UK extradition arrangements – human rights abuses and hypocrisy

18 October 2011

Today Liberty rejected the main conclusions of the Scott Baker review of extradition laws. The review, which reported today, states that a new ‘forum’ rule - which means that the accused should be tried in the UK if the crime was committed here - is not necessary.

It also concludes that the law should not be changed to require that a basic case is made out in a UK court before extradition. In addition the much-criticised European Arrest Warrant is broadly accepted as sound.

The human rights group has called on the Coalition to ignore these conclusions - both Coalition party leaders have strongly criticised extradition laws in opposition. In 2009 the now Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the extradition of Gary McKinnon would amount to ‘a travesty of justice’. As leader of the opposition David Cameron said that the possibility that McKinnon could be extradited raised ‘serious questions about the workings of the Extradition Act’.

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.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said:

"We don't just disagree with this review but are completely baffled by it. This is not a Court Judgment merely policy advice and Government cannot abdicate its responsibility to honour the promises of both Coalition parties in opposition. 

"Britain's rotten extradition system stinks of human rights abuse and rank hypocrisy. It's time we stopped parcelling people off around the world like excess baggage and remembered the duty of all Governments to protect their people and treat them fairly."

Under the Extradition Act 2003 arrangements are in place with all EU countries, the US and 23 others including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Turkey. However as the Alexander Litvinenko case shows not all countries that British citizens could be extradited to will reciprocate. Last month during the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia, he and President Medvedev said publicly they had agreed to disagree about the UK’s attempt to extradite Andrei Lugovoi - who is suspected of Litvinenko’s murder. Medvedev also stated: ‘You have to learn to respect our legal framework. I would like to remind you article 65 of the Russian constitution says a Russian citizen can't be extradited for legal proceedings. We should understand it and respect it.’

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 Liberty’s website:

http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/extradition/index.shtml

2. The Extradition Act 2003 introduced a two-tier system of extradition depending on the identity of the requesting state. Under the Act, EU Member States who have implemented the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and the surrender procedures between Member States are designated for the purposes of extradition by order made under part 1 of the Act. Other territories with which the United Kingdom has extradition relations have been designated by order made under part 2 of the 2003 Act;

3. The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is based upon the presumption that EU countries all have fair and equal systems of justice which should remove the need for the home nation to scrutinise the fairness of extradition within the EU. This presumption is seriously open to question. Under an EAW a person sought by an EU country can be extradited, even if the extradition offence is not an offence in the United Kingdom, provided it carries a prison term of more than 12 months in the issuing member state. The EAW also abolishes the requirement to provide a prima facie case. This seriously increases the risk of injustice in such cases by removing the power of the High Court and Secretary of State to scrutinise the merits in an individual case.

4. 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.