Flawed EU-USA extradition agreement threatens human rights

Ahead of tomorrow's (Thursday 5 June 2003) meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers where the EU-US Agreements on Extradition and on Mutual Legal Assistance is due to be approved, Amnesty International has today released its own legal analysis. This points to serious concerns and omissions concerning the right of suspects to a fair trial in the US and calls for strict interpretation of measures relating to the death penalty.

The document also deplores the lack of transparency in negotiating the agreements and Amnesty International is calling for all Member States to be given the opportunity to submit the measures to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Amnesty International's EU Office Director Dick Oosting said:

'Here is an agreement essentially negotiated in secret and due to be automatically approved at tomorrow's JHA meeting, which still contains serious flaws as far as human rights guarantees are concerned.

'On the issue of guarantees of fair trial, the wording of the agreements is ambiguous, omitting any mention of international human rights obligations. We can assume this ambiguity is a response to US resistance to explicit reference to international human rights standards. US-proposed military commissions, which would have the power to hand down death sentences, have added a new ingredient to this concern.

'It is conceivable, for example, that a non-US defendant accused of a 'terrorist' offence, initially placed in the normal criminal justice system, could subsequently be transferred to trial by military commission, as was reportedly considered in the case of French national Zacarias Moussaoui.'

Among the conclusions reached in the analysis:

  • Serious omission
    Amnesty International considers the absence of a substantive reference to fair trial guarantees in the extradition agreement a serious omission.
  • Margin of discretion on death penalty
    Amnesty International considers that Article 13 of the extradition agreement leaves an unacceptable margin of discretion with regard to conditioning and refusing extradition in the face of the death penalty. It is not consistent with Protocols 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights and with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which prohibit extradition where there is a risk of the death penalty. If adopted it must be interpreted in a manner which is consistent with the EU's stance on the death penalty and with Member States' obligations under international law.

Among recommendations regarding the agreement:

  • Framework for decision-making
    Amnesty International recommends that an interpretative framework be drawn up to inform decisions regarding the EU-US agreements and any future such agreements with a view to prohibiting EU Member States from surrendering individuals to countries where they will be at risk of suffering serious human rights violations.
  • Need for public scrutiny
    Amnesty International believes that given the nature of the agreements and their potential impact on protection of fundamental rights, their entry into force should be contingent on proper parliamentary scrutiny in all Member States.

Relevant information

EU – US extradition agreement still flawed on human rights: Amnesty International's recommendations to JHA Council 5-6 June 2003: www.amnesty-eu.org (go to 'documents' page)

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