European Court of Human Rights
[This article was first published by The Freedom Association and we republish with their and the author’s kind permission]
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Introductory remark to this article by TFA: The following research by Torquil Dick-Erikson has been sent to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC).
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Here are some facts that we believe need to be brought to the attention of the ISC:
How many in government, at any level, are aware that the European Court of Human Rights declared that up to 5 years in prison awaiting, not just trial, but a prisoner’s first appearance in a public hearing in open court, is perfectly legitimate, and a “reasonable time” under the Convention’s article 6, because it believes that this preventive “detention … is intended to facilitate the preliminary investigation”? This judgement, rejecting an application from an Italian against Italy, dates from the mid-eighties, but is now necessarily a part of that Court’s jurisprudence, ie its settled doctrine, so is relevant today, and shows clearly that the Court and the Convention have no place for Habeas Corpus. See details in the second half of this article.
The power to issue Arrest Warrants, to be followed by lengthy imprisonment with no public hearing, without showing any evidence of wrong-doing, obviously confers a power of misuse and abuse on whoever holds it. It can be employed with spurious accusations against political adversaries, and in continental Europe, where this power is held by often unaccountable judiciaries, it not infrequently is so employed.
The above judgement of the ECtHR shows that a State’s being a signatory of the European Convention is no guarantee at all that it will safeguard, say, Habeas Corpus rights to a prisoner. The Convention merely says a “reasonable” time, but does not specify what is “reasonable”. The Court says up to 5 years is “reasonable
How many have noticed that the EU has nominated Ms Laura Kovesi, a member of the Romanian judiciary, to be their first European Public Prosecutor? Romania’s judiciary is the most heavily criticised in Europe for corruption and for being used as a blunt weapon to repress political opponents. A joint report by The Freedom Association and the Research Centre on post-Communist Economies gives details, drawn also from material published in the Guardian,to show that even the Rumanian showcase “Anti-corruption unit” (“DNA”), from whose ranks the new EPP is drawn, is itself riddled with corruption and political manipulation. Ms Kovesi is named on page 8 in the Report, cited above, as being the Chief Prosecutor, so at the heart of, the sham “anti-corruption unit”. Yet she has been chosen as the EU’s first, all-powerful, European Public Prosecutor.
Another case in point is that of Clara Ponsati, a Catalan Professor of Economics at St Andrews University, most unjustly pursued for political reasons by a Spanish EAW in Scotland, on an accusation of “violent rebellion”.
Not enough publicity has been obtained for the Learned Opinion, given by Jonathan Fisher QC to Christopher Gill, as to the powers that the EPP will have to issue EAWs against anybody in the UK, and that our judiciary will be powerless to resist this, as long as we are subject to the Extradition Act 2003 which enforces the EAW in the UK. It is therefore unlikely that anyone in government circles is aware of this sword of Damocles hanging over all of our – and indeed their – heads.
On receipt of an EAW issued by the EPP, or by any judicial authority in a “Category 1” country, our own judiciary is bound by the provisions of the Extradition Act 2003 and cannot ask to see, let alone assess, any evidence or lack thereof already collected against the prisoner by the issuing State. This fact is known (at least to Members of Parliament), but needs to be reviewed in connection with the above-listed facts. A threat to “human rights” is allowed as grounds to refuse an extradition, but these have to be as defined by the ECHR – which, as we have seen, is quite insufficient in terms of, say, Habeas Corpus rights.
The Extradition Act 2003 needs to be explicitly and radically amended, the repeal of the ECA72 alone will not be enough to free the UK of these entanglements.