By Joseph Willits
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Last night in Parliament, a motion tabled by Dominic Raab MP (Esher and Walton), demanding a review of the 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US, was agreed without a vote. Raab was clear in that the tabled motion was "not about abolishing extradition, which is vital to international efforts in relation to law enforcement" but "whether, in taking the fight to the terrorists and the serious criminals after 9/11, the pendulum swung too far the other way." The purpose of the review, Raab said, was to "inject a dose of common sense into the blunt extradition regime that we now have in place".
Raab cited comments made by Alun Jones QC (who represented the Spanish Government in the Pinochet case) in the Telegraph yesterday, who warned of an imbalance within the UK-US extradition treaty. Raab said:
"An American citizen who is subject to an extradition warrant in the US has the constitutional safeguard that a judge must examine the evidence. In this country, a short recitation of the allegations suffices. That is a very real and important imbalance."
The most high profile case concerning extradition from the UK to the US, is that of Gary McKinnon. Raab said of McKinnon's case:
"At root it is about the injustice in dispatching someone with Asperger’s syndrome hundreds of miles from home on allegations of computer hacking when he was apparently searching for unidentified flying objects. Gary McKinnon should not be treated like some gangland mobster or al-Qaeda mastermind"
Responding to comments made by former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who was responsible for the 2003 treaty and the accompanying Extradition Act 2003, David Davis MP (Haltemprice and Howden) said it was "wholly unsurprising that after 9/11 he [Blunkett] took the action that he did". Blunkett's decision went "too far" however, said Davis, because of "the pre-eminence of justice". Davis continued to say that "security without justice is a very fragile security" and that in the UK "we presume innocence" which has "a distinct effect on how we treat people". Extradition, Davis said, was in certain cases, "psychological isolation" which is in itself "a very serious punishment of people we are presuming innocent at this stage of the process".
With the main purpose of the extradition act and 2003 treaty being to defend against terrorism, Davis asked of the consequence:
"Between 2003 and 2009 there were 63 extraditions to the USA, of which precisely one involved a terrorist … When I looked at it the other way around—extraditions from the Americans to us—I was unable to find any record of terrorists being extradited here … We should keep in mind that the rather draconian process that we have, which was put in place to defend us against terrorism, does not appear to have had much impact in that respect. In practice, the outcome is much more mundane. The truth of the matter is that we will have far more Gary McKinnons extradited than Osama bin Ladens."
The debate also highlighted failing in the European arrest warrant, which, Raab said, "suffers from far more serious and widespread flaws than the UK-US arrangements". The case of Andrew Symeou was highlighted as an example of the "egregious nature of the flaws in the system".
Jesse Norman MP (Hereford) asked, in relation to the case of Andrew Symeou:
When the European arrest warrant was introduced, did the introducing authorities look at the standards of law, order and punishment across the European countries in order to assure themselves that such conditions could not occur?
"Fast-track extradition", said Raab,"is based on a leap of faith and an assumption that all European justice systems are of a decent standard. That assumption is a sham". Raab was critical of Scott Baker's review of extradition, saying that the "report expressed the aspiration that penal conditions and justice systems across Europe will get better in time", when in fact "standards of justice in some of the countries concerned are getting worse".
Dominic Raab MP wrote on ConservativeHome, prior to the debate: Tomorrow night, MPs can put extradition reform on the agenda. David Blackburn in the Spectator said that "Raab proves that new backbenchers need not just be silent ‘yes men’ waiting for promotion".