Extradition: the other side of the argument


Yesterday, David Rawcliffe wrote that, based on the law as it currently stands, Gary McKinnon should be extradited. Today, Tim Worstall makes the case against McKinnon's extradition...

Here's a very gloomy thought for a Wednesday morning. It took our forefathers rather a long time to come up with the various measures that protect us as individuals from the abritrary exercise of State power. There were more than a few revolts and uprisings, at least one civil war and a revolution. We ended up with a system that was by no means perfect but was considered sufficiently robust in protecting the individual that when there was a rebellion against us and our restrictions, the newly formed US codified our mish mash of Habeas Corpus, the presumption of innocence, the right to speedy trial and so on.

Clearly such a system would be no use in protecting those rights of the individual if it stopped at the borders of the Kingdom: thus the imposition of rules upon extradition to other jurisdictions. Whatever was being alleged had to be a crime here as well as wherever they wished to try someone plus at least a modicum of evidence had to be offered that there was indeed a case to answer. It was not possible for a foreign power to simply demand one of us so that they could do as they wished.

This has all now rather changed. The Home Secretary thinks that sending Gary McKinnon off to the US for trial is just fine: despite the fact that as a forigner in the US it is almost certain he will not get bail. This despite the fact that under the higly unequal treaty with that country, no American would be extradited to here on the evidence so far presented. The US Supreme Court would not allow such a breach of a citizen's constitutional rights. (Worth perhaps noting this thought: "British version of the Act is written throughout with American spellings of English: in other words it was produced by US bureaucrats and pushed under the nose of Blunkett for his signature.")

Under the European Arrest Warrant Andrew Symeou is being held in a Greek prison. At no point has a case had to be made against, not to the standards that we would traditionally have demanded. Indeed, under that EAW we are all at the mercy of a number of jurisdictions that routinely bang people up without anything even vaguely resembling what we woudl call a fair trial.

And that is, in the end, my gloomy thought. It opens the way for Government to void all of our protections against arbitrary action. We might still be protected here, even if there are those in the Home Office who would wish that these pesky fair trial things were not so onerous, but we are no longer protected from being banged up in some foreign gaol. So, some assumed to be bad 'un might indeed be protected here, but there is no protection from a manufactured case from abroad.

Of course, I am being paranoid here: no British Government would ever collude with a foreign one to get one of us locked up without a fair trial, would it? By pointing out that this difficult character, while we can't try him in England, if you were to ask for extradition of course we'd have to had him over to rot in your prisons for a while? No, no, no government ever would act against the freedoms of a citizen in such a manner.

Of course, if we trusted governments that much we'd not insist on having protections here, would we? All of which rather leads to the conclusion that if extradition no longer requires the proofs and evidence of old then we are no longer free of arbitray imprisonment. Which isn't, when you come down to it, a great advance in civil liberties.