Review: UK-US extradition treaty is fair

AP News
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Posted: Oct 18, 2011 8:14 AM
Review: UK-US extradition treaty is fair

A judge-led review said Tuesday that extradition agreements between the United States and Britain are fair and unbiased.

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May set up the inquiry last year after some lawmakers and human rights groups complained that the treaty gives American citizens more protection than British ones against extradition requests.

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg had criticized the treaty while in opposition. The previous Labour Party government had agreed to the treaty after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Judge Scott Baker who led the review said he found no evidence that the treaty between the U.S. and the U.K operated in an unbalanced way.

The U.S. is currently seeking the extradition of Gary McKinnon _ a British hacker who has admitted breaking into U.S. military computers following the Sept. 11 attacks. Efforts to extradite him to the U.S. have been delayed for years over questions about his mental health and the fairness of the extradition request.

While in opposition Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party, had supported McKinnon and called on Labour to "tear up the unequal, unfair treaty."

Cameron had also supported McKinnon's case, arguing that the treaty was designed to deal with terrorists and that "it was never intended to deal with a case like Gary's."

Lawmakers on a human rights committee said in June that the treaty should be changed to ensure the U.S. had to present more evidence before a British citizen could be extradited. They also said British courts should have the power to refuse extradition requests if an alleged crime took place mainly in the U.K.

Baker's report did criticize the time taken by the European Court of Human Rights to hear appeals over extradition cases, including the case of radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri who is wanted in the U.S. for a raft of alleged terrorist offenses, including trying to set up an al-Qaida training camp in rural Oregon.

Al-Masri is currently serving a seven-year prison term in Britain for inciting hatred and has lodged an appeal against extradition to the U.S. with the European court. The appeal concerns the length of any possible sentence he would receive in the U.S. and the conditions under which he would be held there.

Baker's review recommends that the government tries to speed up cases in Europe but says that, generally, politicians should not intervene directly in extradition cases.

The government said it would consider the findings of the review, but did not indicate whether the recommendations would be followed.

May said she was grateful to the panel for its work, adding "I will consider their recommendations carefully."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. government welcomed the review. In a statement he said: "The treaty has enabled us to work closely with our partners in the United Kingdom to pursue the interests of justice in both our nations."