Friday, April 28, 2006
Scots say "Stop extraditing Scots to the U.S."
I would love to know what benefits (or threats) were promised to countries that have signed one-sided extradition treaties with the U.S. The U.S. can demand extradition of the other country's citizens to stand trial in the U.S., but the other country has no such right. One such country is the United Kingdom under Tony Blair.1
Another of Blair's accomplishments was to authorize "devolved" Parliaments for Scotland and Wales, which came into existence in 1999. They're supposed to deal with regional matters and stay out of international affairs. But last week the Scottish Parliament could not contain itself. In a breathless account by Hamish MacDonell we learn that—
An influential Holyrood [Scottish Parliament] committee has sparked the most damaging split with Westminster [British Parliament] since devolution by demanding that Scotland be exempt from a major extradition treaty with the United States.
The ... Justice 2 committee of the Scottish Parliament has taken the extraordinary step of writing to the UK government to lodge a formal complaint against the provisions of the key extradition treaty signed with the US in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks.
The MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament] ... believe it is wrong for Scots to be taken to the US to stand trial for offences without any prima facie evidence against them and do not agree with the terms of the treaty, which allow suspects to be extradited for one offence and charged with another.
They are particularly angry that the US has the power to demand the extradition of British citizens to face trial in America but that the US government has not signed a reciprocal deal allowing the British government similar extradition rights.
The move by the Justice 2 committee is an astonishing attempt to muscle in on Westminster's territory.
One reason the MSPs feel so strongly about this issue is because a Scot, Gary Mulgrew, is currently fighting an attempt to extradite him to the United States. He is the son of Trish Godman, a Labour MSP.
Ms Godman is not a member of the Justice 2 committee and has not lobbied the committee to take this stand, but four members of the committee are fellow Labour MSPs who are aware of Mr Mulgrew's battle and Ms Godman's concerns about her son.
This has undoubtedly influenced their decision to take this stand.
The move represents the most serious rift to date between Holyrood and Westminster.
But is there any point?
[T]his is the first time that a Scottish Parliament committee has formally objected to a foreign affairs policy in this way and it has already prompted a bitter backlash at Westminster. One Scottish Labour MP said: "It's clearly unwise of MSPs to try to intervene in an area where the Scotland Act dictates that Holyrood is legally impotent.
"There are genuine concerns about this issue but MSPs are not the people whose job it is to express those concerns. This could actually undermine the authority of the [Scottish] parliament by raising false expectations that MSPs can actually do anything here.
"It could reinforce the impression that is already abroad that the Scottish Parliament is useless."
Which would put it in the same category as the British Parliament.
The Justice 2 committee of the Scottish Parliament is the latest organisation to join the campaign against the extradition treaty, which came into force in January 2004 as an anti-terrorist measure but which has resulted in 12 extraditions, none of them for terrorist offences.
The treaty ... exempts the US from producing prima facie evidence of the crime.
It has been attacked by business and human rights groups, including Liberty, which claim that the act has been used by the US against businessmen, despite assertions by the UK government that it signed the act to help to combat terrorism.
Well, if it involves businessmen, you can understand why there's opposition.
To add insult to injury, the U.S. Senate has not bothered to ratify the treaty.