Not Saussure

October 24, 2006

Possible defeat for Government on fast track extraditions to the US?

Filed under: civil liberties — notsaussure @ 3:06 pm

Let’s hope so. 

The Government is facing a Labour back-bench revolt in the Commons tonight that could wreck "fast-track" extraditions from Britain to the United States.

At least 30 Labour MPs are ready to join the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in seeking to block Government attempts to overturn safeguards introduced by the House of Lords following the controversy over the extradition of the "Nat West three" in the summer.

Labour whips and the rebels predicted that the vote would be "extremely tight", with the possibility of the Government suffering a highly embarrassing defeat.

The vote, specifically, is on keeping a Lords’ amendment to the Police and Justice Bill to allow the British courts to determine whether it’s ‘in the interests of justice’ to try the alleged offender in the foreign country.    The amendment is supported by some normally unlikely allies, including Shami Chrakrabati of Liberty, the Director General of the CBI, Richard Lambert, and Miles Templeman, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, all of whom are among the signatories to a letter sent to all MPs urging the amendment’s retention.  They write,

The Lords have therefore amended the Police and Justice Bill to allow the court – in a case where the alleged crime took place partially in the UK – to determine whether trial in the state requesting extradition would be in the interests of justice. Such clauses are commonplace in extradition treaties: indeed the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, which governs at an international level our extradition relations with a number of Council of Europe states, provides that an extradition request can be refused where the UK considers that it was committed ‘in whole or in part in its territory or in a place treated as its territory’. A similar provision has been included in the EU Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant. However, such provision is strangely lacking from the 2003 Extradition Act.

Extraditions to the USA – such as that of the ‘Natwest Three’ – have caused particular controversy. Between the beginning of 2004 and July 2006, 43 extradition requests were received in the UK from the US, 23 of which were for financial crimes. Jurisdiction in some cases can be claimed on the basis merely of a company’s annual reports to a single shareholder in the US, and the US Department of Justice has shown itself determined to pursue and jail foreign executives whose alleged cartel activities harm US interests. However, we believe that it is uncontroversial that in all cases – not only relating to the US – a person, who may well be innocent of any crime, should not be extradited to await trial abroad unless it is in the interests of justice.

Criticism of the present arrangement often concentrates on the fact it’s one-sided, since Americans enjoy far greater protection against extradition by us than do we enjoy against extradition there.   That’s a fair point as far as it goes, in that this one-sidedness adds insult to injury, but the real point is that not that since the Americans won’t allow their citizens to be treated this way, neither should we; it’s that no country should behave to its citizens in the way to which David Blunkett agreed.

Update:

MPs have overturned a change made by the Lords that would have blocked "fast-track" extraditions to the US.

MPs backed the government by 320 to 263 when voting on the amendment to the Police and Justice Bill.

Pusillanimous swine.


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