Extradition Act – Ratify, Reform or Remove

Debate yesterday in parliament

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Of course I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on his sterling defence of the Essex police force. However, I wish to draw attention to an opportunity that the Bill gives us to rectify a matter of serious and widespread public concern, which has already been addressed by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) and my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). That matter is the extradition arrangements that we have with the United States, and what we may expect from America and what they may demand from us.

I do not wish to indulge in an anti-American polemic, but I wish to suggest a speedy way in which the problem could be rectified in a way that would reassure the Americans that those suspected of serious criminal offences will be speedily yielded up to them–in a way that they would expect from their most important international friend and ally–while at the same time protect the rights of UK nationals. I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who have signed my early-day motion on the subject.

I hope that the Government will agree that the neatest solution would be to insert a line into the Bill–along with the many other amendments to the Extradition Act 2003–to incorporate article 7 of the European convention on extradition, so that any country may refuse extradition if the offence may be deemed to have been committed in whole or in part on its territory. I shall explain why I believe that change to be essential.

There are currently several cases before the courts that arise directly from the Extradition Act 2003. I know of one of those cases particularly, because it affects one of my constituents, who is one of three bankers who are being electromagnetically sucked–hoovered, even–across the Atlantic without any duty on the Americans to produce any prima facie evidence.

6 Mar 2006 : Column 645 (in Hansard)

I have no direct evidence of whether the Americans are right or wrong to say that my constituent has committed the offences, but everybody–including the American authorities–agrees on one point. Insofar as there were any offences, in this case and all other analogous cases, they were committed by UK nationals, in this country and against UK interests. If there was a crime, it was a British crime. We may ask, therefore, why we are exporting our nationals to the US so willingly, when the natural forum for trial is obviously this country and when it is inconceivable that we would willingly export our nationals to any other part 2 country–any other country in category 2.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the rules of sub judice relating to individual cases currently before the courts. Reference to sub judice in the legislation is acceptable, but detail on individual cases should be avoided.

Mr. Johnson: I am indebted to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not think that anything that I have said, or am likely to say, could in any way prejudice the outcome of any trial, but I am grateful for your reminder.

Why is it inconceivable that any other country could be treated in that way? It is because America, rightly or wrongly, takes a wide view of her jurisdiction and awards herself a great deal of latitude in deciding who to demand and how to treat them when they arrive in America. The Prime Minister himself has said that Guantanamo bay is an anomaly. There are people on both sides of the House who would use stronger language. It is in that context that people in this country need reassurance about our arrangements. What I am proposing, what I hope my Front-Bench colleagues are about to propose and what my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) has already suggested would provide that reassurance. We have set out to bring our extradition arrangements with America into alignment with those of every other European country.

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety does not seem to be attending with the interest that one would hope, but it might be of interest to her to know that in virtually every other European country there is no tradition of extraditing nationals. We do it, and the Irish do it, but they have incorporated article 7 of the European convention on extradition into their extradition law in exactly the way that I have suggested so that if one of their nationals has committed a crime in whole or in part in Ireland, there is no question of extradition.

Mr. Francois: I am mindful of the guidance that Madam Deputy Speaker has given the House with regard to sub judice and I shall attempt to abide by it. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that when that powerful treaty was put through the House, we accepted it on the basis that it was necessary to fight the war against terror, on which we have stood shoulder to shoulder with our American counterparts? However, practical experience has shown that the US Administration have begun to use the treaty for other measures. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service

6 Mar 2006 : Column 646

has attempted to use the arrangement in order to extradite people to the US to face charges relating to white-collar crime. Does my hon. Friend accept that while the protection of revenue is important, such extraditions are against the spirit of the agreement and there should at least be equivalence on both sides, rather than allowing this anomaly to continue?

Mr. Johnson: My hon. Friend is exactly on the point. It would not only be reassuring to people in this country if we were to restore that symmetry, it would also be reassuring to the Americans because they do not want to keep hearing anti-American claptrap. It would take away a stick that anti-Americans–perhaps there are some on the Labour Benches–might use to beat them.

There is a second and related problem that greatly inflames the whole question. We are obliged by the terms of the Extradition Act 2003 to send our nationals to America without prima facie evidence, yet America is under no corresponding duty to send people we want from America without prima facie evidence being supplied by us. I will not breach your guidelines on sub judice, Madam Deputy Speaker, but let us suppose that a group of New York bankers was accused of having used an e-mail account in the UK to defraud a New York bank. It is highly unlikely that the authorities in this country would seek their extradition to Britain, but even if they did so, the American authorities would insist that the UK showed due cause. However, we place no such parallel and symmetrical obligation on them. That is a grotesque imbalance.

Why does that grotesque imbalance exist? The Prime Minister said in Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday that it is because the American Congress has not ratified the 2003 treaty. That is not, strictly speaking, true. It is right to say that Congress does not want to ratify the 2003 treaty because many Congressmen want to keep the ability to retain in America people whom they fear would not get a fair trial overseas and they want to keep a political bar to extradition. That is why we have not succeeded in extraditing a single IRA suspect from America to this country in 30 years. However, even if Congress were to ratify this treaty, it is a dismal fact that–I am sorry if I am speaking loudly, but I thought that the Minister was not listening and I am delighted to see that she is; I thank her for paying attention because what I am saying is very important–there would be no symmetry because we have to show due cause and they do not. Therefore, I think the whole treaty should be renegotiated. It is a mistake, it was done in great haste and it should be renegotiated.

In the interim, I have a proposal that I hope the Minister can accept. We could clear up the anomaly, rectify the injustice and remove the asymmetry if we inserted a single line into the Bill to say that in designating a part 2 territory the Home Secretary should do nothing inconsistent with the terms of an extant treaty. That would be a neat and useful method because the Americans have not ratified the 2003 treaty, therefore the 1972 arrangements are still in effect and they provide an element of reciprocity in our arrangements. Under the 1972 treaty, both sides have to show prima facie evidence. Therefore, if we inserted such a line into the Bill the asymmetry would be removed, America and the UK would be on the same

6 Mar 2006 : Column 647

footing and we would be obliged to show in court why we wanted so-and-so to be extradited to face trial in our territory, and they would have to show why America was the place to have the trial and not the UK. In the interim, it would also supply the Americans with a powerful incentive to get on with ratifying the 2003 treaty.

I know that a great many people in the House share my concerns. I hope that the Minister–unlike the Home Secretary, who has been really rather rude in his treatment of this matter–will accept that there is merit and justice in this case and that a great many people on both sides of the House care about it very deeply. It would mean that a good deal of public disquiet about our extradition arrangements would be alleviated and that we in this country would no longer give the impression of being obedient little lapdogs. It would mean the removal of a weapon from the arsenal of anti-American prejudice and we in the House would be fulfilling our most vital function, which is to protect the rights of our citizens, UK nationals, in the way that every other country in Europe protects the rights of its nationals.

27 thoughts on “Extradition Act – Ratify, Reform or Remove”

  1. Excellent! I was just scolding my London-based pal for not Tivo-ing it for me.

    Very interesting reading, and it seems quite obvious to me that he’s right, but he IS going to lose his Euroskeptic street cred if he insists on incorporating EU regulations into British treaties. As T.C. Douglas said, “I don’t mind someone stealing my pyjamas, but he should wear them all if he doesn’t want to appear indecent.”

  2. Hear hear :
    Even though the current case is sub judice, there was a need for this anomaly to be brought to the attention of the House , and indeed the public.

    Since both our countries laws are based on the same premise, why does not Congress ratify the proposals for symmetry in bi-partisan Extradition Laws.

    If we were ever, as an obedient poodle, to be swallowed by the US , becoming just another minor State amongst many, we might even get equanimity within the law of cross-State line criminality.

  3. Is it an anomaly? Doesn’t it symbolise our whole craven relationship with the United States?

    It is not just utterly absurd that British citizens can be carted off to America on demand: it is absolutely terrifying, given that we know perfectly well that the next destination after America is quite likely to be a torture chamber in Egypt, now that this US administration has casually shrugged off any semblance of civilisation.

    I mean, what’s to stop them demanding my extradition? I criticise them, after all. That’s probably tantamount to terrorism in their twisted eyes.

  4. Absolutely terrifying is exactly correct. How did we get to a position when a foreign government can rock up on these shores and demand that we can be carted off on the basis of their say so. A shining example of the short sightedness of “War on terror” legislation and the current assault on our civil liberties.

  5. A few years ago, I would have found this extradition arrangement as unremarkable, even if rather one-sided. Back then I thought that the likelihood of someone getting a fair trial in the United States was as good as in the UK. But now that indefinite detention and torture have become accepted instruments of US policy, I wouldn’t wish US ‘justice’ on my worst enemy.

    Last night, on Newsnight, an American professor of law called Dershowitz or something debated torture with Helena Kennedy (QC, I believe).

    Dershowitz came up with a number of justifications for torture. The first was that 9/11 ‘changed everything’. The second was that the Geneva conventions applied to uniformed soldiers fighting for their country, not to secretive terrorist organisations fighting for a religious cause. And thirdly he said that “Everybody does it anyway”, and so the best thing was that torture be regulated.

    This was all complete piffle. There is no sense in which 9/11 ‘changed everything’, except in the eyes of overprotected and pampered Americans. 9/11 was spectacular, even cinematic. But it wasn’t anything new, and it didn’t ‘change everything’, and it is simply dishonest to say so.

    As for the Geneva conventions, they may well apply to regular troops, but does that mean that any sort of unspeakable barbarity can be committed against anyone who falls outside the narrow remit of the convention? Surely not? Surely we owe it to our fellow men and women and children to treat them all with the same respect and courtesy, regardless of any law?

    And as for “Everyone does it anyway, so we should regulate it”, why not apply the same reasoning to every other crime. If everybody takes bribes, fiddles their tax, and shoplifts, then why not accept this as a fact of life, and regulate it? And if the regulators fail to regulate it, why not accept this as well, and attempt to regulate the regulators?

    What happened to morality? What happened to the sense that some things are right and other things are just plain wrong?

    And does torture work anyway? I have no doubt that the threat of a large pair of pliers will induce many people to talk very volubly. And perhaps even truthfully. But when someone is being tortured to extract answers from them that they don’t know, whatever they say will be untrue. And how can anyone ever know if some person actually knows the answers to the questions being asked of them?

    I find myself inclined to think that torture is, for the most part, motivated more by hatred than by any wish to uncover truth. And it is simply a way of harming, humiliating, and terrifying people.

  6. As a note from an utterly loyal American, many of us in the United States are utterly opposed to the over-reaction of the Bush Administration in this war on terror. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Torture in ANY form is ALWAYS wrong, even if one man is tortured to save a city of a million.

    We Americans need to follow our own Constitution instead of being so ready to sacrifice moral principles for the sake of expediency. We will live to regret this action.

  7. I would like to thank the americans for their help in OUR war on terror…if they hadn’t spent the last 40 years funding the IRA, we would have as little idea as to what to do as the american administration is currently showing.

    (And, before i get accused of going off-topic, may i point out that Boris mentions the septics refusal to return IRA terrorists to us for trial in the article above)

  8. Psi:
    Your use of rhymig slang is probably lost on our transatlantic cousins.

    In any case I am sure that supporting the IRA was not the pastime of the entire nation. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

    I can remember when the Brits were the most detested group on earth, even if only a select few had deserved the honour.

  9. Psimon,

    You may thank the American Administrations and Congress Critters of BOTH political parties for funding the IRA. That was always wrong, and I (as a loyal American) have NEVER EVER believed we should do anything other than to bring such terrorists, whether the IRA, the Islamic nut-cases, or our own home-grown Timothy McVeighs. to justice. Darn it, we should – we must, in fact – turn the lot of these IRA demons over to the Brits to give them the justice they deserve!

    Actually, I don’t think your statement is off-topic. More people need to hear this. Support of ANY terrorist is ALWAYS wrong. We need clarity of vision and adherence to moral principle, not political platitudes designed to keep the critters in office because the platitudes appeal to a small segment of the population (in the case of your example, Irish Americans).

  10. You are right, Mac, re. Use Of Rhyming Slang.

    For the benefit of those not conversant with the term, “septics” is a shortening of “septic tank”, to rhyme with Yank.

    But seriously, if the IRA hadn’t been so active against the UK, we really wouldn’t have as much idea of how to deal wit terrorists as we do.

    Perverse it may be, but i really am grateful to our errant cousins on this one. Not least because it allowed us to take the July 7th bombings in our stride, as it amounted to a mere 1% of the mainland terrorist attacks on this country over the last few decades. As outrageous and upsetting as the attack was, the disruption that terrorists so desire was negated. We win, they don’t.



  11. IRA demons (PWP)

    Whatever the IRA may be, they are not demons.

    Once we demonise our enemies, we become capable of any barbarity towards them.

    Islamic fundamentalists aren’t demons either. But they have been demonised, and absolutely any barbarity – from indefinite detention to torture and murder – follows from that demonisation.

  12. idlex,

    Perhaps you have a valid point. Nevertheless, all these terrorists should be brought to justice. If that means that the US must extradite certain IRA individuals to the UK, then so be it. And if the UK must extradite certain individuals to the US, then equally so be it. But I am utterly opposed to anything but a fair trial by a jury of one’s peers. I oppose search (including electronic surveillance) without a warrant. I oppose torture of anykind against anyone, regardless that the torture may be intended to save millions of lives. I believe in justice for all, INCLUDING (perhaps ESPECIALLY) our enemies. As Robert Heinlein said, “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate–and quickly.”

    Perhaps I get on my bandwagon and beat my drums too often (OK, I DO get on my bandwagon and beat my drums too often, or so my wife tells me).

  13. Psimon,

    Yours is a very good question that I had hoped someone would ask. I hope that the following answers this question.

    Morality is NOT relative. It is absolute. In fact, all true morality is descended from two basic principles first espoused by Ayn Rand in her philosophy of Objectivism:

    (1) The individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    (2) The non-initiation of force.

    These principles oppose equally both democracy (which is merely tyranny of the majority over the minority and nothing is as much a minority as an individual – witness the results of democracy on Socrates in ancient Athens) and autocracy.

    The only thing I would add to these principles is a third one that Robert Heinlein formulated:

    (3) “All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplus, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly which can–and must–be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a ‘perfect society’ on any foundation other than ‘Women and children first!’ is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly–and no doubt will keep on trying.”

    Now for the answer to your question: the Freedom Fighters are those who support the individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Islamic fascists support a autocratic theocracy (a caliphate) spanning an area from south-east Asia to northern Africa and today’s Europe. they are the terrorists.

    That being said, too often we in the US have used some of the same tactics as these barbarians have used, and that is morally WRONG and utterly opposed to the Objectivist philosophy formulated by Ayn Rand.

    But be advised – true morality IS NOT and NEVER WAS relative. True morality is based on that which promotes individual life, dignity and freedom. Any idea that opposes such freedom is IMMORAL. Islamic fascism is immoral just as Nazism and Communism before is were immoral. Period.

    Lastly, as far as I am concerned, the US and UK should use nuclear energy to become energy-independent and let the Islamic fascists drown in their own oil. They want their Caliphate? Let them have it – in the Middle East. The people underneath them can only be freed when they free themselves.

    But remember what Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

  14. (1) The individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    The doctrine of rights has never been one which the English have entirely adopted. It is noteworthy that Tom Paine, author of The Rights of Man in the late 18th century, and celebrated in US mythology, receives next to no acknowledgement in his native country. I believe there is one small statue of him somewhere in Norfolk. Most English people have never jeard of him.

    The English are generally of an Utilitarian and practical cast of mind, and inclined to view any Idealism with the deepest suspicion. Jeremy Bentham, one of the principal authors of Utilitarianism, declared the doctrine of rights to be nonsense, and furthermore, “nonsense on stilts”.

    Consider those fine idealistic words: ‘the right to life’. Do I have a right to life? Does anyone or any living thing have a right to life? Well, no. My death will nullify my ‘right’ to life, as surely as the death of everybody and everything else will nullify their ‘right’ as well.

    No, we have no ‘right’ to life, nor to liberty, nor to health, nor to prosperity, nor to happiness. The best we can do is aspire to them, work towards them, as a distant goal on the horizon. But we have no right for them to handed to us on a plate.

  15. Idlex,

    If my response is a bit off-topic, then my apologies.

    You stated, “No, we have no ‘right’ to life, nor to liberty, nor to health, nor to prosperity, nor to happiness. The best we can do is aspire to them, work towards them, as a distant goal on the horizon. But we have no right for them to handed to us on a plate.”

    I agree that we have “no right for them to handed to us on a plate”. Rather, life is what we are given at birth and it is our responsibility as individuals to make the most of it, and no other individual or group of individuals has the right to take that life away from us (though circumstance beyond our control may and one day will). That is why I said before that with freedom comes responsibility. Too many people nowadays want this freedom, that freedom and the other freedom, but not the responsibility nor the accountability to deal with the consequences of the actions they took under such freedom. For example (perhaps an extreme example, but it illustrates the point), if I want the freedom to have sex with whomever I wish who may be willing, then I have the automatic responsibility to care for whatever child issues from a possible pregnancy. If I do not like that alternative, then I have two choices: use birth control or abstain. Behaving like a wild animal and having sex with complete abandon is lack of responsibility and a perversion of my freedom in this matter.

    [To be truthful, I actually desire to behave like a wild animal with just my wife whom I love, but like most of us who now have little children, rarely get the opportunity due to fatigue at the day’s end. 😉 It’s almost 09:00 pm my time and we’ll soon be passed out in bed after our one year old goes in his crib.]

    Thus, I find this statement of yours quite appropriate:

    “The English are generally of an Utilitarian and practical cast of mind, and inclined to view any Idealism with the deepest suspicion.”

    I think perhaps now we are getting more in the semantics of the topic than the idea behind it. Maybe we are in agreement more than you perhaps think.

    Again, sorry if this is a bit off-topic.

  16. idlex, according to studies by the CIA, information gained as a result of torture is reliable less than 30% of the time.

    PWP, I find myself unable to be – ahem – objective about Rand, but surely morality cannot descend from her teachings: do you really mean to imply that there was no morality before she wrote The Fountainhead? That would mean that morality is not actually absolute, since it differs over time. I’ll see your Randy Objectivism and raise you a Kantian Deontology.

  17. Raincoaster,

    I, too, have some big disagreements with Ayn Rand’s version of Objectivism. Morality existed long before she formulated her philosophy which, contrary to the Rand-roids, is hardly the be-all and end-all of “Objective Truth”. I find that most Rand-roids are as fanatical as the Islamic Fascists or American right-wing religious zealots whom they oppose. Whenever someone says they are the arbiters of “Objective Truth”, beware.

    That being said, I firmly believe that all true morality is based on an individual’s right to his own life and liberty, and on the non-initiation of force. No one has the right to take away your life (unless, of course, you initiate force that requires the other person’s self-defense) or your freedom or your lawfully acquired property. And no one has the right to initiate force against you.

    For example, laws and religious regulations against things such as homosexuality are NOT based on morality. If two men or two women wish to marry, then the government should have NO say in the matter. If they love each other, then how does that initiate force against me? The world is in short supply of love, so let them be.

    Thus, I have found that any so-called moral principles based on anything other than the soveriegnty of the individual and the non-initiation of force to NOT be moral principles.

    But I am NO moral expert, having lived a life of animal abandon when I was a submarine sailor a long time ago.

    And I may well be wrong (as my wife constantly reminds me). I am not so pig headed (or at least not as much any more) that I can’t (with some minor arm-twisting) admit when I am wrong.

  18. I don’t think the soveriegnity of the individual and the lack of coersion to be the foundation of morality as much as I see them as responsibilities and rights, but this is perhaps just a difference of perspective, rather than an actual disagreement. Kant argue with you.

    (Sorry, it was there. I had to)

  19. life is what we are given at birth and it is our responsibility as individuals to make the most of it (PWP)

    Nope. Can’t buy that either.

    We aren’t given a life, on a plate, to make what we will of it.

    I somehow suspect that we are going to disagree about everything.

    And what’s Kant got to do with this, raincoaster?

  20. Only that he’s about as far from Rand as it is possible to be, that his philosophy is one I think contains the truth (ie PWP and I are disagreeing again) and his name makes really great puns.

  21. Rand and Kant:
    Seems rather apposite that these two words, in German, are closly related. They both mean, amongst other things , ‘edge’
    The edge is as far from the edge as possible; to paraphrase raincoaster.

  22. Saw your speech in the house Boris – it was excellent. Well said.

    Can’t agree with you on nuclear power though.

    For all my ‘virtual’ friends on the blog, hiya! I’m still feeling like death warmed up though so keep the home fires burning a little longer. I’ll be waving my little ‘vote Boris’ flag from the sickroom for just a while longer.

  23. jaq

    I was on the point of sending out a search party! Where have you been? So pleased you’re back!

  24. Yes, I’ll second Mac – get back here here where you belong Jaq! C’mon you’ve been too long

Comments are closed.