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  • Writer's pictureIPEX

Assange: NGO calls for extradition treaty review

In light of the Julian Assange appeal, an Interpol and extradition focussed NGO has called on several Parliamentary Committees to investigate the need for changes to Britain’s extradition treaties and process.

Radha Stirling, who heads up the groups IPEX Reform and Due Process International, herself a leading expert witness on the issue, has written to the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Joint Human Rights Committee and the Home Affairs Committee to offer evidence from “more than a dozen witnesses” on how the extradition process is leading to human rights violations.

One of Stirling’s concerns is that the extradition treaties are “infringing on UK sovereignty” in that countries are misusing the process to expand their jurisdiction, meaning that British citizens would have to abide by the laws of countries they haven’t even been to.

In her letter, she refers to British citizens who have been listed on Interpol for “violating US sanctions” despite not being US citizens and not being required to abide by US law.

Stirling asks “Would the UK attempt to extradite a US citizen for violating UK sanctions (or other crime) even if that person had not been to the UK and even if they did not violate US or international laws?

“Would the UK allow the UAE to extradite a British citizen for violating UAE sanctions (or other crime) from outside the UAE if he did not violate any UK or international laws?

“If the answer is no, then our extradition process needs urgent review”.

Julian Assange

Stirling highlighted the case of Julian Assange,“The US has successfully applied for the extradition of persons who are not US citizens and were not in the US at the time of the alleged “crimes”, then the question, “should the US have the ability to jail people abroad under US law when they are not US citizens and have not been physically present in the US? Would we allow other countries to do the same?”

The Test

Stirling suggested a test be considered.

"If a less ‘allied’ nation had made the request, would we consider it reasonable? If the UAE accused a US citizen in France of violating sanctions by attending a conference in Israel, would we extradite that person to the UAE? No, we would determine the UAE has no right to enforce their laws internationally.

If Assange had exposed the ‘secret’ human rights abuses of Russia or Saudi Arabia (from a third country), would we extradite him there? No.

We must not give special universal jurisdiction privileges to countries on a pick and choose, diplomatic basis. If the argument wouldn’t work for the UAE, Russia, China or Saudi, they must not work for allied nations either. Justice should not be about politics or diplomacy.

British citizens should not need to learn nor comply with US, UAE, Saudi, Australian, German or other country’s laws unless they are physically in those countries. Our extradition treaties must specify that persons will only be extradited for crimes physically committed within the requesting country or else we lose legal and jurisdictional sovereignty.

Pre-Trial Detention

Stirling expressed her opposition to pre-trial detention except in situations where the public is at risk. She highlighted that it’s free for countries to request extraditions but the cost to the UK taxpayer is in the millions. She says some countries know their request is doomed to fail but try anyway as it’s no cost to them and the punishment is the process.

Her letter states “It is astonishing that Julian Assange has been jailed for five years when he could have been held under house arrest. This kind of treatment simply should not be allowed as part of the extradition process.”

“It is further absurd that a country that has discussed killing him is even able to continue with the request. If we look at the test above, would we even be entertaining it if Saudi Arabia had discussed conspiring to execute a target?

“We need fairness and equality within our extradition principles and should not give ‘special friends’ more privileges within our legal system than we would others. That might help British leaders with diplomacy, but at the expense of individual human rights.

“It is clear that further, more detailed human rights protections should be written into extradition treaties so that the courts may with confidence, deny extraditions where there is no dual criminality and where a person may suffer unfair trials, discrimination, human rights violations or torture, regardless of what unenforceable “assurances” are provided by the requesting country.”


Stirling urges an investigation into the lack of human rights protections provided for in our treaties. “Our extradition treaties as they are, put anyone who visits the UK at risk of arbitrary detention and human rights violations. As it stands, a foreign country could accuse a foreign national of violating their laws even though they are not subject to them, and have them detained for years on end at great taxpayer expense, then potentially extradited where they could suffer unfair trials, discrimination, human rights abuses and torture.”


  • Established by Radha Stirling, founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai, and a leading voice against Interpol abuse, Interpol and Extradition Reform (IPEX) is a comprehensive initiative to address the widespread and multilayered problems with the current framework of the extradition process, including the many flaws in Interpol itself as an organisation.



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