Human rights: Extradition in a fine mess
7 August 2009
The 2002 European arrest was intended to facilitate extradition between EU members states as a response to the post 9/11 terror threat. With latest data suggesting that the bulk of extradition requests are for trivial offences, David Cronin in the Guardian argues that the system is "a shambles" that exacts a high human cost.
“I've long associated extradition with injustice,” writes Irish journalist David Cronin in the Guardian, recalling the widely held view in 1980’s Ireland that political prisoners transferred to Britain would not receive a fair trial. While accepting that the principle of extradition, he complains of a sense “that it's the little people who are at greater risk of being tried in a foreign court than those with serious questions to answer.”
Latest data collated by Brussels on the application of the European arrest warrant leaves him less than reassured. Initially proposed in the wake of 9/11, the execution of this system is “a shambles”, he argues. The British court system, for example, has recently had to deal with a sharp increase in extradition requests made from Poland, many for trivial offences. Of 4,829 requests, only 617 suspects were actually extradited.
Expert evaluations undertaken for the EU conclude that this system works satisfactorily, “when there is ample evidence that is not”, Cronin argues. While calling for guidelines on proportionality so that national authorities in each EU country can decide if an offence warrants extradition, they chide Greece for not introducing a proportionality test, and Italy for proposing to introduce one, on the basis it slows down the system. This, he writes, does not take into account “the human costs of being caught up in an often farcical situation.”