The Home Office is currently inviting members of the public to have their say on a review into the UK’s extradition arrangements.
The closing date was 31st December 2010, but it has now, almost silently, been extended to the 31st January 2011. The original November 2010 press release from the Home Office has been edited but no note of the fact the edit has been made is present – this is very worrying behaviour from Government and amounts to seeking to change history.
I responded in December, before the initial deadline, making the following key points:
- Extradition for questioning ought not be permitted; having been rendered unnecessary by telephone and video conferencing technology.
- An individual should not be extradited to a country if they have not visited that country in connection with the alleged crime. (ie. those writing a book, or publishing a webpage, in the UK ought not become subject to extradition to any other country due to what they have published, irrespective of the content).
- Extradition should not be considered for actions which are not considered serious offences in the UK.
I also made brief responses to areas on which comments were sought:
The Home Secretary’s powers to stop extradition
There should be limited powers for the Home Secretary to stop extradition for example for National Security reasons, or in cases where the Home Secretary has reason to believe an Extradition request is politically motivated; or that there are reasons, such as political interference make a fair trial unlikely.
I would prefer as far as possible for a UK court to be able to hear, and decide upon, the kinds of arguments which could be put to the Home Secretary; the Home Secretary should only be acting in a very small number of cases eg. where an assessment of the impact on National Security requires all the information available to the Home Secretary and could not be done by a court.
The operation of the European Arrest Warrant, which deals with extradition requests between European countries
I think the UK ought decide what is best for the UK irrespective of current commitments to other European Countries. I think the powers of the EAW ought be limited by the restrictions I have suggested in my other responses.
Where a crime is mainly committed in the UK, whether the person should be tried here
I think where a crime is mainly committed in the UK the person should be tried here
Whether the US-UK Extradition Treaty is unbalanced
I do not think “balance” is something which ought be considered. What is important is the UK’s position and ensuring that individuals are only extradited from the UK when the UK believes that is the right course of action.
Whether requesting countries should be required to provide sufficient evidence to prove an allegation
I think extradition should only be considered in cases where a UK court has determined there is a case to answer. Extradition ought only occur in cases which would have gone to trial in the UK had all events occurred in the UK.
Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Joint Committee on Human Rights met on the 1st of February 2011 to discuss the the human rights implications of UK extradition policy. Cambridge MP Julian Huppert was present as a member of the committee.
One notable slip from witnesses from lobby group JUSTICE giving evidence to the committee was their description of extradition as “returning individuals” to countries where they are suspected of committing crimes. However extradition requests do come from countries the individual in question has not visited, eg. where the alleged crime was carried out over the internet.
In response to a question from Julian Huppert about balance in the USA / UK treaties witnesses from lobby group JUSTICE said that the focus on balance mainly a foreign policy point between USA and UK and not the key point about protecting individuals.
Witnesses from lobby group JUSTICE referred to Gary McKinnon‘s case noting that if someone is acquitted here they are protected from extradition, but if the UK CPS decline to prosecute in relation to a case they could still be extradited for it.
MPs were told we have extradition treaties in place which we we don’t expect to use to extradite people from the UK due to human rights considerations eg. Libya
MPs were told that often having a lawyer in the extraditing country and challenging the extradition there, rather than in the UK, can be more effective.
Evidence from those who have experience of extradition proceedings
One witness reporting that despite a number of countries refusing to extradite her under a European Arrest Warrant the warrant remained in place leaving her unable to travel and visit family.
Powerful testimony from another witness who was extradited to Hungary – saying the UK courts were not interested at all in his defence to a charge of fraud in Hungary – he wasn’t aware of the detail of the charges. He appears to have done all the right things; and suffered for it. He says he was “hidden in prison”, denied phone calls home, and his father went out to Hungary to look for him.
More very powerful testimony from a witness who had been acquitted of an offence, and was unaware she had been sentenced to six years in prison on appeal in France. She was arrested in Spain, but the Spanish refused to extradite her; but on her return to the UK she had to fight extradition again. As the French would not remove the warrant she was stuck in the UK for three years, until campaigning and media pressure pushed the French to withdraw the warrant.
A further witness also reported that media pressure, and the help of “Fair Trials International” had been what resulted in his European Arrest Warrant being withdrawn.
The last witness reported terrible behaviour by the Greek police and justice system; reporting his son was put with three others in a cell in the back of a police van in 40C heat, and reporting filthy cramped and crowded police cells. Hopefully on hearing this MPs will prompt consideration of if it is appropriate to continue extricate people to Greece.
However one complaint from the final witness that his son was categorised as dangerous when first imprisoned is very similar to what we do in the UK, where often those jailed go to high security prisons first and are then downgraded as appropriate. Other aspects such as not granting bail to a foreigner without a permanent address in this country, and the prisons being full of drugs, happens in the UK.
This last witness stated the European Arrest Warrant ought only be used when the requesting country is trial ready; and certainly not as it was in his son’s case – to summon him for questioning.
[Video of the session can be viewed on the Parliament Live website. ]
For a few minutes my notes above stated the witnesses were from Justice.gov.uk and not JUSTICE the campaign group