Campbell presses Blair over ‘unfair’ US extradition treaty

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Liberal Democrat Leader, Ming Campbell MP called for reciprocity in the extradition treaty between Britain and the United States, asking whether the Prime Minister felt it was fair that British citizens can be extradited to the United States without a prima facie case and under a treaty the United States declines to ratify.

The Prime Minister said he understood the concerns of the families involved, but claimed it was not true that United States has been given preferential treatment.

Although the Prime Minister denies that ‘arrangements in respect of evidence are not reciprocal’ different rules have applied as between the US and UK since the coming into force of a Government Order on 1 January 2004. If the UK requests the extradition of an individual from the US, the request must be supported by additional evidence that would justify his committal for trial if the offence had been committed in the US. There is no such requirement for extradition the other way round.

A full transcript of today’s exchange is below:

Ming Campbell:

May I associate myself and my Honourable and Right Honourable Friends with the expressions of condolence and sympathy from both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition just moments ago. On the 1st March, the Prime Minister told me that he did not believe that the arrangements for the extradition of United Kingdom citizens to the United States were unfair.

Does he still believe that?

Prime Minister:

I do believe they’re not unfair for the reason I can give him. Although I totally understand the concern of the individuals who are to be extradited, and their families, as to what may happen in terms of bail particularly when they get to the United States. I will say something more about that in a moment. But what is important to realise is that the changes that we made a few years ago are changes that ended what was a situation where the United States was uniquely, to its detriment, not given the same arrangements as other countries. The purpose of the change was actually … If you want to listen to the facts, the purpose of the change was to bring the United States into line with not merely European countries, but countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, that was the purpose of the change. I totally understand the concern about bail arrangements and other things.

Ming Campbell:

One can’t help observe what about the principle of reciprocity.
What could be more unfair than for a British citizen to be extradited to the United States without a prima facie case and under a treaty which the United States declines to ratify? Will the Prime Minister act to bring an end to this practice?

Prime Minister:

If I can again deal with the issue of the reciprocal arrangements, it isn’t actually true that the United States has a different evidential burden from this country. The probable cause which is the burden that the United States places on countries who want to extradite from the United States is actually analogous to what we now provide under the extradition act. It’s not correct to say that the United States has been given preferential treatment or the arrangements in respect of evidence are not reciprocal.

However I understand the real concern that the families will have as to what happens when they go to the United States and I have asked our officials to look and see whether there is support or assurances we can give so if they’re extradited they are actually given the opportunity to be bailed.

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