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Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties. Where extradition is compelled by laws, such as among sub-national jurisdictions, the concept may be known more generally as rendition.
The consensus in international law is that a state does not have any obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state as one principle of sovereignty is that every state has legal authority over the people within its borders. Such absence of international obligation and the desire of the right to demand such criminals of other countries have caused a web of extradition treaties or agreements to evolve; most countries in the world have signed bilateral extradition treaties with most other countries.
No country in the world has an extradition treaty with all other countries; for example, the United States lacks extradition treaties with several nations, including the People's Republic of China, Namibia, the United Arab Emirates, North Korea, and Bahrain. However, the United States has extradition treaties with a number of countries, including one with Canada (with provisions to block extradition if the accused could face the death penalty)
By enacting laws or concluding treaties or agreements, countries determine the conditions under which they may entertain or deny extradition requests. Common bars to extradition include:
The refusal of a country to extradite suspects or criminals to another may lead to international relations being strained. Often, the country to which extradition is refused will accuse the other country of refusing extradition for political reasons (regardless of whether or not this is justified). A case in point is that of Ira Einhorn, in which some US commentators pressured President Jacques Chirac of France, who does not intervene in legal cases, to permit extradition when the case was held up due to differences between French and American human rights law. Another long-standing example is Roman Polanski whose extradition California has pursued for over 20 years. For a brief period he was placed under arrest in Switzerland, however subsequent legal appeals there prevented extradition.
The questions involved are often complex when the country from which suspects are to be extradited is a democratic country with a rule of law. Typically, in such countries, the final decision to extradite lies with the national executive (prime minister, president or equivalent). However, such countries typically allow extradition defendants recourse to the law, with multiple appeals. These may significantly slow down procedures. On the one hand, this may lead to unwarranted international difficulties, as the public, politicians and journalists from the requesting country will ask their executive to put pressure on the executive of the country from which extradition is to take place, while that executive may not in fact have the authority to deport the suspect or criminal on their own. On the other hand, certain delays, or the unwillingness of the local prosecution authorities to present a good extradition case before the court on behalf of the requesting state, may possibly result from the unwillingness of the country's executive to extradite.
For example, there is at present a disagreement between the United States and the United Kingdom about the Extradition Act 2003 (text here) that dispenses with the need for a prima facie case for extradition.
This came to a head over the extradition of the Natwest Three from the UK to the U.S., for their alleged role in the Enron fraud. Several British political leaders were heavily critical of the British government's handling of the issue. The former leader of the UK's Liberal Democrat party, Sir Menzies Campbell, had argued that the U.S. had not ratified the treaty primarily due to the influence of what he calls the "Irish lobby" – which, he said, is opposed to the treaty because it could make it easier for Britain to have alleged IRA terrorist suspects extradited from the U.S.
The precedent of the Natwest Three may also be used to extradite/prosecute Philip Watts in connection with the Royal Dutch Shell reserves scandal. The press has carried vocal criticisms of the present extradition arrangements from the UK's business community, some of whom stated that they were avoiding doing business with or in the U.S. because of legal concerns such as the extradition treaty, among other concerns.
A controversy in 2012 concerns the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer from the United Kingdom to the United States.
Issues of international law relating to extradition have proven controversial in cases where a state has abducted and removed an individual from the territory of another state without previously requesting permission, or following normal extradition procedures. Such abductions are usually in violation of the domestic law of the country in which they occur, as infringements of laws forbidding kidnapping. Many also regard abduction as violation of international law — in particular of a prohibition on arbitrary detention. A small number of countries have been reported to use kidnapping to circumvent the formal extradition process. Notable or controversial cases include the abduction or attempted abduction of
|1950||Morton Sobell||Mexico||United States|
|1967||Isang Yun||West Germany||South Korea|
|1990||Humberto Álvarez Machaín||Mexico||United States|
|2005||Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr||Italy||Egypt (with confirmed United States involvement)|
|2011||Dirar Abu Seesi||Ukraine||Israel|
"Extraordinary rendition" is an extrajudicial procedure in which criminal suspects, generally suspected terrorists or supporters of terrorist organisations, extrajudicial transfer of a person from one country to another. The procedure differs from extradition as the purpose of the rendition is to extract information from suspects, while extradition is used to return fugitives so that they can stand trial or fulfill their sentence. The United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) allegedly operates a global extraordinary rendition programme, which from 2001 to 2005 captured an estimated 150 people and transported them around the world.
The alleged US programme prompted several official investigations in Europe into alleged secret detentions and illegal international transfers involving Council of Europe member states. A June 2006 report from the Council of Europe estimated 100 people had been kidnapped by the CIA on EU territory (with the cooperation of Council of Europe members), and rendered to other countries, often after having transited through secret detention centres ("black sites") utillised by the CIA, some of which could be located in Europe. According to the separate European Parliament report of February 2007, the CIA has conducted 1,245 flights, many of them to destinations where suspects could face torture, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. A large majority of the European Union Parliament endorsed the report's conclusion that many member states tolerated illegal actions by the CIA and criticised such actions. Within days of his inauguration, President Obama signed an Executive Order opposing rendition torture and established a task force to provide recommendations about processes to prevent rendition torture.