US-UK Extradition Treaty

02 December 2011


Statement to the Home Affairs Committee by Louis B. Sussman, United States Ambassador

1 December 2011

Let me start by thanking the committee for meeting with me today on an issue of great importance to the United States.

I welcome this opportunity to make the case for the US-UK Extradition Treaty in its current form.  To correct the myths and inaccuracies that have arisen in recent years.  And to answer your questions.

Alongside me this morning are Amy Jeffress, the Department of Justice attaché at the Embassy, who will provide any necessary legal expertise - and Robin Quinville, minister-counselor for political affairs.

First and foremost, I want to be very clear that we believe our extradition relationship works, it is fair and balanced, and it promotes the interests of justice in both our countries.

My government strongly supports this treaty.

And I believe that having signed the treaty, and having had it tested both through the British justice system and by independent experts, it is now incumbent on the UK government to stand in support of it.

This is what strong, enduring, bilateral alliances are built on: treaties and agreements that enshrine shared values and give us the legal authority to pursue common goals.

Unfortunately, however, our extradition treaty continues to be widely and wrongly condemned by some in Parliament and in sections of the British media.

In order to ensure that British interests are well protected, the Home Secretary appointed a ‘blue ribbon’ panel of legal professionals to evaluate the United Kingdom’s extradition treaty with the United States.

That panel was led by the esteemed judge Sir Scott Baker and included two highly-respected lawyers.

Both lawyers have significant experience in extradition proceedings: one from representing the accused; the other from representing governments.

As part of its work, the panel invited all interested parties to provide written submissions of their views on the issues.  They received more than 200 responses.

In addition, hearings and meetings were held with affected organizations and individuals, including officials from the UK, the US, and European governments.

Anyone holding a grievance with the treaty was given the fullest opportunity to express their concerns and their criticisms.

The panel also spent a week in the United States meeting with senior government officials and attorneys from the Departments of Justice and State who handle extradition matters.

I was briefed on those meetings and I know that the panel members were thoroughly prepared and their questioning – as you may expect from lawyers - was rigorous.

The panel also studied the extradition procedures in both countries – which are described in considerable detail in the final report – and it examined extraditions that have been concluded under the treaty to date.

In short, they conducted an exhaustive, meticulous and considered review.
They gathered substantial evidence and applied solid reasoning.  And they reached the only conclusion that could be supported by the facts:  that the US-UK treaty is balanced, fair, and needs no changes.

Even so, the myths and inaccuracies persist.

Many were repeated as recently as last week during a Parliamentary debate and its subsequent press coverage.

Accusations from Members of Parliament such as “24 Britons have been extradited to the US under the new arrangements and just one American to Britain”; or claims in the media that the Baker Review’s conclusions came “despite mountains of evidence to the contrary” – are simply not true.

So I would like to take this opportunity to set out some of the facts.

First, it is not the case, as some claim, that it is easier to extradite someone from the UK than from the US.

The United States has never denied an extradition request from the U.K. under the treaty.  The UK has refused on seven occasions.

Second, the standard that each country has to meet to extradite someone is the same.

I would like to repeat that: the standard is the same.

Third, the US does not get special treatment.  The UK domestic extradition law is the same for the US, Australia, Canada, Israel, Russia, and Turkey.

Fourth, neither country can ask for an extradition if the crime allegedly committed is not a serious crime in both countries.

And fifth, the United States does not seek the death penalty for any individual extradited from the UK.

In last week’s Parliamentary debate, we also heard repeatedly the clarion call: ‘British Justice for British Citizens’.

So let me address that too.

The UK authorities always begin by considering whether or not an individual can and should be tried in the UK instead of being extradited to the US.

And under the terms of the treaty, all extradition hearings are held in UK courts – as are subsequent appeals.

It is only when these avenues have been exhausted – when UK prosecutors, the courts, and the Home Secretary have all affirmed that the request is proper - that an extradition goes ahead.

The constant use of skewed arguments and willful distortion of the facts by some to advance their own agendas remains of great concern to the United States.

It would be wrong to view the extradition treaty through the prism of individual cases where sentiment and emotion can cloud reality and lead to misrepresentation.

Nor should we confuse the US-UK Treaty with concerns surrounding the European Arrest Warrant – a completely different issue than the extradition process in our treaty.

One has nothing to do with the other.

One of the virtues of our system of justice – as with yours – is that we believe firmly that criminal matters must be resolved in court, not in Parliament, nor in the media.

In all cases, I put my faith in the courts – in this country and in my own – to reach the right decisions based on facts, on law, and on evidence, taken in accordance with due process.

I also have total confidence that the UK government will accept the findings of the independent Baker Review and uphold the integrity of the US-UK Treaty.

Thank you for your time.  I am happy to take any questions.

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