The Human Rights Implications of UK Extradition Policy - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

7  Other Issues

Provision of information

218. A theme which emerged from the evidence provided by those with personal experience of extradition proceedings was the lack of information provided on the process. Michael Turner told us that when he asked what would happen when he was returned to Hungary "nobody would answer the question; whether they didn't know or whether they didn't want to tell us, I'm not sure." Once in Hungary, Mr Turner told us that his rights in prison were only explained "very vaguely."[221] Deborah Dark also told us that the British authorities were unable to provide her with information on the EAW request that had been issued against her as "they were not party to the Schengen Information System, so therefore they did not have the information."[222]

219. The Police outlined the information required to be provided by the Extradition Act 2003. When a person is arrested in an extradition case they are provided with a copy of the warrant and a notice of their rights and entitlements.[223] Commander Gibson acknowledged that the Police did have a role in explaining to the arrested person what would happen to them next: "that is done either by the arresting officer or, if not, it should certainly be done by the custody officer when someone is booked in; they will then be told what court they are going to and what will happen next." The responsibility also fell on their legal representatives, who should explain the process of extradition.[224] We also discussed the provision of information with the Director of Public Prosecutions who told us that he was not against the Crown Prosecution Service providing any further information as necessary, but suggested that "it is probably right that this is the function of the police."[225]

220. The Director of Public Prosecutions noted that there were initiatives to standardise the information provided to individuals across the EU involved in criminal proceedings, which is one of the initiatives set out in the EU Roadmap on procedural rights.[226] The second measure set out in the Roadmap would place on the statute book the information on rights and charges that a defendant would be entitled to receive:

"The suspect or defendant is likely to know very little about his/her rights. A person that is suspected of a crime should get information on his/her basic rights in writing, ideally by way of a letter of rights. Furthermore, that person should also be entitled to receive information about the nature and cause of the accusation against him or her. The right to information should also include access to the file for the individual concerned."[227]

221. The information we received from the Police on the information provided to people subject to extradition proceedings has shown that enough information is provided on proceedings within the UK, particularly given that the requirements mirror those in a domestic case. However, little information is provided about the legal process in other EU states. The Government should standardise the information received by those subject to extradition to ensure they receive sufficient, accurate information on the extradition process and their rights in the country to which they will be extradited.

Extradition and asylum

222. The submission of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) raised a number of issues in relation to the human rights of those persons who are subject to extradition proceedings who are also subject to immigration control.[228] In particular, ILPA raised concerns that a number of persons have had their refugee status cancelled while outside the United Kingdom, "where deprivation appears based on charges that founded the extradition, of which they have been acquitted." This can leave the person stranded outside the UK, unable to return to appeal against the revocation of their refugee status. ILPA argued that this raised issues in relation to the right to family life (Article 8 EHCR), particularly where that person has family remaining in the UK. ILPA also raised concerns that a person subject to extradition who is also subject to immigration control may be at risk of refoulement[229] to a country where their human rights could be at risk. ILPA concluded that "extradition procedures fail to provide protection against breaches of human rights that arise when persons subject to extradition orders are, or become persons subject to immigration control."[230]

223. We raised these concerns with other witnesses. Liberty also expressed concern over these issue, both in relation to the possibility of unfair extradition and that the UK's obligations under the Refugee Convention may be bypassed when a claimants refugee status is reversed while they are out of the country. It argued that the "legal root of the problem" lay in the Extradition Act, which had a statutory loophole which "effectively allows the UK Government to defer its determination of a refugee claim under the Refugee Convention."[231] JUSTICE agreed that "immigration powers of deportation and removal should not be used in order to circumvent the procedural guarantees available in extradition proceedings."[232]

224. We did not explore the issue of immigration control and extradition in detail during this inquiry, and we may wish to follow-up this issue in more detail in future. It would be helpful if the Government were to provide details of their procedures in relation to extradition of persons subject to immigration control and the precautions they take to ensure that these persons' rights are not infringed through either revoking their refugee status while they are outside the UK, or through their refoulement to another country.

Universal Jurisdiction

225. The Committee received a submission from REDRESS on the issue of the location of trials in relation to international crimes allegedly committed abroad.[233] REDRESS argued that where suspects of crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity reside in the UK, trials should be held in the United Kingdom: "to rely solely on extradition is wrong both in principle and practice, and can lead to serious anomalies where known suspects live here for years without being held accountable anywhere, even when the UK has jurisdiction over the alleged offence(s)." REDRESS argued that despite the UK improving legislation to make it possible to prosecute such crimes, "the policy appears to be to place excessive reliance on extradition". The submission concluded that the Government should look to prosecute cases in the United Kingdom, particularly where extradition has already failed and in order to ensure that the UK does not become "a de facto safe haven where suspects can continue living here for years without being brought to trial." The submission refers to the example of four Rwandan men accused of genocide. Following the barring of extradition on human rights grounds with the defendants arguing they would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda, the UK has not proceeded with prosecution.[234]

226. We wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice on this issue. He noted that the "over-riding consideration" was that there was no impunity for the most serious international crimes. However, this did not mean that the UK should prosecute in the first instance as "it would be counter-productive for the UK to seek to be the policeman of the world." He noted that there may be instances where extradition was preferable to ensure the person stood trial in the country where the alleged offence took place. Evidence could be located in this country and extradition may mean that the victims and relatives of victims were able to see "justice being done first hand."

227. He noted that the International Criminal Court Act 2001 provided the UK with the power to prosecute nationals and residents for war crimes and crimes against humanity, subject to a two-stage test exercised by the CPS for all prosecution decisions: whether there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution and whether prosecution would be in the public interest.[235]

228. Extradition should not be the only method for dealing with suspects of crimes against humanity: we urge the CPS to consider carefully whether such suspects can be tried in the United Kingdom before extradition proceedings are initiated.

221   Q 41 Back

222   Q 44 Back

223   Q 89 Back

224   Q 94 Back

225   Q 193 Back

226   Ibid. Back

227   OJ C295 (30 November 2009) Back

228   EXT 5 Back

229   The principle of nonrefoulement concerns the protection of refugees from return to a country in which their human rights would be at risk. Back

230   EXT 5 Back

231   EXT 24  Back

232   EXT 20 Back

233   EXT 8 Back

234   EXT 8 Back

235   EXT 26 Back

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Prepared 22 June 2011