The European Court of Human Rights has done the right thing in ruling that five terrorist suspects including Abu Hamza and Babar Ahmad may be extradited to the U.S.
The reason for the appeal to the European Court was that conditions in the Colorado detention center to which the men would be sent if convicted, the so-called Alcatraz of the Rockies, are so harsh as to constitute a violation of the human rights of prisoners kept there. Certainly, if convicted, the prisoners would be kept in solitary confinement with only restricted opportunities for talking to each other. But while there is no gainsaying that U.S. penal conditions are harsher than in Britain, this is not a reason for refusing extradition to a friendly, democratic nation. If the men were likely to face the death penalty, it might, arguably, be another matter, but solitary confinement is not torture in any real sense. There are certainly problems with the extradition arrangements between the U.S. and the UK but this is not a case in point.
But although the Strasbourg Court has got this ruling right, this is not always or even usually so. Its ruling in the case of the Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, that he cannot be extradited to Jordan lest information gained in the course of torture might be used against him — not even that he himself might be tortured — was an embarrassment for Britain.
The European Convention on Human Rights includes a number of competing rights and it is time for Britain to give far more weight to the right of states and individuals to self-preservation and rather less to the human rights of those who conspire against them. France and Italy can do it; so can we.
London Evening Standard (April 11)