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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2008

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Martyn Jones
Betts, Mr. Clive (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab)
Blunt, Mr. Crispin (Reigate) (Con)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
Brokenshire, James (Hornchurch) (Con)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Clelland, Mr. David (Tyne Bridge) (Lab)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian (Leeds, North-East) (Lab)
Hillier, Meg (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Jones, Mr. Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)
Knight, Mr. Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)
Leigh, Mr. Edward (Gainsborough) (Con)
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian (Bridgwater) (Con)
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) (Lab)
Oaten, Mr. Mark (Winchester) (LD)
Wilson, Phil (Sedgefield) (Lab)
Mark Etherington, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 10 June 2008

[Mr. Martyn Jones in the Chair]

Draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2008

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2008.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Jones. We are here to talk about the Extradition Act 2003, which streamlined and modernised the UK’s extradition relations with the rest of the world. It came into effect on 1 January 2004. Today, in an effort further to improve international co-operation, we are seeking to add the United Arab Emirates to the schedule of territories designated under part 2 of the Act as extradition partners.
Our concern is the further secondary legislation required to amend the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2003. The instrument affects the UK’s extradition arrangements with the United Arab Emirates. It reflects the fact that the UK and the UAE signed a bilateral extradition treaty on 6 December 2006 and, earlier this year, exchanged instruments of ratification. Designation of the United Arab Emirates as a category 2 territory will enable the advantages of the treaty to be given full effect in the UK. The extradition treaty between the UK and the UAE was signed by the then Home Secretary and the UAE Minister of Justice in December 2006. It was one of a package of measures designed to increase co-operation between the law enforcement agencies of our two countries. Besides the extradition treaty, we have also concluded a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and a treaty on judicial co-operation in civil and commercial matters. Clearly, we are here today to debate the first treaty.
The extradition treaty allows extradition to be requested for any offence that attracts a maximum penalty of at least 12 months’ imprisonment in both the UK and the United Arab Emirates. The evidential requirements set out in the treaty mean that both the United Kingdom and the UAE must provide a prima facie evidential case against any person that they wish to extradite. There are currently no formal extradition arrangements between the UK and the United Arab Emirates, outside a number of international conventions to which we are both party and which deal with a limited number of specific offences, concerned mainly with serious criminal conduct such as terrorism or drug smuggling.
We are clear, as a Government, that we will not allow criminals who evade our borders to escape justice. We are committed to assisting our international partners in doing the same. I invite the Committee to agree that the amendments are necessary, in order to ensure that the UK is able to comply with its obligations under the bilateral extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates. That is what the order seeks to achieve. I urge the Committee to support it.
4.34 pm
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): It is a pleasure to work under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Jones.
The statutory instrument before us, as the Minister explained, is fairly narrow, adding the United Arab Emirates to the list of category 2 designated countries under the Extradition Act 2003. That is the fast-track extradition approach, on which there has been some wider and more general debate—about its appropriateness, its efficacy and the need for further review and examination. I do not intend to go into that wider debate today. I do not think that it would be in order, and the general arguments are more appropriately dealt with in a wider forum. However, there are a number of points that I hope the Committee will consider and to which the Minister will respond.
It is important that we foster closer diplomatic ties. I welcome the arrangements, connections and strengthening of relations with the United Arab Emirates, and I recognise our need to strengthen and develop those relationships in other parts of that region as well, in terms of ensuring that people are brought to justice in this country, that we ensure that the victims of crime are appropriately supported, and that there can be a sense of justice being done.
The order gives effect to the extradition treaty, which the Government signed with the UAE on 6 December 2006, and which came into effect on 2 April 2008. It allows extradition in circumstances where an offence is punishable under the laws of both the United Kingdom and the UAE, by the deprivation of liberty for a period of at least one year, or by a more severe penalty, or where the accused has been convicted of such an offence and has been sentenced to a period of at least six months. There are certain provisions as to the way in which that would operate, which are defined in greater detail in the treaty, and the Act prescribes certain operational arrangements. I hope that the Minister can explain some of those practical effects in somewhat greater detail.
I also understand that corporal punishment remains operative in the UAE for a number of offences. Can the Minister confirm whether the potential use of flogging would be considered as potential grounds for refusal of a request for extradition under article 4(1)(e)?
Can the Minister also comment on the separation of powers between the judiciary and the Executive in the UAE, in terms of how that would operate—the requests that are received from the Executive, and the standards of proof and the evidential side, which are important? The US State Department has suggested that there is no functional separation between the Executive and judicial branches. Can the Minister comment on the British Government’s view on that, and whether that issue should be considered in the context of these new extradition arrangements?
Whilst the Foreign Office website notes that the UAE has a relatively good human rights record, sharia law is not applied comprehensively, and death sentences and amputations are rarely carried out. Article 6 of the treaty includes specific provision on capital punishment. Can the Minister confirm what legal advice she has received on the effectiveness of this provision contained within the treaty, as well, obviously, as its interrelationship with the separate provisions that exist in relation to human rights legislation, and the ability of the United Kingdom Government to refuse their consent under article 4(1)(e), and whether the death penalty provisions are therefore thought to be robust in that context in terms of assurances that may have been given by the UAE authorities?
More generally, can the Minister confirm whether the Government have concluded any memorandum of understanding with the UAE concerning the potential application of punishments that might be regarded or considered as cruel or unusual under human rights legislation, as well as what legal advice she has received on the effectiveness of any such memorandum of understanding in the context of any extradition requests?
Article 7(3)(a) of the treaty states that for a request for extradition to be effective, the requesting party would need to provide such evidence as would justify committal for trial under the laws of the requesting party. As the Minister indicated, in this country that would mean that a prima facie case would need to be shown. Can she confirm that the same procedure applies in the UAE, which obviously has a different judicial process for committal for trial? There is an assumption of prima facie evidence being required to justify it on our side. In other words, does the order mean that there is broad equivalence, or is it easier for the UAE to secure the deportation of British nationals from this country than it would be for us to make a request in the other direction, as we have seen in previous treaties that the Government signed up to?
Can the Minister also confirm that the UAE has not been specifically designated pursuant to section 71(4) of the 2003 Act? Section 71 is about the requirement for evidence to be produced to a judge to justify the issue of an arrest warrant. Section 71(4) allows the requirement to be downgraded to providing merely information rather than evidence if so ordered by the Secretary of State. Can the Minister confirm that that is not the case in relation to the UAE, and that the Government have no present intention subsequently to designate the UAE for the purposes of section 71(4)?
I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to those points, which I acknowledge are points of detail but which are important for a proper understanding of the operation and practical impact of the order. Clearly, it is important that we strengthen our ties and relationships so that we can promote the strength of criminal justice in this country and bring to justice those who commit crimes against people living in this country, but we need to understand the import, effect and application of the provisions, and to feel assured that the concerns that have been expressed in certain quarters outside this House have been considered and are properly reflected and addressed in the order.
4.42 pm
Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): As the hon. Member for Hornchurch has eloquently dealt with most of the key issues, I shall not detain the Committee, other than to make three or four brief observations. I agree with the comments about the importance of diplomatic relations with the UAE. I was lucky enough to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi a few years ago and had meetings there that indicated to me just how positive the political leaders in that part of the world were about playing their part to help this country in particular to tackle terrorism. I welcome close relations with them. With that in mind, I give a cautious welcome to the order.
I have two or three quick questions for the Minister. Is she in a position to estimate how many cases would be likely to be involved, based on previous history? The second question relates to the comments of the hon. Member for Hornchurch about the independence of the judiciary. In the discussions that led up to the signing of the ratification instruments, was the issue of political interference with courts specifically raised with the UAE?
The third and final point relates to a general concern one has, having approved such measures in the past, and that is the ability to test and monitor whether agreements that have been put in place are indeed being kept. What level of independent monitoring can we have, and what use will the Government make of organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty?
4.43 pm
Meg Hillier: I am delighted that the hon. Member for Hornchurch, whose comments I shall refer to first, is so supportive of the steps that we have taken towards improving relationships with the UAE, in particular signing the treaty. However, I beg to differ with him on the suggestion that we have a fast-track approach in the treaty. It is a requirement for both countries to establish prima facie evidence. I do not think that that is particularly fast-tracked. The evidence has to be gathered. The order simply streamlines the relations and issues that we have had to deal with in the past through other complex international agreements. The order streamlines, rather than fast-tracks—it is important to make that distinction.
The hon. Gentleman raised several points. On the human rights aspects, the treaty laid out clearly that if human rights were at risk of being breached, we would be entitled to not extradite somebody, having had good precedents for that in other similar treaties. Similarly, the issue of flogging comes under that assurance. On the issue of death penalty provisions and guarantees, I am content with the advice that I have received. As I have mentioned, all of those issues come under the general human rights banner and the protection of human rights, which is acceptable. The agreement that we have reached is not uncommon; we have reached such agreements with other states too.
James Brokenshire: The point that I was seeking to make was about the testing or effectiveness of assurances in a situation where an informal assurance had perhaps been given by the UAE or the relevant state, and whether that is sufficient justification. On the basis of the legal advice that the Minister has received, if an assurance was given, would she be content to allow an extradition to take place in those circumstances and would she be content that that could not be challengeable or challenged or overturned by the courts?
Meg Hillier: I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am content that the necessary assurances are in place. It is not uncommon for us to have assurances with other countries. We have an extradition treaty with the United States, for example, where in some states there is the death penalty and where we have guarantees. We have a number of international mechanisms for monitoring a situation, but we have no reason to believe that the UAE would break the treaty—it has been signed by both sides. That brings me to the point about the UAE approach to prima facie evidence and the broad equivalence. It is a treaty in both directions: both countries have to provide prima facie evidence in order for an extradition to take place. Under section 71(4), regarding arrest warrants there is no present intention to designate. The UAE would have to demonstrate a prima facie case, as I mentioned.
James Brokenshire: I am grateful for the Minister’s reply. The point that I was seeking to make is that the treaty states in article 7(3)(a) that each party would have to show such evidence as would justify committal for trial under the laws of the requested party. I want to probe a little further, because while I understand that that means that a prima facie case would be required for committal in this country, I seek complete clarification that that same system would apply in the UAE and that, therefore, for committal to take place, a court would need to be satisfied in the UAE that a prima facie case had been made.
Meg Hillier: I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman. If he would like further information about the UAE’s legal approach, I am happy to write to him with further detail, but I hope that my assurance is enough for him.
James Brokenshire indicated assent.
Meg Hillier: I turn to the comments by the hon. Member for Winchester. I also welcome his support. It is perhaps more cautious, but I am sure that our friends in the UAE will be pleased to hear cross-party support for our improving Government relationships with their country. He asked for an estimate of the number of cases. I cannot give an estimate—it is impossible to say how often the measure would apply, but it is important that it is in place for the eventualities where it may be necessary. It is important to protect our citizens from people from the UAE who may have committed a crime against them, and equally, the other way round; I do not think that British citizens should get away with a crime committed in a partner country.
On monitoring agreements we have in place a number of international mechanisms, not least our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Equally, we have representations from some of the groups that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. At the Home Office we always take on board evidence. We listen to that evidence and then take appropriate action.
I am pleased to hear the debate and I am glad that there is such cross-party agreement.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2008.
Committee rose at eleven minutes to Five o’clock.

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