Extradition Act 2003 undermines fundamental rights

30 November 2006

Liberty Policy Director Gareth Crossman said:


"The Extradition Act 2003 undermines longstanding safeguards against unfair removal and unfortunately appears to be more about politics than law.”


Liberty Press Office on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128


NOTES TO EDITORS


In October 2006, Liberty, the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Bar Human Rights Council, Justice, Gareth Peirce and others unsuccessfully sought Parliamentary support for a law to provide greater protection for British citizens who may be extradited to face criminal charges abroad.


Liberty intervened in the case Government of the United States of America v Bermingham, Mulgrew and Darby, to argue that removal to the United States would engage Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which protects the right to respect for a private and family life. Liberty argued that the interference with family life caused by removal to the United States must be disproportionate if shown to be unnecessary through the ability to dispose of the case to the United Kingdom. The three were sent to the USA in July 2006.


Home Office statistics show that the US government has made 47 extradition requests since January 2004. The UK government has made 12 such requests of the US.


Liberty Briefing- The Extradition Treaty 2003:

The UK's extradition laws have been radically overhauled in recent years. The Extradition Act 2003 created a system of fast track processing of extradition applications. This means that British citizens can be removed from the UK to many jurisdictions without the need for a court to hear that there is any evidence against them. The United States is one country where the fast track process has been introduced. However, Liberty does not think that debate over extradition should focus on the US and the non reciprocal nature of our extradition procedures as this might allow principled debate to be construed as anti Americanism. In any case, summary extradition should not take place from any state.


Liberty does not believe anyone should be removed from the United Kingdom without a British Court being satisfied that there is evidence. When Liberty argued this during the passage of the Extradition Bill the government responded that the removal of safeguard would be balanced by the introduction of a protection that no-one would be removed from the UK if doing so would breach their human rights.


When extradition proceeding were taken against the Natwest 3, Liberty intervened in the High Court. We argued that this human rights protection meant that if a case could be tried in the United Kingdom, it would breach rights to a family life if someone were taken overseas. No-one should face the prospects of being held in an overseas prison awaiting trial, away from family and friends, if they can face trial in the UK. The growing international and multi-jurisdictional nature of the criminal law means that cases of this type will become increasing common.


Liberty also argued that the positive duties imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998 should require the prosecuting authorities to take steps to see if prosecution were possible. We do not believe that nearly enough has been done to bring proceedings against the Natwest 3. Writing in the Financial Times on 10 July 2006 Baroness Scotland said 'It is for the prosecuting authorities to consider whether a case should be heard in the UK.' Liberty would argue that when a failure to do so will result in a person instead facing trial on the other side of the world, the state should do more than 'consider' but take positive steps to see if prosecution is possible. Liberty would also remind Parliamentarians that when considering criminal charges, the UK prosecuting authorities need to consider not only the evidence, but also the public interest. There appears to be no public interest test in relation to extradition.


Unfortunately the case is not proceeding to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords which means that there will not be an opportunity to put forward these arguments.


Parliament urgently needs to review the grounds for permitting extradition and the protections against unfair extradition. In particular there is a need to address


The lack of evidence needed to permit extradition
The lack of an obligation in domestic law requiring a case to be heard in the UK if possible.