Natwest Three

The Lib Dems have started a campaign about the US/UK lopsided extradition treaty. Essentially the US can extradite a UK citizen without presenting probable cause. For the innocent, this can mean a multiple year trial (as well as expensive defence) in the US. In the case of the Natwest Three, as I understand it the alleged crime would have taken place in the UK, by UK citizens against UK interests. The employers (who are the alleged victims) have not wished to press any charges. As there is a loose connection to Enron, the US want to press charges but have not presented a probable cause to the UK. If the UK want to extradite a US citizen then the same arrangements do not apply. A special relationship indeed.

This case has been on the slow burn for some time now, the esteemed Boris wrote about it back in 2004, but it's in the past few days that it has come to the fore of public awareness.

This treaty was originally presented as a bill which would aide the extradition of terror suspects (also without probable cause, but in these days the concept of evidence seems secondary when we have terror suspects) - and yet it's scope is wider than was originally spun. This is a good case in point why legislation should be tightly drawn and why 'trust us' isn't enough.

In domestic law, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill is such a piece of legislation. As is the ID card bill. There are also domestic laws designed to punish contain terror 'suspects' - not convicts - which could suffer the same problem.

The bottom line here is this: why should any UK citizen be deported without a prima facae case being made by the USA?

I suppose that this is the special part of the special relationship that we keep hearing about?

Here are the other articles which Boris wrote, (I knew the Boris Plugin for Firefox would be handy!) from May 2005 and July 3rd 2006. This isn't the only case out there, there are others. My issue is not that I think there's no case to answer, I don't have anything like the information needed to make a judgement - and have no opinion on the individual cases.

My problem with all this is that these extraditions are being made to a foreign power without evidence being presented to support the allegation that there is a case to answer. There is a new business setting up to insure executives against the possibility of extradition to the US.

The fact that the treaty is not reciprocal adds insult to injury, but it isn't the main issue - if the treaty were reciprocal it would not make it right.

In parliament, the Lords have voted for a suspension until it is reciprocal, and there has been a debate in the commons - and a protest vote passed at 246 to 4. Not that this is likely to change anything.

Tony Blair has defended the treaty saying that the UK and America have "roughly analogous" grounds for extradition.

It adds a twist to the story that a potential witness has been discovered dead - that should keep people speculating wildly.

Update: Boris has posted an extract from the westminster debate.