Westminster Hall debate on Extradition - political support for Gary McKinnon and Babar Ahmad etc. but no action

Those of us who have been concerned with the Gary McKinnon and other unfair extradition to the USA cases such as the Babar Ahmad or NatWest 3 cases etc. should read the recent "debate" in Parliament:


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Westminster Hall
Thursday 24 November 2011
[Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]
backbench business

[Relevant document: Fifteenth Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Session 2010-12 HC 767]

This debate is secured by backbench MP's on a topic of their choice and a Minister has to reply.

However it is not held in the main chamber of the House of Commons, but rather in the ancient Westminster Hall and there is no opportunity for MPs to actually vote for or against the motion, therefore these debates are almost always ignored by the government.

In addition, this particular debate has been used as a sop to public opinion by the political party managers who control the business of the House of Commons.

Under their new "internet transparency" arrangements, the House of Commons is supposed to allow time for a proper debate in response to electronic petitions which manage to gain over 100,000 signatures.

One such debate did take place recently on 15th November where MPs from all sides rightly demanded that the forthcoming planned tax increases on petrol and diesel fuel should be scrapped. This petition got 110,000 signatures and a full debate and vote on the floor of the House of Commons.

A similar petition about the Babar Ahmad extradition to the USA case, got over 140,000 signatures but was not granted a full debate - they were fobbed off with this less important Westminster Hall private member's debate instigated by Dominic Raab MP

Several MPs mentioned the Gary McKinnon case specifically.

  • Dominic Raab (Conservative)
  • David Burrowes (Conservative) - Gary McKinnon's constituency MP
  • Zac Goldsmith (Conservative)
  • Yasmin Qureshi (Labour)
  • Dr Hywel Francis (Labour)
  • Tom Brake (Liberal Democrat)
  • Keith Vaz (Labour) - Chair of the Home Office Select Committee),
  • Caroline Lucas (Green)
  • Chris Bryant (Labour)
  • Damian Green (Conservative) - The Minister for Immigration

Unsurprisingly, none of the former Labour government ministers who pushed through the controversial Extradition Act 2003 bothered to defend their actions.

Only the former Labour Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart spoke about the Babar Ahmad case pointing out that he has been in high security prison for over 7 years, equivalent to a 14 year jail sentence for a serious crime, even though he has not even been charged with any offence in the UK. She did not mention Gary McKinnon, nor her own complicity in both those cases.

Chris Bryant the shameless former Labour Foreign Office junior Minister, therefore directly concerned with extradition to foreign countries, did not apologise for his own complicity in the Extradition mess, but he did correctly pointed out:

The Government have a problem. The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats made a series of commitments when they were in opposition to change the treaty to ensure that Gary McKinnon would not be

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sent to the United States of America. As I understand it, the Government were going to rely on the Baker review, but that review has provided exactly the opposite answer to what they expected.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers currently in power, who were rightly critical of the Extradition Act 2003 and who now have the power to sort out the mess, have failed to do so and are still dithering after 18 months in office.

The only new facts to emerge from this Westminster Hall "debate" is the revelation of further incompetence or perhaps complicity, by the Crown Prosecution Service, made by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP fror Brighton Pavilion,

Babar's lawyers point out that other comparable prosecutions are proceeding in the UK. Nevertheless, in July 2004 and December 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service declared--as did the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, in September 2006--that there was "insufficient

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evidence" to charge Babar Ahmad with any criminal offence under UK law, and that he should be extradited to the US. Last night, in a shocking turn of events, Babar's lawyers received a letter from the CPS, which admitted for the first time that it was never given the evidence that was sent to the US, apart from "a few documents." The bulk of the evidence was shipped straight to the US by the police. Astoundingly, although we had previously been led to believe that the CPS had viewed all the evidence and judged it insufficient to bring the case to trial in the UK, we now have a confession that it had not even seen all the evidence, let alone investigated it properly. A proper decision has not been made on whether a prosecution can go ahead in the UK.

After talking to the lawyers involved, I understand that the CPS knew all along that it had not been given all the evidence. However, it let Babar Ahmad languish in a maximum security prison with the threat of extradition to the US, under the false belief that the CPS had seen all the evidence against him. If that is the case, it is appalling and raises serious questions about why evidence that should have been given to the CPS was not produced, and why Babar was not told about it. Who directed and authorised that circumvention of the CPS, apparently in deference to and at the behest of the US?