Dr. Ted R. Bromund is Senior Research Fellow, Thatcher Center for Freedom, Heritage Foundation.
Hard cases make bad law, the saying goes, and some of the cases that have attracted British attention – and condemnation -- to the 2003 Extradition Treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain are indeed hard. But not all of them are. Indeed, most extraditions from Britain to the U.S. – and all of them from the U.S. to Britain – excite no public controversy at all. The Treaty deserves more than to be condemned by anecdote; it deserves to be examined on its merits.
That is exactly what my co-author – Andrew Robert James Southam, a former Home Office extradition case officer – and I have done in a recent publication on the Treaty, and the entire UK extradition system, from the Heritage Foundation. We arrive at three conclusions, none of them reflected in most media and political commentary on the Treaty.
First, you cannot understand the Treaty if you look at it in isolation. It is part – and far from the most significant part – of the entire UK system, which developed over the late 1980s and the 1990s. The process was driven by Britain’s dissatisfaction with its existing extradition system, by developments in Europe – deriving initially more from the Council of Europe than the EU – and by the wider impulse to make it easier for well-established democracies to extradite to, and from, each other. That is exactly what the US-UK Treaty sought to do, and that goal was well-understood in Britain, and formed the basis for its acceptance of the Council’s European Convention on Extradition in 1990, long before the US-UK Treaty was negotiated.