Why is Extradition Watch important?
Extradition is an important part of fighting cross-border crime, but changes in recent years have damaged time-honoured protections against unfair extradition.
Despite much rhetoric from politicians of all stripes on the need to reform our extradition laws, so far we’ve seen little positive change and – worse – a proposal to actually strip away one of the few safeguards we have.
Shockingly, the very provision that allowed Gary McKinnon to remain in the UK is now under attack. The automatic right of appeal against an extradition order is a vital protection that allows people to present all the up-to-date evidence to the High Court and challenge the reasoning of the initial order.
Yet the Government has slipped a clause into the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which would see this right scrapped altogether.
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Tell me more about Extradition Watch
The Extradition Act (2003) streamlined the extradition process by side-stepping traditional British justice. ‘Fast-track’ extradition is justice denied.
- Read Liberty's letter to the Home Secretary regarding the Baker Extradition Review (Nov 2011)
- Liberty's response to the Home Office review of extradition legislation (Dec 2010)
- Liberty's submission on CPS Interim Guidelines on Shared Jurisdiction
Why the law needs to change
- Someone should not be extradited to another country for actions that are not criminal in the UK
- A basic case should be made to a British court before someone can be sent abroad to face trial in another country
- If a significant part of the conduct that led to the alleged crime took place in the UK, then a British court should be able to decide if it is in the interests of justice to extradite.
Reform on the horizon
In October 2012 the Home Secretary Theresa May MP made several announcements which at last recognise that our extradition arrangements are unfair and need to be changed.
First, the Home Secretary announced that the Government would review the operation of the European Arrest Warrant, alongside other European Justice and Home Affairs powers.
Secondly, the Home Secretary announced that she is refusing to allow Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the United States on the basis that to do so would breach his human rights. Liberty welcomed this compassionate and common sense announcement – made possible by the Human Rights Act.
The Home Secretary also announced that she would make significant changes to our extradition arrangements. She has promised to enact the “forum” safeguard to ensure that if all or part of the alleged criminal conduct took place in the UK then a British judge will be able to decide if it is in the interests of justice for extradition to go ahead. This overdue announcement has come too late for those already extradited for alleged conduct that principally took place in the UK, like Babar Ahmed, Talha Ahsan and Christopher Tappin, but we will press for the reform to happen urgently so that no further injustices occur.
Other parts of the Home Secretary’s statement raise concern that while giving with one hand she will take away with the other. Hidden in her statement was a proposal to scrap the automatic right of appeal against extradition and a recommendation that the very power she used to stop Gary’s extradition on human rights grounds should be removed. Liberty eagerly awaits further detail on these changes in promised forthcoming legislation. Our campaign will continue until we get a fair and just extradition system in place.
What is the 'forum bar'?
In 2006 amendments were made to the Extradition Act that would allow a UK court to bar extradition (if appropriate) on the grounds that some or all the alleged conduct had taken place in the UK. Yet these amendments have never been brought into force. If a “forum bar” had been on the statute book, it would have been possible for a UK judge to halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon, Christopher Tappin and Babar Ahmad.
While there is nothing to prevent the Government from activating this amendment and changing the law, it has announced that rather than bring this amendment into force it will table a new forum bar. We are urging the Government to act swiftly to help protect against future cases like Gary McKinnon’s. Find out more about the forum amendment.
We asked our supporters to send us their pictures of our Extradition Watch paper plane to help show support for our campaign and Gary McKinnon's case, have a look at the fantastic photos we received in our Flight Warning gallery.
Find out about more extradition cases on Friends Extradited.