On 8 January 2014, it was announced that the Netherlands had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which would facilitate the extradition of alleged war criminals to stand trial in Rwanda.
Many suspected Rwandan war criminals that are accused of involvement in acts of genocide in 1994, have fled to Europe. Extraditions have thus far proved difficult for the Rwandan authorities.
Similar problems have been seen in the UK. In 2009 the High Court in London refused a request for the extradition of four alleged war criminals to Rwanda.
Rwanda is not an established extradition treaty partner with the UK. As such, in order for an extradition to proceed, a special Memorandum of Understanding had to be signed by the countries – this is achieved under provisions within the Extradition Act allowing the Secretary of State to enter into special arrangements with countries for the purpose of extradition. The provisions enable special arrangements to be entered into for both import and export extradition i.e. for people the UK wishes to extradite back to stand trial here and for those wanted abroad.
The High Court refused the Rwandan extradition in 2009 principally because of a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Despite assurances given by the Rwandan authorities the court was not satisfied that the men would receive a fair trial if they were extradited.
In 2013 though, the same four men and one other were rearrested in pursuit of a renewed extradition request from Rwanda. A further Memorandum of Understanding was signed in March 2013 and their fresh extradition hearing is expected later in 2014.
This demonstrates a number of key points. Firstly, there are no safe havens for those seeking to avoid extradition. The UK is able to enter into special arrangements with any country under the Extradition Act 2003. Secondly, a Memorandum of Understanding and related diplomatic assurances are not necessarily enough to secure extradition. To give another example the courts in the UK have, in the past, rejected diplomatic assurances given by Russia in relation to pre-trial detention and risk of torture. Finally, extradition requests can sometimes be revived after being defeated – in this case where there has been a change of circumstances and a fresh Memorandum of Understanding.
It is important to remember that defeating an extradition request in the UK is often only the start. Extradition requests generally remain valid in other jurisdictions and those who defeat them in the UK remain at risk of extradition in other countries. It is important to have extradition lawyers who fully understand the international context and who are able to advise you regarding your future travel plans.
Gherson is the only solicitors firm in London offering boutique extradition advice alongside an award-winning immigration team and international human rights specialists. For a confidential, no-obligation discussion with an experienced extradition lawyer you can contact us at our offices in Central London, on the telephone or through our website.