UK extradition review to scrutinise U.S. requests
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it would review its extradition laws after criticism that treaty arrangements with other nations, in particular the United States, make it too easy to transfer suspects for trial there.
Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said the year-long review of agreements with the United States and rules governing arrest warrants issued by European Union countries would examine whether they are fair.
Rights activists and other critics say the treaty with Washington is lopsided because it is easier to extradite people from Britain to the United States than vice versa.
They say the treaty is unfair because it allows the United States to transfer suspects living in Britain for offences committed against U.S. law, even though they were committed on British soil, without any reciprocal right.
The United States needing only reasonable suspicion for extradition, while British law requires harder evidence.
A Home Office spokesman said there were concerns the interpretation of European Arrest Warrant rules may have stripped power from the British courts.
"I am fully aware there are a number of areas of the UK's extradition arrangements which have attracted controversy in recent years," May told parliament on Wednesday in a written statement.
"This government is committed to reviewing those arrangements to ensure they work both efficiently and in the interests of justice."
The review will focus on the 2003 Extradition Act and how the European Arrest Warrant operates, and examine whether the U.S.-UK Extradition Treaty 2003 is "unbalanced," she added.
The U.S. treaty was drawn up after the September 11, 2001 attacks to allow the quick transfer of suspects. By last year, it had been used to extradite only one terrorism suspect.
The review, to be conducted by a small panel of experts, comes after a number of high-profile cases, including that of Gary McKinnon, wanted by U.S. authorities for hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers. May halted his extradition ahead of the expected review announcement.
The review will also look at the breadth of the Home Secretary's discretion to intervene in cases and whether countries need to provide prima facie evidence.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of rights group Liberty, said Britain's extradition system was "rotten" and needed reform.
"No one should be parcelled off to a foreign land without due process or when they could be dealt with here at home," she said.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)
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