Conor Gearty

Conor Gearty
Conor Gearty, a former Rausing director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, is a professor of human rights law at the LSE. He was a founder member of Matrix chambers, from where he continues to practise as a barrister.

Editor's comments - This author of this article makes the basic point that the independence of judiciary is a fundamental prerequisite to ensure the rule of law is maintained, and that individual citizens are protected from the disproportionate power of the state. It was the European Court of Human Rights that has kept the Judges here in check. Regardless of one’s viewpoint towards Europe, this institution has helped to contribute towards maintaining the checks and balances in the democracies within Europe. In contrast, we witness the Judiciary being manipulated easily in many Muslim countries to suit the interest of certain ruling body. The recent shambolic trials of the members of Jamati Islam in Bangladesh are a pertinent example of this. Whilst we frequently point out the failure of the West to uphold the rule of law (Guantanamo Bay) post 9/11, concurrently we also need take note where this has been upheld.

Omar Othman is a resident of this country – guilty of no crime and up to now facing no charges – whose home country wants to put him on trial in a case where the key evidence against him will in all likelihood have been procured by torture. The only reason he probably won't be tortured is because the state concerned has reluctantly promised not to follow its usual routine.

If this person's name were Giles or Gary and the country Syria or Sudan, we'd have outraged Daily Mail editorials and a civil libertarian home secretary. But Othman is Abu Qatada, and the state is Jordan. In politics universal values (the rule of law, the protection of human rights, the prohibition on torture) are fine – so long as they don't get in the way of our diplomatic interests, the career ambitions of our leading politicians or the propensity of our allies to do evil.