This isn't fair - this isn't justice

22 February 2012

Author: 
Emma Norton, legal officer

The plights of Eileen Clark and Christopher Tappin are two further terrifying reminders of the dangers of lopsided instant extradition.

Eileen is fighting extradition to the US on “international parental kidnapping” charges. A US citizen, she left her husband John in 1995; taking her three children with her from New Mexico to California. Three years later they moved to Britain, but Eileen’s husband pursued his case through US courts. The Home Secretary ordered her extradition last May and today the High Court has held that she must be returned.

Yet the original charge against Eileen wasn’t even a criminal offence in the UK. That’s why US prosecutors upgraded it to kidnapping instead. Divorce can be messy, but should Eileen really be dragged before a US court so many years on? Just as Gary McKinnon’s UFO hunt became cyber-terrorism, now a mother-of-three is transformed into a transatlantic fugitive. Eileen’s removal would have a devastating impact on her children. Is this really what our extradition laws are for?

Meanwhile retired businessman Christopher Tappin, 65, will be flown to the US on Friday. Accused of conspiracy to export missile parts to Iran, he says he was merely a freight provider; arranging the shipping of industrial batteries from Texas to the Netherlands. Again, the evidence hasn’t been tested here in a local court and we’ve seen no judicial discretion as to whether Christopher’s case could be better done by a trial here. Even if a US jury eventually finds the golf enthusiast not guilty he’ll spend years awaiting trial in a Texas prison, thousands of miles from home and his sick wife.

This isn’t fair – this isn’t justice. We’ve put together a Liberty guide on how to avoid the dangers of unfair instant extradition:

1. Don’t travel abroad

2. Don’t use the Internet in any way that might raise the slightest suspicion of offending the speech, copyright, security or other laws of a whole host of countries – from Hungary to Azerbaijan, from Russia to Turkey, from the US to the Ukraine

3. Don’t have any business or personal relationships overseas

4. Don’t build strong family, community or other ties or responsibilities in the UK. They’ll only make the pain of instant extradition to a prison abroad harder to bear

5. Best not to be too human – otherwise get involved in Liberty’s Extradition Watch campaign to put some fairness, compassion and common sense back into the law.