their coming into force. The new guidance differs from the Tier 4 guidance in emphasis, if not substance.
Ever the optimist, the Prime Minister was keen to emphasise “one huge difference” between this lockdown and the first one: the UK is “rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in its history”. He also managed to get in a jab at the UK having delivered more vaccines than the rest of Europe combined.
There were other, more subtle differences, as No. 10 tweaked its messaging in light of past mistakes.
There is a long history of crossover between lawyers and politicians; more members of parliament come from the law than almost any other profession. But the relationship – never totally tranquil – has become more strained in recent years.
R (On the application of) DSD and NBV & Ors v The Parole Board of England and Wales & Ors & John Radford:in a landmark ruling, the High Court has quashed the Parole Board’s decision to release black cab driver and serial sex offender John Worboys, on grounds of irrationality. The Board acted irrationally in that it “should have undertaken further inquiry into the circumstances of his offending and, in particular, the extent to which the limited way in which he has described his offending may undermine his overall credibility and reliability” .
Government of the Republic of South Africa v Dewani  EWHC 153 (Admin) 31 January 2014 – read judgment
Shrien Dewani, the British man facing charges of murdering his wife on honeymoon in South Africa, has lost his appeal to block extradition there (so far three men have been convicted in South Africa over Mrs Dewani’s death). The Court ruled that it would not be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him, on condition that the South African government agreed to return him to the UK after one year if his depressive illness and mental health problems still prevented a trial from taking place. Continue reading →
The Strasbourg Court has ruled that a terrorist suspect detained in the United Kingdom’s Broadmoor hospital should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk that his mental condition would deteriorate there.
The applicant was indicted in the US in respect of a conspiracy to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon. He was arrested in the UK in 2005 and in 2006 the Secretary of State ordered his extradition. He unsuccessfully appealed the High Court and the Court of Appeal on the grounds that his extradition would not be compatible with Article 3 of the Convention because he could be detained in a “supermax” prison. In November 2011 a mental health tribunal determined that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Continue reading →
The European Court of Justice’s Grand Chamber has ruled that the Charter of Fundamental Rights does not allow refusal to execute a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) on the basis that the person was not heard by the issuing authority.
With reform of the EAW at the centre of the debate concerning the UK’s big 2014 opt-out decision, all eyes were on the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) when it gave judgment in this case widely seen as an opportunity for it to address some key issues in the operation of the EAW system. There is some disappointment at the outcome.
The European Court of Human Rights has refused the request of Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza) and four others to refer their extradition appeal to its Grand Chamber for another hearing. This means that their case, which was decided in the Government’s favour in April (see our post) is now final. There are therefore no remaining barriers to their extradition to the United States to face terrorism charges.
But why has it taken so long to decide the case? The men argued that if extradited there was a real risk that their article 3 (torture and inhumane treatment) rights would be contravened by being held at a ‘Super-max’ prison and by having to face extremely long sentences. The extradition requests were made by the United States in July 1999 (Adel Bary), May 2004 (Abu Hamza) March 2005 (Barbar Ahmad), August 2005 (Haroon Rashid Aswat) and September 2006 (Syed Tahla Ahsan). In other words, a long time ago.
It was once said of Apple’s Steve Jobs that he could convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, and persistence. Following Jobs’ untimely death, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has taken over the mantle of his patented Reality Distortion Field.
It would seem (on Twitter at least) that you are now either with Assange or against him. To be with him is to believe that he is in the throes of an international conspiracy involving, but not limited to, the British Government, courts, the Swedish Government, his rape (not bad sexual etiquette) accusers, of course the Americans and possibly the saucer people too. To be in the other (artificially exaggerated) camp is to not automatically believe that his Swedish accusers have been concocted by a dastardly international conspiracy, but rather that their accusations should be met with (whisper it) due process. Moreover, Assange has had his days in court, all the way to the UK Supreme Court, and now must face his accusers.
Since Assange happens to be in the UK (well, technically in Ecuador I suppose), the UK legal blogging community has taken it upon itself to bring reality back into line. Not since the Freemen of the Land has a legal issue generated a series of counter-woo posts of such quality, and after this rather lengthy introduction, all I seek to do is link to them with approval:
HH (Appellant) v Deputy Prosecutor of the Italian Republic, Genoa (Respondent); PH (Appellant) v Deputy Prosecutor of the Italian Republic, Genoa (Respondent)  UKSC 25 – read judgment
These appeals concern requests for extradition in the form of European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) issued, in the joined cases of HH and PH, by the Italian courts, and in the case of FK, a Polish court. The issue in all three was whether extradition would be incompatible with the rights of the appellants’ children to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the ECHR.
Put very briefly, HH and PH had been arrested in Italy on suspicion of drug trafficking. They left Italy in breach of their bail conditions and went to the United Kingdom. They were convicted in their absence. European arrest warrants were later issued. They challenged their extradition on the basis of the effect that it would have on their three children, the youngest of whom was 3 years old.
FK was accused of offences of dishonesty alleged to have occurred in 2000 and 2001. She had left Poland for the UK in 2002 and European arrest warrants had been issued in 2006 and 2007. F had five children, the youngest of whom were aged eight and three. She has not been tried or convicted of the alleged offences yet. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly buffet of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
The big news this week has been the unexpected turn of events in the Assange extradition case. Almost immediately after the Supreme Court handed down its judgment that he could be extradited, his counsel Dinah Rose QC threw a spanner in the works… The upshot is that it looks like Assange shall be sticking around for at least another couple of weeks. The other significant news of the week is that the Government has published the Justice and Security Bill.
The Government of the Republic of South Africa v Shrien Dewani-Read decision
The extradition to South Africa of Shrien Dewani, the man accused of murdering his wife on honeymoon there in 2010, has been delayed pending an improvement in his mental health.
The case made headlines in 2010, when the story broke of a honeymooning couple who had been ambushed in the township of Gugulethu, South Africa. Mr Dewani told police he had been travelling in a taxi which was ambushed by two men. He described being forced from the car at gunpoint and the car driving away with his wife still inside. She was found dead shortly after. However, evidence emerged which led the South African authorities to believe that Mr Dewani had initiated a conspiracy with the taxi driver and the men who ambushed the taxi to murder his new wife. Consequently, they sought his extradition from the UK, to which he had returned, to face a trial for murder.
In an appeal to the High Court from a decision by a Senior District Judge that Mr Dewani could be extradited, Mr Dewani made two arguments:
1. Prison conditions in South Africa were such that his Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment) Convention rights would be violated if he were extradited;
2. His mental health and risk of suicide were such that his should not be extradited. Continue reading →
HARKINS AND EDWARDS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 9146/07  ECHR 45 – Read judgment
The European Court of Human Rights has found that there would be no breach of Article 3 ECHR (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) in extraditing two men accused of murder to the US.
The men argued that they face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole if found guilty. The US had given assurances to the UK government that the death penalty would not be sought. The following summary is based on the Court’s press release (my abridgement):
The Government of the United States of America -v- O’Dwyer, Westminster Magistrates’ Court – Read judgment
It seems appropriate, on the day when Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours to protest against US anti-piracy legislation, to talk about piracy (in the copyright sense) and what role human rights law has to play in the perpetual battle against it.
It is a topic that polarises, with some considering piracy to be no more moral than any other theft, and others seeing those who commit piracy offences as fighting for freedom of expression and liberal copyright laws. In the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a young man who is accused of setting up a website which breaches US copyright law and who is facing extradition to the US for trial, he attempted to block his extradition by relying on a combination of human rights and other objections relating to the manner and circumstances surrounding the request.
Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, has lost his High Court appeal against extradition to Sweden. He lost on all four grounds of appeal.
Unless he is granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court under Section 32 of the Extradition Act 2003, he must now face charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. Appeals to the Supreme Court will only be allowed in cases where there is a “point of law of general public importance involved in the decision”.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.