Extradition review – my thoughts on UK arrangements

Here’s my contribution to the Home Secretary’s review of the UK’s extradition treaties. I’m really glad I got the chance to do this, you can too at http://tinyurl.com/32kn34u. Now please remember I am not a legal expert and I have only the most basic understanding of the law. I am however reasonably well versed in International Relations and the like! I do make some subjective judgements about the quality of other countries’ judiciaries and for that I am unapologetic. Justice is universal, it isn’t subject to cultural relativism and I do consider our judicial system to be one of the best in the world – *Glows with patriotic pride*.

So, here we go:

Dear Home Office,

I’m pleased you’ve given members of the public an opportunity to contribute to the debate on extradition. I am a student of Peace Studies and International Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University and I’ve also taken a semester of International Human Rights Law at the University of California Berkeley.

Before I address each point of your list on the website I wanted to lay out my first two initial thoughts on the matter.

1) any agreement should be based on the concept of reciprocity, the UK should not sign any agreement that is unfairly weighted in its favour or to its detriment.

2) that signing agreements with countries whose judicial systems are underdeveloped or based on principles other than freedom and the rule of law has the potential to undermine our system at home. To elaborate on this I do not necessarily think we should cancel agreements with countries whose laws are based on, for example, religion, just that we should consider our system as a more developed example and should make agreements on British judicial development and support with those countries, alongside any extradition agreement.

 

To address each point in turn:

 

– the Home Secretary’s powers to stop extradition

The Home Secretary is a political actor and a representative of the people. She is not a legal professional (it occasionally may occur that the Home Secretary is indeed a legal professional but this cannot be relied upon) and in making decisions on extradition she is not part of the legal framework which constitutes our judicial system. It strikes me as unusual to give a politician such a power in our judicial system and there is potential for the Home Secretary to act in accordance with public demand. This would be extremely ill-advised. The public should not be able to overrule judicial decisions. Our judiciary is here to protect the minority against the majority so it should be the Supreme Court as the only domestic body that can stop an extradition.

 

– the operation of the European Arrest Warrant, which deals with extradition requests between European countries

The concept of reciprocity comes into play. I agree that Britain should cooperate with other European countries in the area of justice and security however when so many other European countries decide not to cooperate with us this becomes tainted. There should be a threshold, a percentage of compliers to any agreement of this sort, before it becomes active. We should also not agree to cooperate with countries who have not enacted and made use of the EAW.

 

– where a crime is mainly committed in the UK, whether the person should be tried here

This would depend on the nature of the crime and the nature of the punishment. We should also not be afraid to deem our methods of justice superior in this case. When a crime committed here is considered minor then we should strive to protect that person against the disproportionate response they might receive in their country of origin. I understand this is already in place in some circumstances, such as where we refuse to extradite in cases of torture or the death penalty. In furtherance of this I believe, to stay true to our ideological stance, we should refuse to extradite to countries that practice these methods at all.

 

– whether the US-UK Extradition Treaty is unbalanced

This is a cause for extreme concern. Although I state previously that the Home Secretary should not interfere in the extradition process this is an example of an extremely one sided treaty with little or no benefit to the UK other than in diplomacy with the US, I would encourage her to review this as a matter of urgency. I can also reliably state that any recalibration of this law to a more balanced version would meet with strong public support. This treaty defeats many of the objects of British justice. It allows for British people to be tried for acts, performed in Britain and legal in Britain, in the United States, effectively granting the US universal criminal jurisdiction over British subjects. This severely undermines the supremacy of the British and European judiciaries which the British people and Government are accountable to.

 

– whether requesting countries should be required to provide sufficient evidence to prove an allegation

Prima facie should remain as the central object around which any extradition case is based. This is partly the problem with the US-UK treaty as it removes this, with no reciprocity. Although in the case of the EAW there is less cause for concern as the highest authorities for all European citizens are the same institutions.

 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute, I would be very interested to see what role these contributions make in the process of debate and at what points they are considered. Any guidance on that would be very much appreciated.

I do hope they get back to me on how the submissions are used, wouldn’t it be cool if Teresa May read it and was like, “Right on Will!”


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2 thoughts on “Extradition review – my thoughts on UK arrangements”

  1. I have to say, while I agree in principle with much of what you expressed, I disagree with your idea that ‘justice is universal’. Are you suggesting that justice as a concept exists in a void, which has developed independently from socio-religious or cultural concerns?

    How, then, would we explain the differences across the Atlantic in the use of capital punishment? We have the moral high ground somehow? Or the American judiciary is unjust?

    1. Hi Carlton,
      I don’t necessarily think that justice exists as a concept independent from all social or cultural influence no. We do have a Christian based system here and that isn’t always what is right for everyone. What I do think is that there are some core principles of justice that are universal. I’m thinking innocent until proven guilty, trial by your peers, that sort of thing.
      I definitely don’t think that a universal criminal code for the whole world would be appropriate!
      As for the death penalty I think that comes under the ‘core principles’ section, justice systems of any sort shouldn’t be allowed to kill people, I try not to be smug about it but I absolutely think that our system, which doesn’t kill people, is superior to ones that do.

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