Britain to ask European court for rights review

By Kate Holton, http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=751872006, May 20, 2006

LONDON (Reuters) - The government is to ask the European Court of Human Rights to review legislation which forbids member states from deporting people to countries where they could be tortured, the Attorney General said on Saturday.

The question of deportation has risen up the political agenda in recent months due to a row about the failure to consider for deportation over 1,000 foreign criminals after they finished serving their sentences in prison.

The dispute cost former Home Secretary Charles Clarke his job and has caused the government to look for ways of increasing the flexibility of its policy on deportations.

The government has also been under pressure to take a tough line against hard-line Islamists after bombs in London last July killed 52 people.

It has said it will expel any radical clerics who preach hatred or incite or condone acts of terrorism.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith says officials should be able to take into consideration the country's security when deciding whether an individual can remain in the country or not.

"That jurisprudence says you can't deport people where there is a serious risk of particular things happening to them -- death, torture for example -- without taking into account the security considerations at home," Lord Goldsmith told BBC Radio on Saturday.

"We are going to ask the European Court of Human Rights to look at that again."

Under human rights laws, Britain needs guarantees from countries that deportees will not be mistreated at home and judges in the past have blocked deportations on those grounds.

It has extradition agreements with Jordan, Libya, Lebanon and is working on agreements with Algeria.

"There is absolutely nothing in the Human Rights Act which says that if you have got a person who is dangerous, you can't put the interests of the community first when it comes to deciding on his release from a life sentence," Goldsmith said.

"But we do need to look ... whether there is a problem, what that problem is -- is it the law, is it the application of the law, is it decision-making -- and see what needs to be done."

Just last week, the government was incensed when the High Court ruled that nine asylum seekers who hijacked a plane to Britain could not be returned to Afghanistan because their lives would be at risk.

At the time, Blair said the ruling was an "abuse of common sense" and said the government would appeal.

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