On 23 January in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the UK-US Extradition Agreement, David Davies, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden opened as follows: “Since we agreed the UK-US extradition treaty in 2003, it has been abundantly clear that the British Government of the day struck a truly dreadful deal—asymmetric, sometimes ineffective and often unfair on British citizens. Countless examples down the years have shown that, from the NatWest three to Christopher Tappin, from Gary McKinnon to Anne Sacoolas, the person charged with causing the death by dangerous driving of Harry Dunn. We now risk yet another serious miscarriage of justice with the US extradition request for Dr Mike Lynch, a successful and entrepreneurial British businessmen…”
He went on to say that: “Since 2007, the UK has surrendered 135 UK nationals to the US, 99 of them for non-violent alleged offences. During the same period, the US has surrendered only 11 people to the UK. That is why countries such as France and Israel refuse to allow their citizens to be extradited. It seems inconceivable, then, that the UK has ceded so much of its discretion, particularly given the extraordinary way in which extradited suspects are treated in the US. Many people think the US justice system is broadly similar to ours. The reality is that it is much more slanted…”
According to the parliamentary record Hansard, the debate lasted 21 minutes, and during it no mention was made by Davies (or any other MP) of the case of Julian Assange currently facing extradition under the very same treaty described by the MP as “a truly dreadful deal”.
Of course the main thrust of the short debate was about Dr.Lynch, but it also showed that the UK-US extradition treaty (in force since 2007) is an unequal instrument. It requires ‘probable cause’ for extraditing Americans to the UK, but only ‘reasonable suspicion’ to send British people the other way.
The treaty was subsequently criticised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an answer to Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn on 12 February, when the PM replied: “To be frank I think you have a point in your characterisation of our extradition arrangements with the United States and I do think there are elements of that relationship that are imbalanced and I certainly think that it is worth looking at.” Jeremy’s question was not about Julian Assange but was linked to that of the extradition of Harry Dunn’s alleged killer, Anne Sacoolas, who it was reported worked for the CIA. Johnson, however, made it clear that his concerns about the treaty were nothing to do with this case (or Julian’s it would seem).
In the case of Julian Assange, article 4 of the treaty makes interesting reading stating that: ‘Article 4 Political and Military Offenses 1. Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.’
Well that’s quite clear I would have thought, but I’m sure the lawyers for the US government do not agree that the reasons for seeking Julian’s extradition are political, which they surely are! Added to which Julian’s actions in publishing a series of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning a US intelligence analyst, were in themselves political.
The point about Article 4 came up in a recent excellent and inspiring online meeting organised by Manchester Stop the War Coalition on 6 May. Speakers included journalist Tim Dawson NUJ, John Rees from Stop the War, Renata Avula from Wikileaks legal team and John Shipton Julian’s father and anti-war campaigner. The meeting can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFk2bleyxHk&link_id=19&can_id=95d9455d6ba3702294b07541c9351441&source=email-35-mps-back-calls-for-a-global-ceasefire-join-them&email_referrer=email_797265&email_subject=ve-day-dont-let-the-nostalgia-fest-distract-from-the-horrors-of-war
It has been reported that Julian’s extradition hearing, which was earlier postponed due to the pandemic, will resume on 7 September at a location yet to be determined.