» Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jordanian Memorandum of Understanding

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman told journalists that this morning, we had reached agreement in principle with the Government of Jordan on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would regulate the arrangements under which the Jordanians can provide us with the assurances we require regarding the treatment of individuals we might want to deport back to Jordan. The FCO would publish more details, and we would be working to sign this with Jordan as quickly as possible.

Asked if this was "for people like Omar Bakri Mohammed", or was it for other Jordanian people we wanted to be sent back to Jordan, the PMOS said it would be for people of Jordanian nationality.

Asked if there was anyone the PMOS could mention who may or may not be Jordanian, the PMOS said that if he did, he could end up in court and he did not want to do that.

Asked if it would be discovered that there were people in mind that might be deported, the PMOS said that we would begin preliminary work that we needed to do at this end, and once the signing had happened, we would seek the assurances which would allow us to take further action as soon as possible.

Asked again if the Government had people in mind, the PMOS said again that the Home Secretary was looking at being able to deport individuals by an MOU for a number of countries, and this was the first of those countries.

Asked how the government was going to "get these people" if they had warning we were going to take action, the PMOS said that the authorities kept eyes on those they needed to keep eyes on.

Asked how many people were involved, the PMOS said he could not say, as that would be wrong.

Asked what other countries were involved, the PMOS replied that we were seeking MOU from a number of other countries, including countries in North Africa.

Asked if Syria might be one of those countries, the PMOS said he was not going to get into commenting about the countries.

Asked if there was a precedent "for this sort of thing", the PMOS said we had been working on this for a period of time and this was therefore the fruition of work that had been going on before the 7th July, but it had been given added urgency since the 7th. The PMOS said that Charles Clarke would announce that there were a range of measures in which we were trying to make progress. Part of that was a deepening and widening of the monitoring process so we could keep track of what people were saying. Furthermore, as Charles Clarke said last week, there would a tightening of the Home Secretary’s powers to exclude people who made inflammatory comments or comments condoning violence. The measures would also pursue MOU for a number of countries, hence the significance of what the announcement would say. Finally, the measures would introduce new legislation to lower the bar of incitement, precisely so we could prosecute those who glorify and condone attacks. This included those, who for whatever reason, we could not deport.

Asked for further information regarding the MOU timeline, the PMOS replied that in terms of the sequence, obviously the first step was to get agreement of principle. That was what we had got.

Asked if we might be looking at months before we had something, the PMOS said we would be trying at all stages to do this with as much urgency as possible. At the same time, we had to balance with the knowledge that this would be tested in the Courts and therefore it had to withstand scrutiny in Court. We therefore had to get that balance right.

Asked what the actual reason would be if we sent someone back, the PMOS said if someone we believed was behaving in such a way that was not conducive to the public good. What stopped us doing that at the moment was if a court believed there was any chance that the person would be mistreated. The purpose of the MOU was to convince a court that there was an agreement with a country that the person would not be mistreated.

Asked if it would be retrospective, i.e. not something that people had said in the past, the PMOS said the journalist should wait for Charles Clarke’s statement, as he would address at lot of these issues. The PMOS said he did not want to pre-empt the statement.

Asked if the assurances from the Jordanian government were ones that in any judicial proceedings, they would treat suspects by our standards of jurisprudence, or rather, was it an assurance that they would not apply the death penalty, the PMOS said they would be assurances that people would not be mistreated in commonly accepted terms of mistreatment. People knew our position on the death penalty.

Asked if we had received an assurance that they would not be subject to the death penalty either, the PMOS replied that remained our position.

Asked if there would be any mechanisms put in place to check that the countries were providing the assurance they had given us, the PMOS said that was part of the MOU.

Asked what would happen if one of the MOUs was challenged and someone was mistreated after being deported, surely that undermined the whole system, the PMOS said the question was the ultimate hypothetical one. The PMOS said we about to sign on the assumption that it was going to go right, not wrong. Given out relations with Jordan over the years, we had every confidence that it would go well.

Did that assume therefore that people in Jordan might otherwise be mistreated, the PMOS said it was precisely to avoid such assumptions being made that we had worked long and hard to convince the Jordanian Government that that was not our implication. What we were doing was however, giving the assurance that was necessary to satisfy the courts.

Asked if the Jordanians had been given any incentive, the PMOS said not that he was aware of, as it was a diplomatic agreement.

Asked "what was in it for them, and why should they want to take these people back", the PMOS replied that the people were Jordanian nationals.

Asked if the MOU would contain any requirements on due process, the PMOS replied that the due process was something that was being discussed between now and the signing.

Asked if we put any requirements on the Jordanians’ due process, the PMOS said he was not aware of the details at the other end.

Asked what we could do if the correct person could not be deported, the PMOS replied that we were lowering the bar of incitement precisely so we could take action against those in that position. It was a multi-range kit. We recognised that there were concerns, but we were everything we could at each point.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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