The Queen’s intervention concerns more than just Abu Hamza

analyses what we can learn from the Queen’s intervention in the case of Abu Hamza

Photo credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones via Flickr Creative Commons

As the extremist preacher Abu Hamza is finally extradited to the United States, where he is accused of assisting in terrorist offences, it has emerged that Her Majesty the Queen had been privately lobbying the then Home Secretary to arrest the cleric.

What was surprising was not necessarily the extradition itself (which most presumed to be inevitable anyway), but rather that the nature of such an intervention seems grossly inappropriate for an individual whose role is to solely be a representational figurehead. Public debate on the issue has split; the anti-monarchist group, Republic, have argued that the intervention demonstrates the partisan reality of the institution, whilst pro-monarchists feel the event provides further legitimacy for the Royal Family to play a more active role in public life. Regardless of this disparity, the Queen’s intervention is remarkable, purely on the grounds that in voicing her concern, she has ultimately highlighted some of the less considered failures inherent in our public institutions – those of democratic representation and the rule of law.

We should be wary of using Hamza as a way to criticise or characterise these failures. For while Hamza is overwhelmingly guilty of inciting violence and assisting with potentially dangerous activities, the problems that exist with our public institutions go far beyond this hate preacher.

Consider, for example, the less-heard of detainees who will accompany Hamza to the United States, in particular, Babar Ahmad. Mr. Ahmad, having been under arrest without trial since 2004, faces accusations from the United States of being involved with Islamic militant websites supporting Chechen and Afghan insurgents, despite an overwhelming lack of material evidence, and a peculiar demand for a US trial, on the grounds of a computer server location.

One could be forgiven for dismissing this case simply as a point of law- a field where most, including myself, often find themselves lost in its obscurity. Rather, it is perhaps, the failure of representative government in reconciling objective jurisprudence with civil liberty. Particularly, this is evident in the modified 2003 Extradition Act, legislation first introduced by the then home office minister, John Denham. Initially designed to make the process of extradition easier between nation states, in the political context of the ‘war on terror’, it found itself a powerful instrument to conduct ideological politics.

The challenges of confronting modern terrorism, made more complex with copious international networks, has also presented opportunities for certain nations to strengthen their ‘special relationship’ both through mutual objectives and greater judicial compliance.

In the case of the United Kingdom and the United States, the aims of strengthening the ‘special relationship’ have come at the expense of common law; despite assurances by the United States that it would adhere to the 2003 act, twice, British foreign secretaries have had to apologise to Parliament in cases relating to inhumane torture and rendition. In 2008, the select committee on foreign affairs expressed concern about the continuing assurances of the US in complying with the extradition act, given reports of continuing interrogation.

Most recently, in the cases not just of Babar Ahmad, but also Gary Mckinnon, Talha Ashan, concern has been expressed by numerous legal and political bodies around both the nature of their alleged crimes, as well as the evidence being used to prosecute them. Yet, senior members of the British government have not responded to these trepidations, instead opting to comply with American extradition requests. Hence, as the accused now head to the United States, they may face an even longer detention without trial, before confronting the worst of all punishments.

Whatever we think of the Queen’s involvement in Abu Hamza’s case, her inquiries do raise important concerns we should have over the health of our public institutions today. For, what ultimately lies behind the caricature of the ‘hooked man’, is a vicious infection within British law and democracy. And while this may suit politicians in the short term, we should let neither more Babar Ahmads, or the integrity of our public institutions, be sacrificed to entertain political point scoring.


  1. While it is expected that the Republican movement will try to make a meal of the revelation that Her Majesty voiced concerns over Abu Hamza there is in fact no real story to report, nor any scandal regarding the relationship between government and Monarchy.

    Something that Republicans gloss over is the fact that politicians are answerable to the Queen in a manner which would be entirely absent if the Monarchy did not exist. the prime Minister is expected to personally explain themselves to the monarch every week, and most Prime Ministers took this obligation seriously. Blair blatantly ignored it, which said something ominous about Blair.

    In this meeting Her Majesty can demand answers to any question, irregardless of how sensitive it is, and the answer if known cannot be withheld.

    It is part of this process that was leaked to the BBC, Her Majesty asked the government why Abu Hamza wasn’t deported yet and this was jumped upon as political maneuvering rather than the actual role of keeping elected officials directly accountable to someone.

    I find it disturbing that one of these meetings has been leaked, as the contents are highly classified. After all if HM wanted to know exactly how many nuclear weapons we had and where they were, or the estimates of oil reserves or other highly sensitive data at such meetings, a proper reply is expected.

    Someone is out to make mischief and raised an honest and reasonable question by the Queen to her elected representatives as if it were a partisan comment. The BBC should have known better than to air it.

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  2. The British queen – who has all her expenses paid by the poor taxpayer – should stay out of politics. Another reason why she should that is because history reveals that ALL terrorists are ‘white’.

    What do you think the following terrorists have in common?
    – Ku Klux Klan
    – Stern Gang
    – Irgun
    – Raymond Davis
    – Anders Breivik
    – Adolf Hitler
    – Tony Blair
    – Ariel Sharon
    – 9/11 (WTC7)
    – Eric Prince Blackwater
    – Wade Michael Page

    Answer: they are WHITE. Maybe the British queen keep that in mind before worrying about the freedom of smeared, imprisoned and unjustly extradited ‘brown’ Muslims.

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  3. Our politicians should be accountable to the people, NOT a feudalist,oath-breaking monarch. This whole fiasco has made the whole judiciary and government look spineless, unjust, and incompetent. It is time to change this archaic system now.

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  4. Can we extradite the pointless royal family as well?

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  5. Tom,

    I fully agree with your comments. The replies received so far merely highlight the truth in what you say.

    As the “Head” of the UK why shouldn’t she ask what everyone else here is thinking? Why is he still here? Why are Laws there to protect the general public, allowed to apply to those who fail to follow them?

    I have NEVER found cause to comment on ANY website but this link through google, just showed the complete lack of understanding of the UK political system.

    The British will decide for themselves when the Royal family is no longer relevant but with someone in her 80’s still able to fully grasp the nations concerns, I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Finally, the “poor” British paid 1.7 pence, per population member, last year to “keep” the Royals. I think it is money well spent considering what they bring in & they way they are received overseas.

    Does any other Head of State command the same respect, without leading a religion, vast army or political system? In short NO!

    Of course those are unhappy with the political system, are more than able to leave. Perhaps they will find living elsewhere a better use of their time & beliefs as petty, ill researched or unknowledgable comments add nothing. Then again perhaps they are trainee journalists for News International, Al Jazeera or some such…

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  6. 3 Oct ’12 at 2:58 am

    Different Tom

    @ Junis

    That is a very, very silly thing to say. Bringing race into this is pretty contemptible when it is not even an issue within this article. Also, Adolf Hitler wasn’t a terrorist. If you’re going to include political leaders into your discussion of ‘terrorists’ then I could also argue that Genghis Khan was in the same category. He is not white (not that that should even be an issue for anything). And what about the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008? Committed by Islamic terrorists from Pakistan, who were not white.

    And 9/11 (WTC 7) an example of white terrorism – Really? Really? This is a place for intelligent discussion, not baseless theories, which are not even relevant to this article.

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  7. @me

    The fact that you put “Head” in inverted commas answers your own question as to the relevance of the queen. In point of fact, political power is held by the government, as indeed it should be. Either we believe in democracy or we do not and I find it incredible that, in the 21st century, anyone should be arguing for unelected monarchs, hereditary privilege and accountability to someone who cannot herself be removed from office by the public.

    And the point that the cost per head of population is low is simply misleading. By the same logic, David Cameron and the government could justify literally flushing thousands of pounds down the downing street toilets, since the cost per taxpayer would be negligible.

    As for heads of state commanding respect, this also proves nothing, often those who have commanded respect have been the most tyranical and contemptible, Hitler, Khommeini, Mussolini, etc… I don’t of course mean that the quenn is as bad as any of these people, just that this argument is invalid.

    And surely it’s obvious that someone who is unhappy with the political system should not leave, but work to improve it. Not everybody acts according to selfish motives

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  8. The Queen did not intervene at all. She voiced concern on matter that was troubling a large number of people. She asked why he was allowed to keep on appealing she didn’t intervene in anything. She advises the Prime Minister and as such keeps on top of current developments within the country and gives him the benefit of 60 years experience. She didn’t do anything other than ask a question or is that not allowed? Many are still asking why it took 8 years to get the guy out of the country along with the other suspects.

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