The US Senate is not ratifying the US-UK Extradition Treaty because of “lobbying by Irish-American groups , worried the British would pursue republican terrorists”.
The Financial Times report (‘Business circles angry at refusal of US to ratify deal’, 28 June 2006) has let the cat out of the bag.
For over 6 months there have been rumblings of discontent within the British business community on the asymmetrical nature of the UK-US Extradition Treaty agreed in March 2003.
Matters have now come to a head with the imminent extradition of three former NatWest bankers for an alleged white collar offence. Ian Norris, former chief executive of Morgan Crucible, has also faced legal proceedings leading to extradition, because of charges of price fixing.
In the 2003 treaty, Britain acquiesced to allow suspects to be extradited to the US without a primae facie legal case having to be proved against them in the British courts. However any British request to the US needs to clear a legal hurdle – UK authorities must show “probable cause”.
Full reciprocity in the terms of the Treaty cannot be achieved till the US Senate ratifies it – which it has refused to do so up to now. The underlying reason is the above-mentioned Irish connection. Meanwhile UK citizens are at a disadvantage when being pursued by the US authorities.
According to an FT report, also published on 28 June 2006 “the argument for this – which UK officials tamely accept – is that the US has to demand extra safeguards because of its constitution, which is supreme above all international law”.
What a travesty! The US has not hesitated in using the Treaty a wide manner – of the 43 extradition requests received by the UK since the start of 2004, 23 have related to financial affairs. Among the remaining 20 is the case of Babar Ahmed.
Will Mr Blair put the interests of UK citizens first, and – as the FT puts it – “suspend the 2003 extradition treaty unless and until the Senate approves it”?