A recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights has paved the way for faster extradition of terrorism suspects to the United States.
In April 2012, the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] ruled in favor of allowing the extradition of five terrorism suspects from the United Kingdom to the United States. The suspects challenged the extraditions, arguing that human rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights would be violated. Two of the accused argued that the United States could send them to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay or to third countries with questionable human rights records. Others argued that possible life sentences and incarceration in a "Supermax" facility would amount to "inhuman and degrading treatment."
The ECHR said that there was no risk to any of the suspects' rights and recognized the United States' "long history of respect of democracy, human rights and the rule of law." While analyzing the conditions at "Supermax" facilities, the Court noted that they are better than in many prisons in Europe. To allay any fears over fair trials and possible sentences that would run afoul of European law, the United States provided guarantees that all of the suspects would face trial in the civilian judicial system rather than in military tribunals at Guantanamo, and that none would face the death penalty.
The Court's ruling ends years of legal wrangling over the extraditions, and provides a definitive statement that the United States complies with European standards of justice and meets or exceeds human rights standards in its civilian detention facilities. Although the decision is appealable within the next three months, it is unlikely that the Court will reopen the case.
In the future, it is expected that the extradition process will not take nearly as long, and that criminal trials in the United States will take place much sooner. Two of the suspects in this case have been fighting their extradition since they were arrested in 1998 and others have been detained for up to eight years while awaiting a final decision.
The five suspects are:
- Abu Hamza al-Masri, who has been indicted on charges relating to attempts to establish a militant training camp in Oregon, promoting violence in Afghanistan, and in connection with a hostage-taking in Yemen.
- Khaled Fawwaz, who was a confidante of Osama bin Laden and has been charged in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.
- Adel Abdul Bary, who has been charged as Fawwaz's codefendant.
- Babar Ahmad, who is charged with supporting terrorists and operating English-language Web sites promoting jihad located on American servers.
- Syed Ahsan, who has been charged as Ahmad's codefendant.
A sixth man, Haroon Rashid Aswat, has been charged as al-Masri's coconspirator. The ECHR has not yet ruled on his extradition and is awaiting further information on his mental health before deciding his case.