In the Media

US extradition treaty ?one-sided?, MPs report

PUBLISHED March 30, 2012

Friday 30 March 2012 by Jonathan Rayner

The extradition treaty between the UK and the US is failing to protect the rights of British citizens, MPs claim today.

A report by the House of Commons' home affairs select committee says that the 2003 treaty makes it easier to extradite a British citizen to the US than vice versa, and that the government should seek to amend it so that citizens from both countries enjoy the same 'legal safeguards'.

The report on the UK-US Extradition Treaty cites several high-profile cases that have been the 'focus of public concern', such as that of autistic computer hacker Gary McKinnon (pictured), alleged online content 'pirate' Richard O'Dwyer and Christopher Tappin, who is alleged to have sold restricted weapons-system components to Iran.

The report says that although it is 'firmly in our national interest to have effective, fair and balanced extradition arrangements with the United States', the committee has 'serious misgivings about some aspects of the current arrangements'.

The report points to the need to prove 'probable cause' when applying to extradite a US national to the UK, whereas only 'reasonable suspicion' - a lesser standard of proof - is required to extradite a UK national to the US.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said: 'The US remains one of our most important partners in the fight against international terrorism and organised crime. Extradition is a significant weapon in that fight, (but) the arrangements are one-sided. Prosecutors must be required to produce evidence in support of an extradition request and the accused should have the right to challenge that evidence in court.

'British citizens should also be given the opportunity to face trial in the UK. This would save both time and money.

'Evidence to the committee has shown that the current arrangements do not protect the rights of British citizens. The government must remedy this immediately.'

The report can be downloaded from the UK Parliament website.