Government must renegotiate 'unbalanced' extradition treaty

 

The government must renegotiate an "unbalanced" extradition treaty with the United States which a series of high-profile cases has shown does not protect the rights of Britons, a committee of MPs reports today.

Judges should be given the right to decide if some people should go on trial in the UK after hearing evidence that extradition to the US can be a “huge punishment” even if someone is acquitted. It warned that without changes a lack of public confidence in the treaty could translate to “wider disaffection.”

The report by the Home Affairs Select Committee contradicts a government-ordered independent review by the former High Court judge Sir Scott Baker that found last year that the 2003 treaty was fair and balanced.

However, the committee called for major changes to the treaty to deal with growing public unease including a test of some evidence against them, which is not currently in place.

“The treaty is unbalanced, making it easier to extradite a British citizen to the USA than vice versa,” said Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said. “Evidence to the committee has shown that the current arrangements do not protect the rights of British citizens. The Government must remedy this immediately.”

The report follows a series of cases including that of Gary McKinnon from north London, who is still waiting to hear whether he will be extradited over charges that he hacked into Nasa and Pentagon computers ten years ago. The decision has hinged on whether Mr McKinnon, 46, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, would be likely to commit suicide if he was sent abroad.

However an expert who had previously warned that Mr McKinnnon was a suicide risk said in a later report that he was mentally fit enough to be extradited, according to the reports seen by Channel 4 News. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will have the final say on the extradition and is also considering the Baker report.

However concerns over the treaty have been sufficient for David Cameron to raise the issue with Barack Obama during his visit to the United States. While in opposition, Mr Cameron said there was a “clear argument” for him to be tried in a British court and called for the extradition agreement to be reviewed.

“Extradition is a huge punishment in itself, massive,” Mr McKinnon’s mother Janis Sharp told the committee.

Further concerns have been raised over the cases of Kent businessman Christopher Tappin, 65, who is being held in a New Mexico jail while awaiting trial on charges of dealing arms to Iran and of student Richard O’Dwyer, 23, from Chesterfield, who is fighting extradition to the US. He is accused of breaking copyright laws while using his computer in Britain.

The controversy is centred on the contested view that there is a lower bar for US prosecutors to cross, than UK authorities. The committee said that the treaty should be changed so that the same test applies for extradition for both countries.

Giving evidence to the committee, US ambassador Louis Sussman said that treaty was fair and the the US had never denied an extradition request, while the UK had done so seven times. “The constant use of skewed arguments and wilful distortion of the facts by some to advance their own agendas remains of great concern to the United States,” he said.

Fair Trials International, a human rights charity, backed the call for reforms but said the committee had missed an opportunity to highlight problems over extraditions to Europe. It said that ten people were extradited to the US in 2010 compared with 1,068 to Europe.

Jago Russell, the chief executive, said: “This report ignores the elephant in the room: the European Arrest Warrant, which has far fewer safeguards than the US treaty and affects one hundred times as many people in the UK every year.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing