Nick de Bois is the MP Enfield North.
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Yesterday's Sunday Telegraph reported Dominic Raab's call for a back bench-led debate this week on the future of our extradition arrangements. This broadly coincides with the publication of the much anticipated review by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the matter, as ordered by the Home Secretary earlier this year.
The call for a debate is timely for a number of reasons but above all I hope it will allow Parliament to influence the response of the government to the Baker review. Take, for example, our arrangements with other European member states which are governed by the European Arrest Warrant. These are deeply flawed – as the experience of my constituent Andrew Symeou illustrates. I for one would like colleagues on both sides of the House to understand the experience which Fair Trials International described as a "four-year nightmare" for Andrew at the hands of a European Arrest Warrant. This and other examples that MPs can share should be cause enough for serious reflection on whether British citizens are currently adequately protected from falling victim to a similar nightmare.
The European Arrest Warrant system is currently not operating either as expected or as we would like. No European bail rights, resulting in long periods of remand simply because the accused is a foreigner, or extradition from one member state to another when the offence fails the so-called dual criminality test (something considered a crime in one country not being so in another). And then there is the failure to comply with basic human rights requirements often resulting in unacceptable conditions of remand and process bias by the authorities. All are tolerated in the name of procedural expediency and a desire to have a fast system of extradition which I believe is putting at risk the individuals rights to a fair judicial process.
However, the report from of a very eminent judge has concluded otherwise. Baker argues in his 488 page report, which included both US and European extradition arrangements, that the current system of extradition was "reasonable" – and not cause for immediate concern.
His report has reached this conclusion despite the European Commission recognising in its own Third Implementation Report that there were serious problems with the system. Additionally, the report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights earlier this year highlighted glaring abuses of the system – and it urged the Government to “ensure that other EU Member States do not use the European Arrest Warrant for the purposes of requesting a person for investigation rather than to stand trial.” That some member states do this does not strike me as reasonable, or indeed equitable.
Too much is at stake to not debate Baker’s extradition review, on which the government will be able to reflect before responding formerly to his report. After all, these issues will not come as a surprise to the Government. Before the election Dominic Grieve, now Attorney General, summed up the situation well. He said: “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided. A Conservative government will re-write them.” Nick Clegg was in agreement on the failures of the UK/US Extradition treaty, adding: “I forced a debate on it…and warned the Government then that the treaty would lead to an abuse of people’s rights in this country.”
A debate would give Parliament the opportunity to examine the review’s findings and offer a perspective on protecting the freedom and rights of constituents. We can test the merits of a system conceived to ensure speedy extradition arrangements against whether the public are properly protected . It is the least we can offer Andrew Symeou, his family and other families who have been caught up in our unfair extradition arrangements.