Friday, April 27

City Circle: British Justice for British Citizens - The UK-US Extradition Treaty in Focus Click for more info

Today's panel discussion aimed to discuss the current furore surrounding the just-ratified UK-US Extradition Treaty; its causes, its effects and its implications. Imran Khan was chairing a panel consisting of lawyers and ex-detainees, each of which fell into a particular role in explaining the current situation.

Anand Doobay started the main presentation by giving us a brief history of the treaty. He explained how even though there are many other countries that the UK has similar treaties with, that this one with the US was especially concerning due to the precedents the US has already established with regard to extradition. We also heard how the treaty itself was formulated almost in secret, and that it was able to do this since its formation falls under the will of sovereignty rather than domestic law. Anand also gave examples of how it was being enforced despite not being ratified. He also explained in detail the concerns regarding its reciprocity (that it wasn't as one sided as was being made out, but still dangerous in any case).

Gareth Pierce then took the microphone. She had a much more cynical and almost depressing view of the situation; she said that this treaty was just a formalisation of the bad things that have been going on for a while now (and gave as an example the convenient deporting of some recent figures). She criticised the US for its "open ended appetite for global jurisdiction", and introduced us to the idea of trials in a "natural forum", or how if a person can be tried in their own country without compromising on justice, then they should.

The final speaker was Moazzam Begg. This was my second time listening to him in person, but I wasn't any less impressed by his manner. He was harshly critical of the US - he even described the treaty as a favour to the UK since the US wouldn't even bother with any such dialogue if they wanted an individual in certain other countries. Like the chair he also blamed "clashes of civilisations" for the treaty (amongst other things), reducing the insecurity of the USA to nothing more than ignorance of a people different to themselves. In the Q&A he stated that he didn't believe that real justice existed across the pond.

The Q&A was short this time around. As well as other things, we were told how the European Convention on Human Rights was irrelevant in this case and how extradition was political (since the extradites are usually hand picked depending on their circumstances). When asked if he felt safe in the UK, Moazzam said that although he did, he had become quite paranoid in recent times, something I can relate to.

Finally we were given suggestions by the panel of what to do if we wanted to change or oppose this treaty. Anand backed the political process, saying that that was the the only way to change Common Law. Gareth made a more pragmatic suggestion, noting that one of the most effective ways to spur change in The Government was to embarrass them into it. She also observed how apathetic the public had become; how they weren't shocked by blatant injustice anymore. Moazzam told us simply to talk and spread any ideas that we felt worth spreading - to make our opinions known. He also plugged his organisation Cageprisoners - take a look if you're interested in his work.

In conclusion today's talk was heavier than usual, both in terms of content and feeling. It was morbid, cynical and quite depressing actually: that our government could allow such a situation as described by the panel develop. It's one of those things that might not effect us much on an individual basis but really is bad news for the UK people as a whole.