European Court of Human Rights not interfering with British law, says chief


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The President of the European Court of Human Rights has denounced claims it is “interfering” in British law, arguing that the court is wrong to face criticism for blocking the deportation of Abu Qatada.

Sir Nicholas Bratza, the British lawyer who has led the Strasbourg court since last summer, told MPs yesterday that he could understand public frustration when human rights legislation sometimes prevents dangerous people from being deported.

However, he said that there was “nothing exceptional” in the court ensuring that people are not sent back to countries where they face “a real risk of death or ill-treatment”.

Sir Nicholas appeared before the Joint Committee on Human Rights in advance of a summit in Brighton next month where the Government will push for national courts to reclaim powers from Strasbourg, arguing that the pan-European body is too unaccountable.

Conservative MP Dominic Raab criticised Mr Bratza for an article he wrote for The Independent in January, in which the judge had argued it was “disappointing to hear senior British politicians lending their voices to criticisms more frequently heard in the popular press, often based on a misunderstanding of the court's role and history, and of the legal issues at stake”.

But Mr Bratza was unmoved yesterday, refuting the assertion by opponents of the court that it was routinely ruling against Parliament by saying that just eight out of 955 cases led to findings against the Government.

"There's a pretty mischievous report that, since 1966, dealing with the United Kingdom, that we have found violations in three out of four cases brought against the country,” he said. “This, to my mind, is a gross distortion and one that does clear damage to the standing of our court.”