Blocked Transfer Draws Attention to U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty

October 18, 2012

World Politics Review on October 18, 2012 released the following:

“By Catherine Cheney

On Tuesday, the British government announced that it would not extradite British hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States, marking the first time an extradition has been halted under the 2003 Extradition Act between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

McKinnon, who is accused of serious crimes including hacking American military databases, has fought extradition for the past 10 years. But in light of new evidence about his health, British Home Secretary Theresa May, the government’s top authority on domestic affairs, cited McKinnon’s human rights as her main consideration. Extraditing McKinnon would put him at high risk of suicide, she said.

Trend Lines spoke to two experts about perceptions of the treaty, which has at times generated controversy, especially in the U.K.

“In the significant, overwhelming majority of extradition treaties, the requesting country is required to show probable cause that the individual probably committed the crime with which he has been charged,” explained Douglas McNabb, a senior principal for McNabb Associates and an expert in U.S. federal criminal law and international extradition.* “In the U.S.-U.K. treaty, the U.S. is not required to show probable cause. All the U.S. has to do is show a copy of the indictment and the arrest warrant and request that the individual be sent to the U.S.”

On the other hand, McNabb said, if the U.K. sought to have someone extradited from the U.S. to the U.K., the U.K. would be required to show probable cause.

According to McNabb, the treaty was negotiated because the Bush and Blair administrations “wanted to make it easier for the U.S. to have terrorists extradited from the U.K. to the U.S., so they provided for this expedited extradition process,” he said.

The fact that the significant majority of people extradited from the U.K. to the U.S. have been white-collar criminals, not terrorists, he added, has created a rift between the two states.

However, Ted Bromund, senior research fellow in Anglo-American relations at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, argued that much of the controversy surrounding the agreement is because it is “misunderstood and mischaracterized” in the U.K.

“It is useful to bear one simple fact in mind: it was Britain that wanted the 2003 treaty, not the U.S.,” Bromund wrote in an email to Trend Lines. “When the U.S. delayed ratifying the treaty, Britain criticized [Washington]. Now many in Britain condemn the very treaty they wanted, which came as part of a long, and completely British, effort to reform their extradition system.”

Most extraditions to and from the U.S. are completely uncontroversial, Bromund explained. McNabb, too, referred to five terrorism suspects who were extradited from the U.K. to the U.S. earlier this month, noting that at the time, “we did not hear anything about this treaty being unfair.”

Bromund said that while the McKinnon case has generated controversy, he does not see any serious risk of fallout for the treaty.

“In the McKinnon case, the U.S. made a perfectly legal extradition request. Britain has (finally) decided not to extradite him, not because of anything wrong with the U.S. or its request, but because Mr. McKinnon is mentally ill,” he explained. “Britain has the right to decide that, so the subject is now closed.”

Both experts pointed to the news that the U.K. plans to create a forum bar as being more significant. In cases where prosecution would be possible both in the U.K. and abroad, the forum bar would enable British courts to block prosecution overseas.

“What upsets those in the U.K. is that if the majority of the criminal conduct occurred in the U.K., as compared to the U.S., then their thought is that these guys ought to be tried in the U.K.,” McNabb said.

“We have seen the U.S. take a very aggressive approach extraterritorially,” McNabb said. Over the past decade, some defendants have raised concerns, and attracted attention, for being “shipped off to the U.S.” for crimes they committed at home. Over time, McNabb said, these cases, combined with the perceived inequality of the treaty, put enough pressure on the British to make some changes.

Bromund expressed concern over the creation of the forum bar.

“Depending on how this is worded — and that is important — this could require British courts to discriminate in favor of British subjects, and thus against foreigners, when considering extradition requests,” he said. In the past, Bromund explained, everyone has been equal before the law in the U.K., with the nationality of the accused making no difference as far as extradition goes. The forum bar could change that, he said.

While the U.K. home secretary has called the 2003 deal “broadly sound,” introducing the forum bar would be a major change to the law, something both experts said is worth keeping an eye on.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call


We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom here.


To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.


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