UK seeks torture “assurances” from Jordan

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

 5 March 2012


It’s that man again, Abu Qatada. He just won’t go away.

And in particular he won’t go away to Jordan, where the Brits want to dump him.

Like Pontius Pilate, they are curiously desperate to wash their hands of him.

Actually, in the case of Abu Qatada, they do in fact need to wash their hands very thoroughly.

Abu Qatada has been held in British jails without trial for over eight years. He is alleged to be a dangerous fanatic who supports terrorism.

However, mirabile dictu, no charge has ever been laid against him in a British court.

If he is such a dangerous alleged criminal, why on earth has he been kept in prison for over eight years without being charged?

The answer from the UK government is a resounding silence.

A Jordanian citizen, he was admitted to Britain as an asylum-seeker in 1993.

The government has said it wants to deport him back to Jordan as quickly as possible.

However, European Court of Human Rights recently ruled this out on the grounds that in Jordan he risks facing charges based on evidence obtained under torture.

As a result, the British Interior Minister Theresa May is today Monday 5 March 2012 in Jordan seeking assurances from the Jordan government that no charges will be brought against him based on torture evidence.

It seems she is having a hard time getting what she wants – and plans to stay in Jordan till Wednesday.

Her understrapper, junior interior minister James Brokenshire went there a few weeks ago on a similar mission and came back empty-handed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken with King Abdullah of Jordan to get these assurances – and again no progress appears to have been made.

So now Brokenshire’s boss Theresa May has interrupted her busy UK schedule to fly in person to Jordan in pursuit of the golden fleece of these assurances.

This is all very odd.

After all, Abu Qatada is only one person. He is not an army or a guerrilla force. He is subject to a 22-hour curfew and under 24-hour surveillance. He can hardly be a threat to any one at present.

The amount of effort the UK government is putting into getting him back to Jordan is extraordinary. Why not just charge him in court?

There might be a reason. Some sections of the press have suggested that a trial in Britain might lead to the disclosure of evidence of alleged British mistreatment of suspects that would seriously sully the country’s image.

Now let us consider these “assurances” that Britain is seeking from Jordan.

There is no state in the world that will not given an assurance that they do not use torture. And that includes those states that do use torture. The practice of torture is not something that you go out into the streets and wave flags about.

So they will get their “assurances”.

However, the UK government is worried that these assurances will not be convincing enough to pull the wool over the eyes of the judges at the European Court of Human and persuade them to lift the ban on the deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan.

A month ago the BBC’s George Alagiah interview Prince El Hassan of Jordan, uncle of King Abdullah, about the case.

El Hassan: “if this man has committed crimes which is presumably why he is being held in England, I don’t know what kind of court one has to offer to the Europeans. Does it want a juvenile court?”


Mr Alagiah: “They want a court in which evidence brought about by torture is not admissible.”


El Hassan:”That is rich coming from a country that believed in rendition agreements.”

Rendition is the transfer of suspects by the Americans, with the help of their allies, to countries where the rule of law does not apply in order that these people can be interrogated under torture. Jordan is alleged to have been a rendition destination. Hence, Prince El Hassan’s remark.

The executive director of the human rights group, Cageprisoners Limited, Asim Qureshi, does not believe Abu Qatada could get a fair trial in Jordan. “Jordan is a patently unsafe country to send people. It’s known for systematic violations of human rights,” he said.

Abu Qatada is wanted in Jordan on terrorist charges. He was convicted in Jordan, in his absence, of alleged involvement in a plot to target Americans and Israeli tourists during the country’s millennium celebrations.

However, the question must be asked: was torture or evidence based on torture involved in the trial leading to his conviction?

Ayman Odeh, the Jordanian legislative affairs minister, has said his country passed a constitutional amendment in September 2011 to ban the use of evidence obtained through torture.

However, Abu Qatada’s convictions in Jordan date to 1999 and 2000 – long before September 2011 when the Jordanian government thought it politic to ban the use of torture-tainted evidence.

Comment by Antigone1984:


Antigone1984 does not take a view as to whether Abu Qatada is guilty or not of the crimes of which he is apparently accused. However, Antigone1984 is very much of the view that people should not be held in prison for over eight years without trial or charge.


We repeat here what we said in our blog on this subject on 14 February 2012:

The interest of this case for Antigone1984 is the fact Abu Qatada that has been held in British gaols for over eight years without charge or trial. Many allegations of the utmost gravity have been made against this man by the British Government and these have received blanket coverage in the media, but no evidence of any crime has been submitted against him in a British court. The detention of Abu Qatada flouts British legal traditions based on the right to a fair trial that date back to the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 AD. The much-vaunted British concern for “fair play” means that a person is deemed innocent until he or she is proven guilty in a court of law. Moreover, the law of Habeas Corpus means that persons suspected of an offence cannot be kept indefinitely in detention without being charged and brought before a judge. These age-old traditions, the cornerstone of English criminal law, have been egregiously disregarded in the case of Abu Qatada.

For further information on this case, see our three earlier posts in the JORDAN category of the sidebar on our Home Page.


You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.



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