The United Kingdom has agreed to a new extradition treaty with the United States, making it easier for the US to extradite suspects from the UK. Under the new deal, the US government will only need to provide evidence of suspected criminal activity to the British authorities. This is a significant departure from the previous extradition treaty, which required the US to provide a “probable cause” for extradition.  UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces espionage charges, a move that has been heavily criticized by Assange’s lawyers and civil rights advocates.  Under the new treaty, the allegations of the US government will be enough to secure the extradition of people from the UK.  Civil rights groups have argued that this could lead to a situation where people are deported without due process, with the US government’s word being taken as proof of guilt.
What is the current extradition treaty between the UK and US?
The Extradition Act 2003 is the existing legal framework that governs extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States and vice versa. It provides a structure by which British individuals can be asked to appear in US courts, whereas traditionally US individuals would have to travel to Britain in order for matters to be addressed. The current treaty is considered by many to be unbalanced in favor of American interests.
What has prompted a review of the treaty?
The proposed changes to the extradition treaty were initially recommended by an independent review conducted between 2018 and 2019. This review was commissioned due to increasing concern around the asymmetric nature of the current agreement, with a view to ensure that British nationals are subject to a fair process when being extradited from the United Kingdom. The government is now consulting on these proposals ahead of introducing any amendments.
How could the new treaty change existing extradition laws?
The key aim of amending the current treaty is to safeguard civil liberties and to ensure that extradition proceedings are fair and balanced. This could be achieved through a number of possible changes, including introducing safeguards for vulnerable people such as children and those with mental health conditions, improving coordination between British and American prosecutors, and implementing a ‘forum bar’ to prevent individuals from being extradited if another country is considered more suited to hear the case.
What are the implications for individuals affected by any changes to extradition?
If significant changes are made, individuals that are the subject of extradition proceedings could potentially benefit. The proposed reforms may make it more difficult for the US authorities to secure an extradition order and, thus, provide a clearer pathway for those seeking assistance if they believe they have been unfairly targeted. In addition, any changes to the treaty should ensure better safeguards for vulnerable individuals, allowing them greater access to legal protection and ensuring their right to a fair hearing is respected.
What are the implications for international business travel between both countries?
The proposed changes to the existing extradition treaty could have positive implications for business travel between both countries. If successful, the reform could make it easier and quicker for business travelers to enter and exit each other’s territories without fear of being subject to lengthy or unjust extradition proceedings. Furthermore, any potential savings in cost or time associated with overzealous US extraditions could be redirected to providing greater support tailored to business travel between the two countries.