Human Rights in Jeopardy for People of Dual Heritage or in Cross Cultural Relationships

A quick recap of extradition and deportation cases in the United Kingdom, although boring to most minds, nevertheless displays some trends which will be of concern not just to human rights advocates but to anyone of dual heritage and anyone in a cross cultural relationship.

Nearly two weeks ago, the headlines were dominated by the case of Gary McKinnon, whom Britain refused to extradite to the United States. In 2002 Gary McKinnon allegedly hacked into several US government computer including NASA and the Pentagon. Mr McKinnon, now 46, admits hacking into US computers but says he had been on a “moral crusade” to find classified documents about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). His search had quickly turned into an obsession, an obsession that cost the US some half a million pounds sterling in computer damage.

A request for his extradition was filed by the US in 2004 and indeed the order was signed in 2006 by then Home Secretary John Reid. If convicted in the US, McKinnon faced up to 70 years in prison.

McKinnon subsequently fought the extradition on human rights grounds. Two Home Office appointed Psychiatrists in concert with three experts concluded that McKinnon suffered Asperger’s and was likely to commit suicide if sent to America to stand trial. In August 2008 Mr McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome . A form of autism, Asperger’s syndrome sufferers commonly become obsessed with certain activities and interests. They also have a level of social naiveté when it comes to evaluating the consequences of their actions.

McKinnon appealed against the extradition order to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, unsuccessfully. One of his major arguments against extradition is that he believed he would not get a fair trial in the US and would be punished much more severely because he had contested the extradition process.

It did seem that McKinnon, like five other Britons just weeks earlier, would be deported to the US to face trial. But in an extraordinary and uncharacteristic display of affection for human rights, as well as interference with the judicial process, Home Secretary Theresa May finally ruled that McKinnon should not be extradited, saying there was no doubt Mr McKinnon was ‘seriously ill’ and his ‘extradition would give rise to such a high risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr McKinnon’s human rights.’

Yet less than two weeks before, the extradition of five other terror suspects to the United States was approved by Home Secretary Theresa May. These included the Egyptian born cleric Abu Hamza al Masri along with Babar Ahmad who has been in prison since 2004, the longest period any British citizen has been held without charge since 9/11.  The ageing Al-Masri has also been in a British jail since 2004 on separate charges of inciting racial hatred and encouraging followers to kill non-Muslims. Al-Masri has been portrayed in the British media as one of the most dangerous men in the country, his characteristic one eye and hook in place of a hand made it easy for the media to vilify him. But Al Masri, like McKinnon is a very ill man, suffering from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.

The men had been fighting extradition for between eight and fourteen years, when finally the British High Court ruled they had no more grounds for appeal and could be sent to the U.S. immediately. Clearly, in signing the order the Home Secretary concluded that Al Masri was less ill than McKinnon, and therefore his human rights were less at risk.

But the comments of Prime Minister David Cameron revealed other considerations. ‘I’m absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country’ said the Prime Minister, ‘Like the rest of the public I’m sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can’t get rid of them. I’m delighted on this occasion we’ve managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice.’

But human rights advocates who were always critical of the applications to deport Al Masri and Ahmed could not have envisioned that government interference in the human rights process could be so motivated by overt racism and Islamophobia.

Yet in a capricious twist, last year another terror suspect, Ismail Abdurahman, a Somali convicted of providing a safe house for a would-be 21/7 bomber, was excused deportation after serving his prison sentence on the grounds that his human rights would be at risk if he was returned to Somalia. Abdurahman is one of at least 11 convicted foreign-born terrorists allowed to remain in the UK under such provisions.

Meanwhile literally dozens of men who have served Britain both faithfully and even risking their lives, are also facing deportation. Veterans Aid has been fighting the cases of some 70 British servicemen who are facing deportation from the UK. Cases like that of Sapper Poloko Hiri who although having served in the British army for four years with an exemplary record, when the UK Border Agency reviewed his application for citizenship they claimed that a speeding offence he had received was a sign of bad character and he should be deported.

Hiri’s case is particularly urgent because it effectively leaves him stateless;  he faces certain arrest, prosecution and up to 25 years in jail if he returns to his native Botswana which deems enlisting in a foreign army a criminal offence. Rendering a person stateless would also be a clear violation of his rights. Hiri’s case came just days after over Fiji-born Lance Corporal Bale Baleiwai, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was threatened with deportation because  a fight with a colleague in 2010 was deemed to be a sign of bad character. And like Baleiwai, Hiri has a child with a British mother. Their deportations will tear these mixed race, cross cultural families apart.

An in an extraordinary convolution of Britain’s human rights and citizenship policies, Britain will also be deporting one esteemed Professor Tulloch. Professor Tulloch who is 70 years old and can trace his ancestry in Britain back to the 14th century, has a long and distinguished family history of serving British interests abroad. Because of this it happened that Professor Tulloch was born to a British Army officer serving in India before independence. The monumental changes in the political landscape could not have been known to the family, but this meant in fact that this conferred upon the infant Tulloch a lesser form of nationality known as a ‘British subject without citizenship’.

Despite this, Tulloch was issued with a British passport, was raised and educated in Britain, married a British wife and had British children. But when in the course of his academic career he took a job in Australia he subsequently took out Australian citizenship, believing in his right to take out dual nationality without risking his British citizenship. But as Tulloch was not a full British citizen his rights to dual nationality were invalid; his passport has since been confiscated and he faces expulsion. Like Hiri and Baleiwai, what makes Prof Tulloch’s plight so hurtful and outrageous is that it is a direct consequence of his family’s very service to this country.

But what do all these extraditions and deportations mean for people in cross cultural relationships?

That all their fundamental human rights are in jeopardy.

Firstly, the cases of Hiri, Baleiwai and Tulloch demonstrate that the consequence of engaging in cross cultural relationships will mean the loss of  protection for their rights to family life. This is an echo of earlier misogynistic  policies that deprived women of their citizenship if they married foreign men.

But secondly and more critically these cases demonstrate blatant discrimination. When comparing for instance, the McKinnon cases with that of Al Mari, Ahmed, Baleiwai and Hiri, discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity as well as religion is evident. In Professor Tulloch’s case, he is penalised for being born abroad whilst in British service, and being of dual heritage with similar parallels to the Baleiwai and Hiri cases. All of whom also have their rights to nationality and to not be stripped of citizenship nor rendered stateless, breached.

But if overriding rights to family life, to citizenship and nationality and crucially to equality are clearly in jeopardy, what becomes more apparent is the government’s arbitrary interference in the judicial process. A matter which leaves people of dual heritage and in cross cultural at risk of unfair and biased legal proceedings, contrary to their fundamental rights.

In stark contrast to other deportation and extradition cases, the government seemed only too relieved to be able to use human rights standards in McKinnon’s case which did not so much indicate a policy reversal but rather its underlying discriminatory and arbitrary practices.

The government and in particular the Home Secretary have made no comments on the touching cases of Prof. Tulloch, Baleiwai nor Hiri  and have not deigned to interfere in the normal judicial processes in these instances. Unlike in the early days of the coalition when Prime Minister Cameron expressed his unease about the ruling of one Justice Eady who granted a restraining order to a footballer whose extramarital affairs were about to be revealed. Cameron’s unease was so much that in fact the Prime Minister stated that in the future judges would be prevented by the government from issuing such discretionary orders.

What he was really saying was that in the future the judiciary will loose its independence and will be told what to do by the legislature. The Prime Minister attempted to defend his position by saying that such concessions afford to the wealthy the ability to buy their privacy through the courts, making a mockery of the law. But his real motivation for his disdain of these and similar judgements was to strike a series of blows at human rights. The Conservative government has been forthright in its position to rid Britain of the encumbrances of human rights legislation such as the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

However what is little spoken about, indeed understood, is that should the current regime extricate Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights this will be a back door to extricate Britain from the European Union. Membership of the European Union is predicated upon membership in good standing of the Council of Europe which requires its members to sign, ratify and comply with the Convention.

Not only would Britons lose their human rights but the failure to maintain the entry requirements to the world’s largest markets and trading bloc will have a catastrophic effect on the UK economy. The complex security architecture of Europe ensures that relations in all spheres; political, military, economic are enmeshed and interlocked. Losing human rights will not only harm the rights of all individuals, including the already precarious rights of people of dual heritage and in cross cultural relationships, but will also hamper cross cultural relations in the business and economic spheres.

Taken together, these cases show the crux to be that the government will interfere in human rights, through outright discrimination, as well as by interfering in the judicial process. People in cross cultural relationships or of dual heritage will not be afforded their rights to be heard impartially by an independent judiciary.

The effect will be to prevent the safeguarding of equality and protection from discrimination particularly when people are in cross cultural relationships or of a different place of birth, ethnicity, race or religion. As the clear evidence of discrimination and prejudice colours the cases of Al Masri and Ahmed, that someone as British as Professor Tulloch can also be stripped of citizenship and deported, naturally begs the question, what type of recognition and protection can there be left for people of mixed heritage or in a mixed relationship?

These cases signpost a regressive trend that there is and will be no reliability of equality, of protection from discrimination and this will, as it already has, have particularly devastating consequences on the rights and quality of life for people of mixed heritage or in cross cultural relationships.

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