Liberty - Protecting civil liberties, promoting human rights


Liberty extradition demonstration, 2010
Extradition is the transfer of an accused person from one country to another country that seeks to place them on trial.
Extradition is an important part of prosecuting cross-border crime, but there should always be safeguards that ensure extradition serves the interests of justice, that an individual is only transferred when the complaint against the accused is genuine and backed up by evidence.

Changes in recent years have damaged traditional British protections against unfair – or summary – extradition. Following the Extradition Act 2003 British residents can be removed to stand trial in another country under a “fast-track” extradition system. This means that a British court never gets to consider whether there is evidence to justify the charge.

This agreement is in place with European Union and certain other countries, based on an assumption that the country seeking extradition will never do so on spurious grounds. 

In October 2012 the Home Secretary announced that the Government would introduce reform of our extradition arrangements. Liberty awaits the detail of the proposed legislation to make sure that whatever long overdue changes are introduced they will make sure the process of future extradition is a fair one.

TAKE ACTION We believe fast-track extradition is justice denied. Read about our Extradition Watch campaign for fairer extradition laws.

Liberty believes:

  • A person should not be extradited to stand trial in a foreign country without evidence being presented in a British court to prove there is a basic (prima facie) case against them

Case study - Andrew Symeou

Andrew Symeou is a British student who was extradited to Greece in 2009. He was accused of manslaughter following the tragic death of another young British man whilst he was on holiday in Greece. Evidence against him included statements given by two witnesses who say that Greek police officers pressured them to give false statements, which they retracted immediately after their release from police custody. Mr Symeou denied the charge and available evidence strongly indicated that he was innocent, yet a British Court never considered whether there was a prima facie case against him. Following his extradition Andrew spent over 10 months in appalling Greek prison conditions  In June 2011, Andrew Symeou was cleared of manslaughter by a Greek jury and returned home to the UK. 

  • If the crime is alleged to have occurred in whole or in part in the UK, then the person should not be extradited if a court here decides it is not in the interest of justice to extradite

Case study – Gary McKinnon

Gary McKinnon is a British man who has been charged with hacking into the US Pentagon and NASA systems between 1999 and 2002. For ten years Mr McKinnon faced the threat of extradition to the United States of America in order for him to stand trial. McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and his lawyers argued, in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, that because of this, and because the crime was committed on British soil, that he should be tried here in the UK. However the Court refused to order the UK not to extradite him, and McKinnon instead lived for many years with the prospect of facing 60 years in American jail.

On 16th October 2012 the Home Secretary announced her refusal to extradite Gary because to do so would breach his human rights.

In 2006 amendments were made to the Extradition Act that would allow a UK court to bar extradition (if appropriate) on the grounds that some or all the alleged conduct had taken place in the UK and if it would be in the interests of justice to do so. Yet these amendments have never been brought into force. If the forum bar had been on the statute book, it would have been possible for a UK judge to halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon long before his ten-year long extradition ordeal began.

Recently the Home Secretary announced that the Government would introduce a forum bar. This will not be the forum amendment currently on the statute book, but a new formulation in new legislation. Sadly, this important reform came too late for others recently extradited, like Babar Ahmed, Talha Ashan and Christopher Tappin. We will be urging the Government to urgently bring about this change in the law to help protect future cases of unjust extradition. Find out more about the forum amendment.

  • A person in the UK should not be extradited for something that is not a crime in the UK. British justice should not be circumvented.

The Extradition Act 2003, in implementing the European Arrest Warrant scheme, effectively abolishes dual criminality for extradition requests within the EU in respect of 32 categories of offences listed in the European Framework. This means that for these offences a person sought by an EU country can be extradited even if the alleged offence is not one recognised in the UK.

Belgium have enacted special provision to ensure that extraditions cannot be sought for abortion under the European Framework list category of “murder”, which demonstrates the problems with broad categories covering extraditions between countries with very different notions of what activities should be criminalised.

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