UK Extradition Arrangements

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons at 8:07 pm on 5 December 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party 8:07, 5 December 2011

Let me begin by congratulating Mr Raab on his role in securing this important debate.

The motion calls on the Government to introduce

“as a matter of urgency” a Bill to enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its recent report. The motion calls for urgent legislation rather than simply legislation because a number of British citizens face the risk of extradition at any moment—this is an urgent issue. Babar Ahmad’s father started a grass-roots e-petition with no formal organisation and no big newspaper backing, but none the less it garnered more than 140,000 signatures.

People signed the petition because they were horrified by the plight of Babar Ahmad, a British citizen who was detained in the UK for more than seven years without charge or trial. He faces extradition to the US with the prospect of solitary confinement for life in super-max conditions, which arguably amount to torture. Babar is not alone in his ordeal. The poet, Talha Ahsan, another UK citizen, is also being held—his case is related to Babar’s—without charge or trial under our shocking extradition arrangements. He is entering his sixth year of imprisonment.

Of course, such asymmetric extradition arrangements do not apply only in terrorism cases, and I put on record my deep concern about the Gary McKinnon case, but I want to focus on the case of Babar Ahmad. I pay tribute to the courage and bravery of the families of Babar and Talha in fighting for justice for their sons, and to their MP, Sadiq Khan, who has worked to support them since their ordeal began.

I have long lobbied for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. As we approach its 10th anniversary, the cases of Talha and Babar remind us that one of the most fearful things about Guantanamo Bay—people being held without charge or trial—is happening on UK soil, right now, at the behest of the US.

In a debate in Westminster Hall last month, Members heard of the appalling circumstances of Babar Ahmad’s arrest in 2003 and the fact that he sustained at least 73 injuries for which he was awarded £60,000 compensation by the High Court in 2009. He is now in his eighth year at a top-security prison without charge. The allegations against him are serious. The US has alleged that Babar was running a website that solicited funds for terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda and Chechen rebels. That is a grave accusation and there should of course be a trial. Indeed Babar and his family desperately want the case to come to trial so that they can clear his name. They want it to take place in the UK and not in the US partly because Babar is a British citizen and is accused of committing crimes in the UK.