Extradition: balancing human rights

Recent ECHR rulings highlight the very fact sensitive nature of decisions about whether human rights have been infringed.

On 10 April the ECHR ruled that British national Abu Hamza and 4 other suspected terrorists could be extradited to the USA.  The court ruled that there would be no infringement of the suspects’ rights not to suffer inhuman or degrading treatment, either by conditions at a US “Super Max” prison, or the potential length of sentences if convicted in the US.  The decision in relation to a sixth suspect was adjourned to enable further evidence to be obtained from the USA.

The outcome differed in the Abu Qatada case, where the court held that a Jordanian suspect would be denied a fair trial if extradited from the UK to Jordan.  The ECHR was concerned at the lack of assurances from the Jordanian authorities that evidence obtained through torture would not be deployed.

Other high profile extradition cases include those of alleged computer hacker Gary McKinnon and student Richard O’Dwyer, accused of copyright infringement.  There is increasing pressure on the UK government to review the US extradition treaty.


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