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Thursday 9 February 2012

Abu Qatada – Mel Versus Oborne

There is a very good reason that Peter Oborne’s writings are featured at the Maily Telegraph and not the Daily Mail: he is of independent mind, and not the kind of pundit ready to sacrifice that independence to the diktat of the Vagina Monologue. This has been shown today as he gives a typically forthright assessment of the Abu Qatada case, and reminds us of the true origins of the ECHR.

Opposed to the view given by Oborne – and, it has to be said, frequently opposed to life’s realities – is Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, who has delivered to her less than benign editor a typical rant demonising anyone who calls for less than immediate deportation of Qatada, while asserting that the ECHR is some kind of increasingly politicised body.

Mel’s screed includes this magnificent slice of drivel: “in asserting its own universal authority it therefore destroys a country’s freedom to assert its own values through its own laws. And since these ‘universal’ rights are virtually all qualified by contrary rights (?), it hands the judges of the ECHR the wholly undemocratic power to make what are in effect political judgments about the balance of those rights”.

This is weapons grade bullshit. Fortunately, Oborne reminds us that the ECHR “was inspired by Sir Winston Churchill, eager in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Holocaust to export the British system of fairness and decency ... Every single one of the great ideas that were to be embodied in the European Convention – freedom from torture, restraint on the power of the state, freedom under law – was an ancient British principle transferred on to the European stage”.

It is for that reason that Mel’s assertion that anything from the ECHR is “in direct conflict with the beliefs and interests of the British public” falls flat. She does, however, make the useful point that the al-Qaeda franchises are not states with armies, and that it is therefore impossible to declare and prosecute war in the accepted sense. But that does not alter the basics of the Qatada case.

Because Abu Qatada, as I pointed out earlier this week, has not been charged, far less convicted, of any crime in the UK, and Jordan, which has tried and convicted him in absentia, has no extradition treaty with this country. And here, people are assumed innocent until proven guilty before the law. Oborne puts it thus:

If he is guilty of the charges laid at his door, he is not, at bottom, guilty of terrorism. He is a common criminal, and should be treated as such. If this alleged hate preacher is such a menace, he should be brought to trial, asked to confront the evidence, and sent to jail. Anything less is a betrayal of everything that Britain stands for”. To which I can only add three words.

Amen to that.

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