Daily Mail: 'How we wasted £10m aid 'helping' Jordan take back Abu Qatada'

18-11-2012 12:00 AM

Ammon News - * Money spent on Jordanian human rights reforms
* £10million is on top of Qatada's £3million legal bill

By Robert Verkaik, Daily Mail

British taxpayers have spent more than £10million on Jordan in a futile battle to return hate preacher Abu Qatada to the Middle East state.

The cash, funded through Foreign Office handouts and EU grants, has financed a range of human rights reforms to try to bring one of Britain’s closest military allies in line with European standards of justice.

But last week Qatada’s deportation was blocked after a court ruled there was a real risk that evidence obtained through torture might be used against him.

The controversial cleric must stay in London with his family under house arrest.

Britain’s security services still regard him as capable of supporting Al Qaeda terror operations in the UK.

The £10million handouts are on top of the £3million legal bill for Qatada’s failed deportation and the on-going £5million-a-year cost of keeping him in the UK.

But despite millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money and the Government’s frustration, Jordan is still not a fit country to receive Muslim terror suspects.

Last year the Foreign Office spent a record £1.5million directly from Treasury coffers to help pay for a justice system free from the risk of torture and other human rights abuses.

And since 2008, Britain has contributed £4.26million to an EU human rights aid budget for Jordan.

This year the EU pledged £3.8million from the UK contribution to improve human rights and democracy in Jordan.

Among the projects part paid for by UK taxpayers is a human rights centre in Jordan’s capital Amman directly funded by the Foreign Office.

Other EU and FCO projects are aimed at reforming the justice system, electoral system and an open national media.

They include a €158,000 grant for ‘strengthening the capacity of local societies to better understand human rights issues’ and a €193,000 grant to ‘reverse the gender bias against Jordanian women married to foreigners’.

This week, nearly ten years after Britain first began the process of deporting Qatada, Home Office officials were dispatched to Jordan once again to try to resolve the human rights issue.

Earlier this year, Europe’s human rights judges ruled that Qatada could not be returned to Jordan because of its sub-standard criminal justice system, a ruling followed by British judges last week.

In February, Baroness Ashton, head of EU foreign policy, heaped praise on Jordan’s progress on human rights in support of the on-going aid programme.

On a trip to Jordan, she said: ‘Many in the world look to Jordan. You have announced these important reforms, you follow a Jordanian model that we admire very much... a model for the region, a democratic constitutional monarchy.’

But in May this year, officials working for Baroness Ashton reported concerns about Jordan’s human rights record, including allegations of the ‘severe abuse of detainees’.

In the document seen by The Mail on Sunday, it was also reported that the Jordanian government had not fully signed up to an international treaty outlawing torture.

In the same month an EU sub-committee pressed Jordan to introduce reforms to ‘prevent any acts of torture’.

A recent Human Rights Watch’s report said that ‘despite a lack of progress, and a number of reverses’, EU assistance to Jordan increased by 12 per cent.

As recently as last month Amnesty International condemned Jordan for a crackdown against pro-reform activists. It said: ‘The 20 men will be tried by the country’s State Security Court, a special court whose procedures fail to meet international fair-trial standards.’

Last night the European Commission admitted that despite all the money lavished on the country, Jordan had failed to tackle its human rights problems.

A spokesman said: ‘The rationale for these actions is a mutual recognition that there is major work to be done to bring the Jordanian judicial system into line with best international standards.

‘There is no attempt to hide the fact that in a wide range of political and social spheres, human rights in Jordan need to be improved on.

‘The Jordanian authorities have recognised this and are taking steps, with our help, to remedy the situation.’

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