Go – Theresa May but Abu Qan’t-be-harder

Another catastrophic week for our banana-skin prone Coalition government in the UK. Talk about an unforced error by Home Secretary Theresa May. Whoever, or whatever will it be next? However, leaving aside arguments over appeal deadlines, the case of Abu Qatada raises difficult questions about torture. This would be so, even if it had not recently also become clear that, former Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw may have been “economical with the truth” when claiming the UK had not been complicit in the extra-ordinary rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj to Libya. The government needs to be very careful about stuff like this, otherwise it might well draw attention to the UK’s disgraceful treatment of the former inhabitants of Diego Garcia that facilitated the construction of the USAF base on the island 40 years ago. But I digress… I am conservative by nature and, when it comes to politics, reluctantly Conservative by choice. This is because Labour are still in denial about the reality of the worldwide debt crisis; and the Liberal Democrats are more Liberal than Democrats. I am therefore deeply suspicious of the Federalist goals of many European politicians (of all kinds) and, with regard to mitigating anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), would much prefer a focus on multi-national co-operation to ensure simultaneous implementation of workable solutions to our problems at a local level. However, irrespective of whether the solutions are best implemented locally, nationally, or regionally, some big issues, like Human Rights, require everybody to play by the same rules. Unfortunately, when it comes to torture, it is very clear that this is not the case. However, that does not mean that we should tear up the rule book in order to deport one (very unpleasant) individual. It is therefore very regrettable that, as a consequence of one single piece of gross stupidity, the Coalition government in the UK may now be tempted to do just that. Having screwed-up so comprehensively, and gifted to Qatada’s lawyers the right to appeal against deportation and claim wrongful arrest, if the UK government now wants to go through with the deportation of Qatada – with or without seeking further assurances from the Jordanian government – the only option may now be to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and repeal the Human Rights Act. This would be a very retrograde step. The Coalition government has made much fuss about being forced to give some prisoners the right to vote but, here too, the problem is not that the prisoners should not have any rights; it is that we have too many people in prisons: I suspect that the kinds of prisoners to whom the ECHR would have us grant the right to vote are those that should not be in prison at all. Prison should be reserved for those that are a danger to society and/or themselves (and the latter clearly need specialist treatment rather than just incarceration). Everybody else should not be in prison; because prison as punishment does not work. People who do things that are illegal and/or anti-social should be confronted with the consequences of their crimes and be made to feel ashamed of – and/or apologise for – what they have done. The wearing or orange suits and/or undertaking unpleasant work that benefits their victims and/or society is an excellent way to achieve beneficial results for society as a whole. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater by tearing up the rule book is not the answer. Qatada is like a spy who has been exposed. He is now useless to the enemy. May be we cannot keep in prison but, if he is effectively monitored, he can no longer be the danger to society that he was. Moral ambiguity regarding the torture of prisoners and/or the right to a fair trial is not the way forward. We need to learn from our mistakes; not repeat them. Therefore, withdrawing from the ECHR and/or repealing the Human Right Act is not the solution to the Qatada case. The solution, apart from not making unforced errors, is to make non-custodial punishment effective (in that it makes repeat offending extremely unlikely). This solution could also be applied to all those in prison whom the ECHR says should not be denied the right to vote.


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Ethics, Liberalism, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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