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UK Commons rejects limitations on extraditions to US

[JURIST] The British Labour Party government's majority in the UK House of Commons [official website] Tuesday rejected greater restrictions on extraditions to the United States and other foreign countries which were proposed by the House of Lords [official website] as part of the Police and Justice Bill [PDF; Home Office backgrounder]. The bill follows controversy over the so-called Natwest Three [BBC profile], extradited to the US [JURIST report] in July to face charges in the Enron fraud scandal [JURIST news archives]. Under the current Extradition Treaty [PDF; Statewatch backgrounder] between the US and UK, only prima facie evidence is needed for a US extradition request to be granted. In contrast, a British request must show probable cause before a US citizen will be extradited. The House of Lords version [PDF] of the Police and Justice Bill had sought to amend the Extradition Act of 2003, the UK statute which incorporates the treaty, to require a greater showing of evidence before a British citizen can be extradited to the US.

A number of Labour MPs rebelled in supporting the Lords, but Home Office Minister Joan Ryan defended the unamended version of the bill, stating, "We have extradited people to the US, and they to us, for 100 years. We trust their system just as they trust ours." Other defenders praised the lower house move for its tough stance on crime. Opponents, however, have criticized the current policy as "lopsided" [JURIST report; Liberty UK press release] and disadvantageous for British citizens. BBC News has more.

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