The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered the UK government to compensate convicted child rapist Mustafa Abdi for his legal expenses in light of his detention being ruled a breach of the man's right to liberty and security.
In 1998 Abdi, a Somali national was sentenced to eight years in jail after being found guilty of rape and 'indecent behavior' with a child. However, after four years, David Blunkett, Labour MP and, at the time, Home Secretary, called for Abdi's deportation and subsequently issued authority for his detention until deportation.
Abdi was unable to be deported between August 2004 and July 2006 as there was no possibility for government-enforced removal of Abdi from the United Kingdom to Somalia, for the reason that in August 2004 the last carrier willing to transfer "enforced returns" to Somalia withdrew. Successively, in November 2004, Abdi rejected a formal request asking that he sign a disclaimer authorizing his willingness to return voluntarily.
Abdi's complaints about his detention held that his detention, in particular the length of it, breached his rights to liberty and security under article 5 of the European Commission on Human Rights. He also pushed forward with a further complaint relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) stating that if he were to return to Somalia, he would be at risk of demeaning treatment.
As a result of his complaints, the court, having received his application, ruled that Abdi's detention between September 2003 and April 2007 was unlawful under UK domestic law, as the standard reviews required by the Secretary of State’s published policy were not carried out. Consequently, the criminal is now being awarded € 1,500 ($ 1,962) in non-pecuniary damages on behalf of the UK government, as well as an additional € 7,000 ($9.153) to cover his legal fees.
While situations such as this, in particular the damages paid to a criminal, can undoubtedly be a cause for complaints against the rulings of the European Court, it is ultimately the court's responsibility to maintain a reputation of thorough review and legal consistency; as the court states "where the lawfulness of detention is in issue, including whether procedure prescribed by law" has been followed, the European Convention refers essentially to national law and lays down the obligation to conform to rules of national law." If the court were to otherwise shift their regulations, they would be compromised in terms of reliability.
David Blunkett has stated that his "only regret is that we didn't get him out fast enough" — and in July 2006 the British Government concluded an agreement with African Express Airlines which made enforced removals to Somalia possible again. It seems neither the UK government nor the European Court of Human Rights is to blame in this compensation crisis; rather the fact that a convicts unwillingness to return voluntarily allowed him to not return at all and resulting question the validity of the length of his detention.