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Parliament Finally Given Chance to Make UK Extradition Laws Fairer

editor - March 15, 2013

15th March 2013

On Monday 18th March, the UK Parliament will debate much-needed reforms to the country’s extradition laws. The amendments, part of the Crime and Courts Bill, would introduce safeguards to reduce the injustice caused by Europe's fast-track extradition system, the European Arrest Warrant.
Fair Trials International’s Chief Executive, Jago Russell, said:
“After countless cases of injustice and years of talk about change, Parliament now has a chance to act to put justice and fairness back into our extradition laws. Let’s hope MPs don’t let this opportunity slip through their fingers.”
Fair Trials International has long campaigned for safeguards against unjust extradition and reform has been backed by a number of inquiries and during debates in Parliament. In response, the UK Government has proposed two limited changes in the Crime and Courts (outlined below) but these do not go far enough and will do little to prevent future cases of injustice.
Additional amendments have now been tabled, including reforms to the European Arrest Warrant which resulted in over 900 extraditions from the UK in 2011. Fair Trials International has highlighted serious cases of injustice under this system (below). The UK Government has announced that it is working with other EU countries to seek reform of the Warrant at EU level. There are, however, changes that could be made by the UK Parliament to prevent cases of injustice.
For more information please contact Fair Trials International on +44 (0)20 7822 2370 or +44 (0)7950 849 851
Download this press release here

Notes to Editors

1. Fair Trials International is a human rights charity that provides assistance to people arrested in a country other than their own and campaigns for reform to fight the underlying causes of injustice in cross-border cases.

2. We have long called for reform of the UK’s extradition laws and are also campaigning for reform of the European Arrest Warrant at EU level. Numerous reviews, inquiries and debates in Parliament have backed the case for sensible reform, including the Scott Baker Panel’s review and Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry and Home Affairs Committee.

3. The Crime and Courts Bill will go through Report Stage in the House of Commons on 13 and 18 March 2013. The Government has introduced amendments to: (A) remove the Home Secretary’s power to refuse extradition on human rights grounds (used in the case of Gary McKinnon); and (B) introduce a power for courts to block extradition on forum grounds when it is not in the interests of justice for another country to prosecute a crime with close links to the UK. As currently drafted the forum amendment is likely to have very little impact in practice.

4. Additional amendments, were tabled on 5 March 2013. They amend the Extradition Act 2003 by: (i) amending the Government’s proposed forum bar ; and (ii) introducing new clauses to improve safeguards in European Arrest Warrant cases. These Arrest Warrant changes are as follows:

a. No extradition until a case is trial ready to prevent the many cases of premature extradition                             currently blighting the system.

Andrew Symeou,  for example, although cleared of any wrong-doing, was extradited to Greece two years before his trial was due to start and spent a year in appalling prison conditions.

b. Increase the fixed one-week deadline to appeal against extradition under an EAW to 14 days and allow courts to extend the deadline in the interests of justice, so that injustices caused by inflexibility in the current system are avoided.

Garry Mann for example, was denied an appeal against the decision to extradite him to Portugal to serve a sentence imposed after a grossly unfair trial as his first team of lawyers missed the deadline by less than 24 hours.

c. Allow courts to seek further information in an EAW case where there is suspicion of mistaken identity.

Edmond Arapi was ordered to be extradited to Italy to serve a sixteen year sentence for a murder he could not have committed (he was in the UK at the time and had never been to the Italian city it happened in). There was no power for the UK courts to highlight this and ask Italian prosecutors to look again.

5. The European Arrest Warrant is a fast-track system for surrendering people from one EU country to another to face trial or serve a prison sentence. It has removed many of the traditional safeguards in the extradition process. If a court in one country demands a person’s arrest and extradition, courts and police in other countries must act on it. We have called for reform to end the use of EAW’s for trivial offences and to provide better protection of suspects’ fundamental rights. Some changes will require reform at EU level but some can also be achieved domestically.

6. Fair Trials International has called for an effective forum bar to be introduced to enable courts to block extradition when it is not in the interests of justice. We have serious concerns that the clauses tabled by the Government do not, as drafted, provide a sufficient safeguard against unjust extradition. See our briefing to the Public Bill Committee on the forum bar.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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