Extradition Bill

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Mr. Hawkins: I understand the Minister saying that some of the wording in the amendments is not absolutely accurate and may go too far, and in moving the amendment, I said that I was not wedded to any particular form of wording. However, our job in Parliament is to protect our citizens, and we do not share the Minister's faith that our citizens are always protected in foreign courts. As my hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) and for Henley (Mr. Johnson) have made clear in this Committee and in European Scrutiny Committee debates on the European arrest warrant, we have seen our citizens treated improperly in courts in existing EU partner countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy.

When we are writing UK legislation that affects our citizens, we should include what we think that a retrial should involve. That would not be to rewrite other countries' legal systems for them, as the Minister put it in an overblown way; it would be to ensure safeguards so that British subjects who come before a foreign court have minimum guarantees of their civil liberties. It is not simply a case of saying that if the district judge

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is not satisfied, he will not grant extradition. We want to see guarantees included in the Bill, because that is our job in Parliament.

I will not press the amendments to a vote because, as the Minister said, their wording, which was suggested by the Law Society of England and Wales, may not be on point. However, the Minister should be in no doubt but that we will continually return to the issue, because of our experience of what happens under the current system to our citizens in foreign courts. It is not enough for the Minister to say that it is all right because we are dealing with mutual recognition and the UK Government have introduced some safeguards. We will return to the issue on Report and in another place, unless the Government take the matters more seriously and introduce their own amendments to include protections in the Bill.

Mr. Burnett: The Minister said that the differences on amendment No. 139 are largely semantic. He then noted that the framework document provides protections before saying that it is open for other countries to draw their laws in a different way. However, we need protection, and the matter is unlikely to be forgotten in future proceedings on the Bill.

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21

Human rights

10 am

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 99, in

    clause 21, page 9, line 20, after 'decide', insert

    ', on the evidence before him and on the evidence of his own personal knowledge or based on his own enquiries,'.

Once again, I can be brief with another amendment suggested by the Law Society of England and Wales, which the Liberal Democrats also support.

The amendment is designed to ensure that the judiciary, or any judge hearing the proceedings, is fully satisfied about the operation and application of the Human Rights Act. The Law Society believes in placing a positive obligation on the judiciary to make inquiries into any breach of a suspect's rights if extradition takes place. Will the Minister confirm that the clause will allow a court to take into account various proportionality arguments, such as extreme compassionate circumstances, triviality or unreasonable delays—for example, the de minimis provisions mentioned by the Minister and the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon a short while ago? I am not suggesting that the wording is perfect, but I hope that the Minister will take the amendment seriously in the spirit with which it was introduced.

Mr. Burnett: I have little to add to the comments of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. Liberal Democrat names were added to the amendment because it is only fair to oblige a judge to make inquiries into a possible

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breach of a suspect's rights, which should be an integral part of the process. Compliance with human rights legislation should be built into the Bill. We hope that the Minister will view the amendment favourably.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): On the assumption that we shall not have a clause stand part debate, I shall put some wider issues to the Minister. First, if the clause were not in the Bill, would the individual whose extradition is being sought have these rights in any event? In other words, do these rights apply regardless of the Bill?

Secondly, when we debated clause 13 on extraneous considerations, I suggested that it cast some doubt about whether we could rely on the competence of other judicial systems. Presumably, the extraneous considerations in that clause would be protected by human rights. I therefore wonder why both clause 13 and clause 21 are judged necessary. Indeed, if the rights already exist under the Human Rights Act, which I understand overrides all other legislation, why is either clause necessary?

Thirdly, clause 21 refers to the European convention on human rights. The preamble in paragraph 12 of the framework document deals with the charter of fundamental rights and article 6 of the treaty of European Union. Why are we using one definition in the framework document and another in the Bill? In our debate on clause 13, the Minister referred me to the preamble, which sets out the exact wording. However, the charter of fundamental rights is not the same as the European convention on human rights. Will the Minister help me to understand why some provisions are based on the one, and others on the other?

Finally, as I said when we debated clause 13, if a person already possesses rights under the Human Rights Act, the point falls, but if not, the provision opens a Pandora's box of extraneous defences. I refer once again to the case of Rachid Ramda who has been in jail in the UK fighting extradition to France for serious terrorist allegations, including blowing people up on the Paris metro. The main basis of his defence is that a Muslim cannot secure a fair trial in France. French law allows the evidence of a co-conspirator—or co-defendant who has already been convicted—to be used against another defendant. These arguments have run in the House of Lords and Rachid Ramda has succeeded in maintaining his case for seven years. The House of Lords threw out the Home Secretary's decision on the basis of this reasoning. The Home Secretary now has the matter back on his desk for reconsideration.

I support the Government in wanting to tighten and shorten extradition procedures, particularly for terrorist suspects. Another group of three have been fighting extradition proceedings for years for the 1998 bombings in east Africa. Had they been extradited, it is at least possible that their questioning by American authorities would have prevented further terrorist acts, including, perhaps, the recent one in Mombassa. Such cases—and, worst of all, that of Rachid Ramda—are fought on the grounds that Muslims cannot secure a fair trial in France. If that is true of France, in what European country can they secure a fair trial? If we all

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had to take our chances with another country's judicial procedures, I would have thought France, Germany and Sweden would rank fairly high on the list. Some of us have expressed doubts about Greece, Spain and Italy, but surely not France. If the House of Lords seriously believes that a Muslim cannot get a fair trial in Paris, one wonders what this legislation is about.

As I said, my point falls if rights exist under the Human Rights Act, but I am worried about reintroducing into the procedure a series of defences that I understood that the Government wanted to exclude.

The Chairman: Before we proceed, I want to make it clear that I allowed that contribution to run on the assumption that it counts as a clause stand part debate. If anyone wishes to make a point about the clause, they should speak now in our debate on amendment No. 99.

Mr. Ainsworth: The clause is unambiguous that extradition cannot take place if it is incompatible with a fugitive's rights under the Human Rights Act. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon rightly said, we debated the issue on clause 13. Surely neither he nor I would want someone, whatever they are accused of, to be prevented from arguing that their extradition to a particular country would breach their human rights. Does the hon. Gentleman really want that? Surely what we both want to prevent is the possibility of doing so repeatedly for months, or sometimes years. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the relevant cases.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights believed that it was right to have clause 20 in the Bill. I have sometimes heard Opposition Members put the reverse argument to their current one in other Committees—I recall the Liberal Democrats in the Proceeds of Crime Bill—that specific reference to the Human Rights Act should appear in every piece of legislation before Parliament. We are burnt or scalded. If we build the provision into the Bill, we are asked why it is necessary, and if we do not, we are asked why not. It is unambiguously set out in the Bill that people should not be prevented from alleging that their human rights would be breached and that they could not secure a fair trial in another jurisdiction. That is fine by me. Extradition will be barred if they can convince the district judge that that will be the outcome. We are trying to prevent exactly the sort of situation about which the hon. Gentleman complains: that is, people being able judicially to review many of the stages of the extradition procedure and spin the proceedings out, in some cases for many a long year. That is one of the main things that we are trying to do.

The amendment has tickled several people with whom I have had dealings. On Second Reading on 9 December, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said that he believed that the adversarial system employed by the United Kingdom is far superior to the continental system of investigating magistrates. However, he tabled an amendment that states that the judge must decide

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    ''on the evidence before him and on the evidence of his own personal knowledge or based on his own enquiries''.

Here we have a Conservative party, supported, less surprisingly, by the Liberal Democrats, trying to introduce the European investigative system of magistrates into British law.

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