In June 2014, Liberty client Eileen Clark lost her appeal against extradition to the United States.
Eileen, resident in the UK since the late 1990s now faces removal on charges relating to her escape from her husband almost 20 years ago. She took her children and left after being subjected to almost a decade of alleged violence, sexual abuse, threats and psychological control at her partner’s hands. Two medical experts assessed her as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder consequent to this domestic violence.
Eileen was charged with “custodial interference” after she left her husband in 1995, but she instructed a US lawyer and believed the charge to have been dismissed. However in 2010 she was informed out of the blue that she was to be extradited for international parental kidnapping.
Emma Norton, Liberty lawyer and Eileen’s legal representative, said: “How can it be in the public interest to force this vulnerable, frightened woman to face her abuser in a court on the other side of the world from her home, friends and family? How long can we watch families suffer the cost of grinding down basic human rights protections? Eileen’s sad case is a perfect example of how inhuman, unbalanced and unjust our extradition system has become.”
Eileen Clark said: “I am devastated that they feel no obligation to intervene in my case. One police officer said it in a nutshell: “Your case could go either way as we have a poor history of standing up to the US”. I can only pray that the European Court of Human Rights will hear my plea now.
“My case illustrates that domestic violence victims are still being failed, and it puts the imbalance of the UK-US extradition treaty into glaring clarity. This is a treaty agreed upon post 9/11 to assist with national security. Where do I fit into that?
“My abusive ex-husband has mounted this ‘malicious prosecution’ and, in doing so, has turned something that should have been over long ago into a nightmare. My former lawyer in the US reassured me that all charges had been sorted, so I thought I was finally free from his control. Instead I’ve spent years feeling like I was living with a gun to my head; it’s taken a huge and irreversible toll on me and my family.”
Rebekah Van Sant, Eileen’s daughter, said: “The anxiety of having my mother extradited is so awful I cannot describe it. This has destroyed not only my mum's life but our lives as well. My mother is being treated like a terrorist when she is the victim. What are we doing, extraditing vulnerable victims of domestic violence like her? It seems there is no room in the extradition arrangements between the US and the UK for compassion or human rights.”
Liberty appealed to the Home Secretary to block extradition on human rights grounds. The group argued that to force a victim of domestic violence to return to face her alleged abuser in court almost 20 years after leaving him, and despite the fact that she has an extremely strong defence to the charge, is wholly disproportionate, a violation of her rights and not in the public interest.
The UK Courts’ decision to allow her to be sent to the US overlooks the terrible harm that the extradition itself, and the prospect of facing her alleged abuser in court, will have on her. Liberty believes this represents a failure to understand the specific needs and trauma of domestic violence victims.