Liberty welcomes influential committee’s call for urgent extradition reform

30 March 2012

Today Liberty welcomed the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s urgent call for a major overhaul of the UK’s unfair extradition arrangements with the US.

A report by the highly influential cross-party committee has urged the Government to act without delay to try and restore public faith in our lopsided extradition treaty. The plights of the likes of Gary McKinnon, Richard O’Dwyer and Christopher Tappin amongst others have fuelled growing concern over the injustice of the current system.

The Home Affairs Select Committee has recommended a series of measures – each of which Liberty has long fought for as part of its Extradition Watch campaign for fairer extradition laws:

  • The treaty should be amended so that the same test applies for extradition from both jurisdictions. Currently the wording implements a “probable cause” test for extradition from the US – but not from the UK;
     
  • The Government should activate the “forum bar”; introduced back in 2006 but never brought into force. This would allow a UK court to bar extradition if some or all of the alleged conduct took place here, and if it was in the interests of justice to do so;
     
  • A prima facie evidence test, requiring that a basic case be made to a UK court before someone can be sent abroad for trial, should be introduced in the long-run;
     
  • The Home Secretary should publish the evidence provided to the Scott Baker review of extradition laws – the findings of which Liberty rejected as “baffling” in October last year – immediately.

Speaking after Liberty’s packed Extradition Watch public meeting in Sheffield, Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“The Home Affairs Select Committee has one of the most important voices in the House of Commons and people all over Britain will welcome this report.

“From South Yorkshire to the Home Counties, ordinary families face the devastation of instant extradition without evidence, common sense or compassion. If an autistic man can be branded a cyber-terrorist and a mother fleeing abuse a kidnapper, who is safe from this madness?

“Liberty has long called for each of the committee's recommendations. No-one should be sent abroad without a basic case tested in a local court and it’s time the Government loosened the straightjacket around our judges to let more cases be tried at home”.

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Liberty’s Extradition Watch campaign demands:

- That a person should not be sent to stand trial in a foreign court without a basic case being presented in a British court;

- If the crime is alleged to have occurred in whole or part in the UK, then extradition should not occur if a British court decides it is not in the interests of justice to extradite;

- A person in the UK should not be extradited for something that is not a crime in the UK;

- For more information on Liberty’s Extradition Watch campaign please visit: www.extraditionwatch.co.uk

2. In 2006, amendments were made to the Extradition Act that would allow a UK court to bar extradition on the basis of "forum", giving UK judges greater power to decide on the basis of each individual case whether it is appropriate to order extradition. Yet these provisions have never been brought into force. When the law was introduced as an Opposition amendment in 2006 the previous Government only agreed to it after introducing a ‘killing clause’ – ensuring that the law could not be brought into force unless both Houses of Parliament passed a resolution to do so. The previous Government never intended to bring it into force – the then Home Secretary the Rt Hon Jon Reid MP was explicit about this when he said: “The Government are not, of course, obliged to bring forward such a resolution, and have no intention of doing so“. If each House of Parliament passes a resolution to bring the forum amendment into force, then the Home Secretary must make a commencement order. This order must bring the provisions into force within one month of the resolutions being made

3. Read Liberty’s two submissions to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry into the human rights implications of UK extradition policy:
- http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy11/liberty-submission-to-jchr-extradition-inquiry-january-2011.pdf
- http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy11/liberty-s-additional-submission-to-the-jchr-extradition-inquiry-april-2011-.pdf

4. A ComRes poll of MPs for Liberty in September 2010 found that 83% of those surveyed agreed or agreed strongly that the forum bar should be introduced. 66% of those polled also agreed or agreed strongly that extradition should only occur if the requesting country first provides evidence in a UK court.