De 47 EU- og EØS-landene i Europarådet forlanger at Menneskerettsdomstolen i Strasbourg (EMD) slutter å blokkere deportasjoner av avviste asylsøkere og terrorister. I en samlet uttalelse krever de 47 landene at EMDs innblanding i nasjonale spørsmål må opphøre.
Uttalelsen er et ydmykende tilbakeslag for domstolen, som i praksis er blitt irettesatt av sin overordende.
Initiativet til uttalelsen ble tatt av den britiske justisminsteren og EU-vennlige liberaldemokraten Kenneth Clarke, og det antas at det er den pågående krangelen om fengselsinnsattes stemmerett som har satt stopper for den britiske regjeringens tålmodighet med EMD. I en kronikk skriver Clarke at domstolen har forsvart det uforsvarbare, og at han ønsker at landets egen høysterett skal ha det siste ordet i asyl- og innvandringssaker i fremtiden.
– Når menneskerettigheter oftere blir assosiert med å forsvare det uforsvarbare enn å beskytte det sårbare, må vi handle, skriver Clarke:
The Council of Europe oversees the Strasbourg court and is charged with enforcing its judgments.
The ultimate sanction against any country that ignores the court is to be ejected from the Council.
De 47 landenes uttalelse er ikke bindende for dommerne i Strasbourg, som gjentatte ganger har ridd skarpskodd over det britiske parlamentets uttrykkelige ønsker, men det sender et sterkest mulig signal om at domstolens innblanding ikke lenger vil bli tolerert.
In particular, the Court will be toothless if member states refuse to enforce its rulings.
The declaration, made at a conference in Turkey, instructs the Court – ‘when examining cases related to asylum and immigration’ – to assess and take full account of the effectiveness of domestic procedures’.
It adds: ‘Where these procedures are seen to operate fairly and with respect for human rights, to avoid intervening except in the most exceptional circumstances.’
In Britain, this means that Strasbourg should no longer stop the deportation of failed asylum seekers, foreign criminals or terrorists claiming their ‘human right’ to a family life.
Foreign criminals are also increasingly avoiding deportation on ‘family life’ grounds.
It follows European judgments which appear to go beyond the original meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Convention says that – while nobody should be deported to countries where they face torture – the right to a family life should be balanced against criminality and other rule-breaking.
Tory MP Dominic Raab, who led the protest over prisoner voting, said: ‘Whilst a political declaration by the Committee does not bind the Strasbourg Court, it shows that ministers across Europe believe the judges have gone too far.’
Britain remains bound by the Human Rights Act, which has itself blocked countless deportations in our domestic courts.
However, it will be hoped that – by limiting the power of the European court – our judges will be less likely to try to second guess what would happen if their verdict was appealed in Strasbourg.
Yesterday’s Council of Europe declaration also provides two other steps to improve the Court.
Charges could be introduced for anybody wanting to appeal to Strasbourg to deter spurious claims.
And member states have all promised to send only ‘good candidates’ to serve as judges. Currently, only 23 of 47 of the judges have prior judicial experience in their homeland.
Terrorist fanatics who have managed to stay in Britain by appealing to the European court include Abu Qatada – dubbed Osama bin Laden’s ‘ambassador in Europe’.
Despite this, Qatada was paid £2,500 by the ECHR for being ‘unlawfully detained’ by the British Government, after being held indefinitely without trial following 9/11.
A ruling found that keeping him in prison, while he refused to return to his native Jordan, breached his human right to a fair trial.
The Government is trying to deport him to Jordan, where he has been sentenced to jail in his absence on terror charges.