A few home truths about extradition from the United Kingdom
Are our extradition laws really favourable to the United States, or is this just a perception issue?
More broadly, we might turn again to Sir Scott’s report, which concludes that: “the history of extradition between the United States and the United Kingdom provides no basis for concluding that individuals returned to that jurisdiction are generally not treated fairly.
As has been recognized by the courts in this jurisdiction, the United States is a rights-based democracy where accused persons have protections provided by the Constitution to ensure that they are able to participate effectively in a criminal trial process that is conducted fairly.” Mr. Grieve, regrettably, is part of the problem: the more British authorities take refuge in vague references to “perceptions” about American unfairness, the more those perceptions will grow.
I do have some sympathy with one of Mr. Tappin’s points, which is that he is being deported while the radical cleric Abu Qatada has been allowed to stay in the U.K. after an appeal to the ECHR, instead of being deported to Jordan. And there are, sadly, more examples along this line: Abu Hamza, currently jailed in Britain, has resisted deportation to the U.S. for years, where he is charged with attempting to support the establishment of a terrorist training camp in the U.S. state of Oregon.
Hamza, like an increasing number of British subjects, argues that if convicted he might suffer damage to his mental health by being held in the U.S. in isolation and without parole. The answer to this problem, though, is not to ignore the assistance that Mr. Tappin is accused of seeking to provide to the terrorist regime of Iran, or to say that because Hamza has claimed the mental health defense, Mr. Tappin should benefit from it as well. The answer is to deport both of them to face due process in the United States. And if Mr. Tappin does not want Qatada to be able to deploy the defense that Jordanian justice is unjust, he can hardly use the same defense for his own benefit against the United States.
There are two final ironies in the case of Mr. Tappin. First, Britain has inspired and led the charge for the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which is explicitly intended – among much else – to prevent and to criminalize the unlicensed trafficking in weapon parts and components. As I noted here last year, the Treaty is in fact a bad and dangerous license for dictatorial governments to sell. Perhaps the Tappin case will cause the largely left-wing constituency behind the Treaty to think again about backing it. If it is adopted and seriously implemented, there will be a lot more Tappins in the future.
Second, the British legal structure underlying the 2003 treaty – the 2003 Extradition Act – was expressly intended from the start to make it easier to extradite individuals from Britain. And, shockingly, that is exactly what has happened. The only difference is that in 2003, easier extraditions seemed like a good idea. Only now is the realization striking home that making extraditions from Britain easier means more Britons will be extradited.
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