Not Saussure

December 6, 2006

No extradition in Litvinenko case

Filed under: Law, Russia/USSR, UK — notsaussure @ 12:55 am

Why’s it news that Russia’s prosecutor general, Mr Yuir Chaika (if I recall correctly, his name means ‘Seagull’, as in the Chekov play) has announced that ‘any trial of a Russian citizen must take place in Russia’?

According to the Groan,

“If they want to arrest them it would be impossible – they are citizens of Russia and the Russian constitution makes that impossible,” he said, adding that any Russian citizens suspected of involvement would be tried in Russia.

His words contrasted with those of Tony Blair, who insisted no political or diplomatic barrier would be allowed to stand in the way of the British investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s death.

I can’t say I’d ever bothered to look it up, but I’d assumed that we didn’t have any sort of extradition treaty with Russia. We certainly didn’t have one with the Soviet Union, and I hadn’t remembered us signing one with the Russians. And, while I’m not sure if it’s the Guardian trying to make the news sound more … err … like news than it is, if you see what I mean, or yet another indication of our Dear Leader’s megalomania, it’s hardly surprising the Russians would see a constitutional ban on extraditing their citizens as a bit of a bar to sending someone here for prosecution.

We’re actually pretty unusual in our enthusiasm for shipping our citizens off for trial in other countries — and not just to the US, either; France, Germany and Austria, for example, at least as far as I know, won’t extradite their nationals anywhere outside the EU.

And I’m pretty sure that even Blair, confronted with a demand by the Russians to send a British citizen to stand trial in Moscow for an alleged murder there, would reply that we’d rather try him here if they’ll give us the evidence (murder, at least by a British citizen, is one for which the courts have extra-territorial jurisdiction), which is exactly what the Russians have told us.

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