Clause 13 - Extraneous considerations

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 9 Ionawr 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John Maples John Maples Ceidwadwyr, Stratford-on-Avon 5:00, 9 Ionawr 2003

I want to raise two or three points about the clause. When I spoke this morning about my general opposition to the framework directive and the procedures that occur under it, the Minister assured us that all our partner countries had subscribed to the European convention on human rights and are democracies in which the rule of law reigns supreme. He said that we have nothing to worry about in those countries' criminal jurisdictions or in the way in which they conduct their criminal procedures. Therefore, I have to ask why it was felt necessary to include clause 13, which envisages that one of our EU partners—a subscriber to the ECHR—might use the arrest warrant under the framework directive as a subterfuge for prosecuting someone because of their

''race, religion, nationality or political opinions''.

That is a fundamental provision, which goes much further than the fears that I expressed this morning. I find it extraordinary that the Government can say that all the countries' jurisdiction procedures are fine, that none of our citizens should have anything to fear as they will get a fair trial before an independent judiciary, and that the countries are all signatories to the ECHR, but also feel it necessary to include clause 13, which clearly envisages the opposite. If clause 13 is necessary, we have a serious problem. It bears out all my fears that we cannot and should not trust the judicial systems of some EU countries. The Minister owes us an explanation, either later or in an intervention, about why it was felt necessary to include the clause. I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Government can hold both positions—that the clause is necessary but that we have nothing to fear from the framework decision because all parties are satisfactory.

Just to prove that I am not a complete softy on extradition issues, my second point is that the clause opens a huge gap through which the defence could drive a coach and horses, especially in terrorist cases, which is where the whole procedure started. Rachid Ramda has succeeded in getting the House of Lords to throw out his extradition and send it back to the Home Secretary on the grounds that he cannot receive a fair trial in France as an Arab Muslim. I must say that France is not high on my list of countries about whose judicial systems I have some doubt. I have a great deal of confidence in the French judicial system, but the House of Lords does not. It believes that it is not just possible, but distinctly possible, and a grounds for refusing extradition, that an Arab Muslim might not receive a fair trial.

The second ground on which Rachid Ramda sought to fight his extradition was that part of the evidence against him was given by a co-accused who had not got to the United Kingdom, but had been arrested, tried and sentenced in France. It was somehow decided that the French had extorted evidence from this other

witness against Mr. Ramda. [Interruption.] I hope that I have the Minister's attention, because this is an important point. I agree with the Minister that the framework directive seeks to close down a series of legal procedures that people can exploit to delay their extradition. Rachid Ramda has succeeded in delaying his extradition for more than seven years. I do not know whether it is better to be in Belmarsh than in a prison in Paris, but one way or another he is going to spend much of his life in prison.

The framework directive seeks to close down those artificial, legalistic defences that people whose extradition is sought can pursue, but the clause will open them up again. In that respect, the clause is extremely dangerous. The people who seek to use the clause may well be terrorist suspects, who by definition may be Arabs or Muslims, especially in the current climate of terrorism. We could allege that we could not receive a fair trial in another European country on the grounds of our race, religion or political opinions, but it may well be that an Arab or Muslim charged with terrorism would have a far better chance of raising those defences. We are closing down a series of legal procedures that people can go through and opening them up again in this clause. I will say the same about the human rights clause, but this clause is more specific. It should not be in the Bill. We should not be entering into the framework directive and passing part 1 if protection from the mis-exercising of jurisdiction on the part of our European partners is such as to necessitate the clause. On the other hand, we do not need the clause if those procedures are so satisfactory that there can be no doubt about them.

Is the exception permitted? I cannot find the part in the framework directive where it would be.