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Session 2006 - 07
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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2007

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Derek Conway
Bacon, Mr. Richard (South Norfolk) (Con)
Blunt, Mr. Crispin (Reigate) (Con)
Browne, Mr. Jeremy (Taunton) (LD)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral, South) (Lab)
Clappison, Mr. James (Hertsmere) (Con)
Clegg, Mr. Nick (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD)
Crabb, Mr. Stephen (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham, West) (Lab)
Grieve, Mr. Dominic (Beaconsfield) (Con)
Gwynne, Andrew (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
Hillier, Meg (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
Love, Mr. Andrew (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)
Ryan, Joan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Simon, Mr. Siôn (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)
Thornberry, Emily (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab)
Wyatt, Derek (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab)
Mr. Mark Oxborough, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 25 June 2007

[Derek Conway in the Chair]

Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2007

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2007.
The order is further secondary legislation required to amend the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 1 Territories) Order 2003 and the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2003.
This statutory instrument affects the UK’s extradition arrangements with three countries: Algeria, Gibraltar and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The order reflects the fact that the UK and Algeria signed a bilateral extradition treaty on 11 July 2006 and exchanged instruments of ratification on 25 February 2007. Designation of Algeria as a category 2 territory will bring that treaty into force in the United Kingdom.
The extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and Algeria, signed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Algerian Justice Minister on 11 July 2006, is one of a package of measures, including treaties on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, judicial co-operation in civil and commercial matters, an agreement on the readmission, and an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the President of Algeria. Those letters form the basis of the deportation with assurances procedure.
The measures are designed to increase co-operation between our two countries. The extradition treaty allows extradition to be requested for any offence that in the United Kingdom and Algeria attracts a maximum penalty of at least 12 months. The evidential requirement set out in the treaty means that both the United Kingdom and Algeria must provide a prima facie evidential case against any person whom they wish to extradite.
Currently, there are no formal extradition arrangements between the United Kingdom and Algeria except for a number of international conventions to which we are both parties and which deal with a limited number of specific offences, mostly associated with terrorism. The introduction of a formal basis for extradition for conduct covered by the UK-Algeria treaty will lead to a more efficient and effective extradition process between the two countries.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Will the Minister explain the relationship between the treaty and how we are implementing it here, on the one hand, and the memorandum of understanding reached between the United Kingdom and Algeria concerning terrorism cases, on the other? To what extent would that ensure that an extradited individual was not tortured or subjected to cruel or inhuman treatment?
Joan Ryan: I shall come to that in a little more detail later. I should say to the hon. Gentleman that we have confidence because of the co-operation that we have received in the cases of deportation with assurances, of which there have been at least seven. We are therefore not seeking a memorandum of understanding on this matter. Furthermore, there is the recent history: for instance, the reforms in Algeria and the charter for peace and national reconciliation of 2004 and how that is working.
As I was saying, the treaty will lead to a more efficient and effective process for extradition between the two countries. That will be preferable to relying on the ad hoc provisions in domestic extradition law for the many offences, including really serious ones such as murder and rape, that do not fall under the international conventions to which I have referred.
One advantage of the new arrangements is that they will improve our ability to achieve justice for British victims of serious crime. For clarity, I add that although deportation and extradition procedures are distinct, the principle of relying on credible assurances should be as applicable to extradition as it has been to deportation. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) asked about the relationship between the extradition treaty and the memorandum of understanding. The treaty deals only with extradition and the memorandum deals only with immigration removals, so there is no overlap between them.
The order designates Gibraltar as a category 1 territory. Gibraltar has implemented its own legislation to give effect to the streamlined and simplified European arrest warrant. Although it is not an EU member state, article 299.4 of the 1993 treaty on the European Union provides that it applies to
“the European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible.”
In addition, article 33 of the 2002 Council framework decision on the European arrest warrant confirms that those arrangements apply to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has designated the UK as a state for the purposes of the European arrest warrant, and has incorporated the warrant into its legislation. Likewise, the UK needs to designate Gibraltar as a part 1 territory so that extraditions between the UK and Gibraltar can be effected via the European arrest warrant procedure. The order amends the relevant measures in the Act accordingly, and will ensure that the UK continues to comply with its obligations under the framework decision. Gibraltar will thus become the 27th territory to which European arrest warrant procedures will apply to extradition arrangements with the UK.
The Committee will know that statutory instrument 2006 No. 3451 designated Bosnia and Herzegovina as an extradition partner under the European convention on extradition. The order before the Committee reflects the fact that the time limit under that convention in which a requesting state must submit full extradition papers in support of requests regarding provisional arrests that have been made is now 40 days, rather than the longer 60-day limit in the old UK-Yugoslav bilateral extradition treaty that previously governed our extradition relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The amendments are necessary to ensure that the UK is able to comply with its obligations under the relevant international extradition agreements. Given those explanations, I hope that the Committee will agree to the order.
4.38 pm
Mr. Grieve: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Conway, and I also welcome the Minister. I can tell her that the official Opposition do not intend to divide the Committee on this matter, although we do require some reassurances. I have nothing to ask her about the measures concerning Gibraltar and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as I can see their logic, but I wish to press her a little further about the position with Algeria.
I fully understand that our regimes for deportation and extradition are separate matters, but there is a practical overlap between them. We currently deport to Algeria, and have sought to do so under the memorandum of understanding that we drew up with the Algerian Government, individuals who might be wanted for prosecution by the Algerian Government—that is perfectly possible given that those individuals have been suspected of terrorism in the UK domestic context. We are now introducing a system whereby the Algerian Government may seek the extradition of such individuals quite separately from any issue as to whether we wish to deport them. It would be helpful if the Minister could provide some reassurance—I think that she would have no difficulty in doing so—that, irrespective of whether Algeria is included as a part 2 country, it remains the case that it would be open to any person whose extradition is sought to challenge that process, on the basis that a fair trial would be impossible in Algeria or that they would be likely to suffer cruel or inhuman punishment or torture if the extradition were to take place. It would be helpful if the Minister could put that point on the record, because it is of fundamental importance. As I understand it, this measure in no way removes that possibility to challenge the process.
However, if I have understood part 2 correctly, it remains the case that what would disappear as a result of part 2 being implemented is any discretion on the part of the Secretary of State to forbid extradition on any grounds; the matter is effectively placed entirely in the hands of the judiciary. Could the Minister confirm that I have understood that correctly and that that is indeed the position under the new part 2 regime? If that is the case, have the Government considered carefully the problems that may arise as a result of removing any kind of executive capacity to intervene in cases that may cause public controversy?
The Minister will be aware that, whereas part 1 seems to have operated with almost minimal difficulty since it was implemented, part 2 appears to create a number of areas of public disquiet, often in widely differing contexts. One example is, of course, the United States of America, in terms of the perceptions of the draconian nature of the punishments that may be meted out to individuals who are extradited there, compared with the punishments that they might receive in this country. There are also anxieties about whether fair trials are possible, even if it has been assessed that due process of law is something that would normally be sought in the country concerned.
As the Minister will be aware, this measure could give rise to controversial cases that might cause public disquiet. Therefore, it would be very helpful if, in her response, she could outline whether the Government have made a full assessment of that issue. It would also be helpful if she could address the specific points that I have raised: first, ministerial discretion in this area, or what will remain of it; and secondly, the ability to challenge extradition, on the basis of a potential violation of human rights under the European convention on human rights.
4.43 pm
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr. Conway.
I would like to thank the Minister for her explanation of the measure that we are considering today. I realise that this is obviously a sensitive area; extradition has been the subject of heated debate in recent times. As a principle, we fully support the notion that the Government should seek to enter into these agreements—memorandums of understanding, as they are called as far as deportations are concerned, and conventional treaties, as they are called as far as extradition is concerned. We also accept that this is clearly a very difficult area, because one is dealing with jurisdictions that are very different in their history, composition, institutional architecture and culture.
However, it seems to me not unduly controversial to say that when one is dealing with such a country as Algeria, with its well documented record of systematic human rights abuses—if any hon. Member doubts that record, I would refer them to last year’s Amnesty International report on Algeria and the activities of the notorious DRS, the feared military police—I would hope that all Members from all parties would accept that the bar needs to be set especially high, to secure the assurances necessary that any bilateral agreement does not lead, unwittingly or otherwise, to an abuse of due process and the human rights of those involved.
To that end, I seek to press the Minister a little further on the degree to which the terms of the convention are verifiably, rigorously and independently monitored. That probably applies to the bilateral extradition arrangements that are being entered into as much as to the bilateral deportation arrangements that have already been entered into. What is the role of the relevant United Nations bodies in ensuring a sense of independence in the monitoring of Algeria’s respect for those bilateral agreements? What role, if any, is there for third parties, such as authoritative non-governmental organisations, to verify the manner in which the agreements are respected in practice?
That is especially important given that—I hope that it is not unfair to Algeria to point this out—there is some discrepancy between what can be said in political and official circles by Government representatives and what occurs on the ground beyond the immediate remit of officialdom. Notwithstanding the fact that Algeria is, I think, a signatory of the UN convention on torture, we know that serious reservations remain about whether that legal obligation is met in practice, particularly in parts of the country that are difficult to reach and where practices can be obscured from external inspection.
In view of those doubts, which I hope the Minister will agree are reasoned and reasonable, does she agree that it is at least questionable whether it is right to remove the Home Secretary’ s discretion to judge individual extradition requests from Algeria, which will be one of the three principal effects of adding Algeria to the list of countries under part 2 of the Extradition Act 2003? If I understand the measure correctly, it will have three main effects. It will remove the duplicated, overlapping roles of the courts and Ministers created by the Extradition Act 1989 and it will create a streamlined appeals procedure. I am comfortable with both those effects. The third effect will be a reduced role for the Secretary of State and the removal of his broad discretion.
I acknowledge that, in a sense, I am pulling in two different directions. In other contexts, I would argue that that the judiciary, immune from political interference, should take the lead in making decisions in such cases. So acute are the well documented reservations about Algeria’s ability to respect some of the accords into which it has entered and to respect the human rights and civil liberties norms that we expect of it, however, that a degree of discretion should be retained until those doubts are dismissed and the requirements for independent monitoring are fully met.
I realise that there is a world of difference between designating a country as a part 2 country under the 2003 Act and further designating a country under article 3 of the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2003, which was where the controversy about the United States emanated from. If I understand the legislation correctly, it is from countries listed under article 3 that the prima facie evidential burden is removed. Will the Minister make it absolutely clear whether moving Algeria into part 2 will mean there is a presumption that there will be a move towards further designation under article 3 in the future? As she will understand, I am very uneasy about Algeria’s designation under part 2, but I would be implacably opposed to the idea that it would mean a precedent had been set towards further designation under article 3.
4.49 pm
Joan Ryan: I start by thanking Opposition Members for their support for the measures. I understand their desire further to probe the matters. To answer the final point that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) made, there is no presumption in the order about any future action. Any future proposals would have to come before Parliament. It is important that we clarify that immediately.
Perhaps I could say a little about progress—progress in our relationship with Algeria and the progress that Algeria itself has made. It has changed dramatically during the past decade, and President Bouteflika announced the charter for peace and national reconciliation in 2004, which has resulted in significant movement and progress. It granted an amnesty to those who were convicted of terrorism offences or were prepared to surrender themselves to the security services, and that extended to Government security forces.
Since then, significant improvement in Algeria has given us confidence, particularly in relation to human rights. The Algerian Government continue to pursue a programme of reform with major changes to the judicial system, including revision of the family code. One change has made torture a criminal offence, which is the least we expect to enable us to move to this arrangement.
Plans to modernise the prison service are in place. The UK supports those reforms, and we sponsored a visit to London by the Algerian Minister for Justice to examine our judiciary’s working methods and our prison service. We are facilitating contact between the Algerian prison service and the International Centre for Prison Studies. A lot of joint working is taking place, and we believe that we are having a good influence on progress.
Deportation with assurances strongly reassures us. Since June 2006, seven individuals have voluntarily withdrawn or waived their appeals against deportation to Algeria and have been deported. Although we do not have a formal monitoring body in Algeria, we are satisfied that we can deport terrorist suspects without breaching the UK’s domestic and international human rights obligations. We base that judgment on the changing circumstances in Algeria, and on our contact with the Algerian Government and individual deportees.
I can tell the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that, having successfully deported individuals to Algeria, the human rights requirement applied by the UK courts that approve deportation are the same as will be applied in future extradition cases, which is the point of his concern. Removal of the Secretary of State’s broad discretion had the objective of removing the overlapping and duplicated roles of courts and Ministers. Human rights issues are now exclusively the preserve of the courts, which are well qualified to consider such issues.
The Secretary of State retains the responsibility to consider three factors. The first is the death penalty. Extradition is barred if there is a risk of the death penalty, and if the Secretary of State does not receive a guarantee that it will not be carried out, we will not extradite. The second is speciality. Extradition is barred if no speciality arrangements are in place with the requesting state, so someone can be tried only for the offences for which he or she was extradited. The third is onward extradition. Extradition is barred if the person was previously extradited to the United Kingdom and the first state has not given permission for their onward extradition to the third state. Only those three issues remain to be considered by the Secretary of State.
Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): On the death penalty, can the Minister tell the Committee how many people in Algeria annually are committed to death by the state, whether the number is rising or declining, and whether the Algerians have given assurances in that regard and later reneged on them?
Joan Ryan: We are reassured about deportations to Algeria and our memorandums of understanding because there has not been a case in which they have been breached. I understand that there has been a moratorium in Algeria since 2003, so we do not have any recent figures because they are not there to be had, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman and give him any further information that is available.
I hope that I have covered the important points that Opposition Members have raised. I am satisfied that human rights rest in the hands of the judiciary, and if our judiciary believed that human rights would be breached, they would not order extradition.
On the basis that we are making progress with Algeria and that the order will bring people to justice, which is what we all want that, I ask the Committee to support it.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2007.
Committee rose at four minutes to Five o’clock.

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