Hacker’s unfair extradition may yet be prevented

Alex Hern covers the latest debate around the use of the lopsided UK-US extradition treaty.


Starting at 7:00 tonight, Parliament will debate the UK’s lopsided extradition agreement with the USA, in a move which could save the life of the hacker Gary McKinnon.

Under the rules of the agreement, signed by the two countries in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the UK has to demonstrate “probable cause” to extradite an American citizen, but the USA has only to demonstrate “reasonable suspicion”.

According to a review of the legislation by Sir Scott Baker (pdf), these two requirements are roughly equivalent:

“In our opinion, there is no significant difference between the probable cause test and the reasonable suspicion test.

“There is no practical difference between the information submitted to and from the United States.”

However, the statistics suggest a different story; as the Guardian reports, under the legislation:

Five Americans had been extradited to the UK, while 29 Britons had gone to the US.

The impetus for the parliamentary review of this legislation has been the case of Gary McKinnon, a UFO enthusiast who was arrested after hacking in to the Pentagon.

The American calls for his extradition were widely seen to be motivated by embarrassment at the ease with which he was able to gain access to supposedly secure military systems.

McKinnon became such a cause célèbre that even the coalition agreement pledged to review the legislation, saying:

“We will review the operation of the Extradition Act – and the US/UK extradition treaty – to make sure it is even-handed.”

The debate was sparked by MP Dominic Raab – best known for his attacks on workers, women and his constituents – and will encompass the extradition act as well as European arrest warrants, which have themselves been responsible for miscarriages of justice, as with the case of Edmond Arapi:

Documents seen by BBC News suggest that a man from Staffordshire, convicted of murder in Italy, was not in the country at the time.

Edmond Arapi, who lives in Leek with his wife and three young children, was given a 16-year jail term in his absence. His lawyers claim he is the victim of mistaken identity and are urging the Italian authorities to withdraw their request to extradite him.

Legal campaigners say the case highlights flaws in the fast-track European Arrest Warrant scheme.

Whatever the outcome of this debate, increased scrutiny of this legislation can only be a good thing.

See also:

Raab’s attacks on workers’ rights are – surprise – based on no evidenceSarah Veale, November 16th 2011

Huhne attacks “Tea Party Tories” – who on Earth does he mean?!Alex Hern, September 20th 2011

Mladic arrives in Rotterdam to face justice at The HagueShamik Das, May 31st 2011

Raab to face the wrath of Dale?Shamik Das, August 10th 2010

Tory MP tells constituents: “Don’t email me… it’s becoming a real nuisance”Shamik Das, August 9th 2010

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