Analysis: Court decision makes it easier to send accused to America

THE European Court of Human Rights ruled that Abu Hamza, along with four other terrorist suspects, would not be subject to “ill-treatment” in a US “supermax” high security prison and their extradition was lawful.

The court’s decision is massively important because it approves of human rights in maximum security prisons making it easier for the UK to send suspects to America.

This was the latest stage in a process that began in May 2004, when Hamza was arrested on an extradition warrant. The men have three months to try to persuade the Grand Chamber to reopen the entire case and examine it. If the men fail to launch an appeal, they will be extradited to the United States.

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Why has this extradition request taken so long to resolve?

Firstly in October 2004, Hamza was charged with 15 offences under the Terrorism Act. This temporarily halted the extradition process because the Extradition Act 2003 states that extradition hearings must be adjourned until outstanding UK charges are disposed of.

On 7 February 2006, Hamza was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of 11 of 15 charges. However, in July that year, he was given the go-ahead to appeal certain convictions. It took until 23 July 2008 for Hamza to exhaust all possible routes of appeal in the UK, when he was refused permission to appeal to the House of Lords.

On 4 August 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hamza should not be extradited until judges could examine his case.

Due to the enormous backlog of cases before that court it took until yesterday for it to declare Hamza’s extradition did not breach his human rights. The delay, especially before the European Court of Human Rights, is totally unacceptable.

However, the court is funded by the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe is financed by the contributions of the 47 member states. Until such time as the Council of Europe is better funded, the court will remain chronically overworked and at present there is no realistic prospect of cases being speeded up.

• Niall McCluskey is an advocate specialising in extradition law and criminal law.