Extradition is the formal process of one state allowing for an individual to be returned to another state for prosecution or punishment for crimes committed within that requesting country’s jurisdiction. With rare exceptions this is enforced by the existing agreements (treaties) between countries.
Extradition is becoming increasingly important given the recent widespread of transnational crime, as well as terrorism, drug trafficking, counterfeiting and even cybercrime.
How do extradition treaties operate?
All the recent bilateral extradition treaties are concluded in accordance with the principles of “double criminality” when a crime committed in one country is recognised as a crime in another country.
Cases where countries do not have an extradition treaty often become a focus of public attention, as was the case with a former US security officer Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia to avoid prosecution.
How do political relations between countries affect extradition?
Even when there is an extradition treaty in place between the countries, there are many factors that can be taken into consideration, such as the country’s law enforcement procedures, the existence of a bureaucratic red tape and trade and political relations between countries.
In the ongoing case against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Mr Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was charged with rape. However, Ecuador subsequently withdrew its protection and Mr Assange was arrested by the British authorities. The United States have charged Mr Assange for hacking the government system and consequently releasing classified documentation between 2010 and 2011.
According to the barrister Mark Simmers, who represents Mr Assange, the extradition bid is “a political attempt” by Donald Trump’s administration to “signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information” and that there was a “direct link” between Mr Trump’s election and the “reinvigoration” of the investigation. Prior to that, similar investigation, during the presidency of Barack Obama, led to no charges against Mr Assange.
It was further requested by Mr Assange’s defence lawyers to allow more time for gathering evidence, however, on Monday last week the request was dismissed by district judge Vanessa Baraitser. She told Assange his next case management hearing would take place on 19 December and the full hearing will indeed take place in February. Assange further told the judge he feels like fighting his case against the “superpower” with “unlimited resources”.
Amnesty International called on Britain last Monday to change its decision on Mr Assange’s extradition.
Massimo Moratti, deputy director of the human rights group for Europe, said: “The British authorities must acknowledge the real risks of serious human rights violations Julian Assange would face if sent to the USA.”
UK extradition law
Two weeks ago, in her speech, the Queen announced the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill 2019-20. The legislation amends part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003, according to which law enforcement agencies are given broader powers in respect of arrest.
Part 2 deals with extradition to the countries which are not EU member states; law enforcement officers will be able to arrest individuals without obtaining an arrest warrant.
This new power will only apply where the request for an individual’s arrest for extradition purposes (for example, Interpol red notice) has been certified as having been issued by a specified country in relation to a serious offence.
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