Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do consider the Extradition Act 2003 (Amendments to Designations) Order 2020.
My Lords, this order is essential for the UK to fulfil its obligations under several treaties. It is required to implement an extradition agreement between the EU and Norway and Iceland to which the UK is party during the transition period, and to implement bilateral extradition treaties with Kuwait and Morocco. I shall explain in a little more detail why these changes are being brought at this time and the effect that they will have on our extradition arrangements.
First, the first part of this order will replace the designation of Norway and Iceland as category 2 territories, currently based on the European Convention on Extradition. It makes it clear that Norway and Iceland become territories designated under category 1 of the Extradition Act, based on the surrender agreement between the EU and Norway and Iceland, which entered into force on 1 November 2019. The agreement will facilitate the exchange of warrants between judicial authorities, which is executed through a simplified decision-making system.
In short, this will mean that Norway and Iceland will be treated in a similar way to EU countries for the purposes of extradition. However, there are some differences. Notably, parties can refuse to extradite their own nationals and can refuse extradition on the basis that the offence concerned is “political”. This agreement also allows parties to require that an extradition take place only where the offence concerned is a criminal offence in both countries—something known as “dual criminality”.
As the Committee is aware, during the transition period, the EU justice and home affairs tools that the UK has opted into, including this agreement, will continue to apply. The legislation will ensure that there is no disparity between our international obligations and domestic law, which could result in legal uncertainty and impunity for wanted fugitives.
The second part of this order will implement the extradition treaties concluded between the UK and Morocco in 2013 and the UK and Kuwait in 2016. The designation of these countries under category 2 of the 2003 Act will allow the UK to process extradition requests from Kuwait and Morocco in line with the obligations of these treaties. Both treaties set out a timeframe in which a full extradition request must be provided to the UK by Kuwait and Morocco when an individual has been arrested on a provisional arrest warrant.
This order therefore also ensures that this is reflected in our legislation by setting out that, in the case of Kuwait and Morocco, the judge must receive the papers within 65 days of the person’s provisional arrest, in line with standard practice. This allows for the countries to provide the request to the Secretary of State within 60 days, as the treaty provides for, and for the Secretary of State to have five days to certify the request and send it to the appropriate judge.
Once the designations have been made, the Kuwait and Morocco treaties will be ratified. The introduction of the formal bilateral basis for extradition for conduct covered by these treaties will lead to a more efficient and effective process for extradition between the UK and the respective countries. Morocco and Kuwait are important partners for the UK, and these treaties will enhance our ability to work in close co-operation with them on important issues.
I urge the Committee to consider the amendments made by this statutory instrument favourably to ensure that the United Kingdom can comply with its obligations under the relevant international extradition arrangements. When considering any request for extradition, our arrangements are balanced by the provisions in the Extradition Act 2003, which serve to protect an individual’s rights, including their human rights, where extradition is not compatible with our law.
Extradition is a valuable tool in combating cross-border crime, and offenders should not be able to escape justice simply by crossing international borders. No one should be beyond the reach of the law. Having efficient, clear and effective extradition arrangements is vital for safeguarding our security and preventing fugitives escaping justice. I commend the regulations to the Committee and beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order. Kuwait and Morocco both still carry the death penalty; according to Human Rights Watch, there were seven executions in Kuwait in 2017, and I understand that it outlaws same-sex relations. Does the Minister have any information about seeking assurances in the past from these countries? She says that they are important partners, but are they trusted partners—as regards their judicial system or how politically expedient their approach to these matters sometimes is?
I have no comments on Norway and Iceland. You could hardly hope to find a pair of countries more different from Kuwait and Morocco. In Committee in the Commons, the Minister was asked whether it is government policy to remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. That was in the context of the discussion about human rights in Kuwait and Morocco. The reply was that we are a signatory. We know that; the question was, and is, about the future. I do not know whether the Minister will be in any better a position to talk about government policy for the future on this subject, but clearly it is a matter of considerable interest.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, for explaining the order. I have no particular comments to make in respect of Norway and Iceland becoming Part 1, and no longer being Part 2, territories other than that, for me, it illustrates what a stupid decision it is no longer to take part in the European arrest warrant procedure. That is obviously for another time but I think that it will benefit nobody but criminals; I am sure that we will come back to that in other debates.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, outlined, there are some concerns about Kuwait and Morocco. In respect of Kuwait, the treaty was signed in 2016 but, since then, it has resumed executions and is now talking about lowering the age at which someone can be executed. There are genuine concerns about that and it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could explain what the process will be. We are genuinely worried. We do not support the death penalty in any circumstances and it would be very worrying if people could potentially be sent back to face it. In addition, Kuwait outlaws same-sex relationships, with a maximum prison sentence of seven years, so, again, we would be very worried if someone in that situation were to be extradited to Kuwait.
It would be useful to hear from the noble Baroness whether the Government have received any assurances from the Kuwaiti authorities since the treaty was signed in 2016 and since that country changed its laws regarding executions. In this respect, in 2018, my noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury tabled a Motion that was debated on the Floor of the House. It would be useful to know whether anything happened following that Motion being debated. I look forward to the noble Baroness’s reply.
I thank both noble Lords for the questions on this statutory instrument that they have rightly asked. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether our intention in the future is to remain part of the ECHR. At the moment, that is our intention, although, as she acknowledged, I cannot speak about what will happen in the future.
The question that I thought might be brought up was about the death penalty in Kuwait. It is important to make it clear at the outset that extradition is prohibited by statute if the person concerned might face the death penalty, unless the Secretary of State gets adequate written assurance that the death penalty will not be imposed. The UK Government oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. As we all know, it undermines human dignity and there is no conclusive evidence that it is a deterrent. Any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is clearly irreparable, so extradition from the UK is not possible where the person has been, will be or could be sentenced to death, and that is made explicitly clear in the Extradition Act.
Extradition is obviously a very important tool in bringing perpetrators to justice. We can maintain extradition relations with countries that have the death penalty while making it absolutely clear that we will never allow a person to be extradited from the UK if they will face the death penalty elsewhere.
Kuwait and Morocco are not listed as priority countries in the FCO’s human rights report. Therefore, no explicit exchange of human rights assurances was sought in addition to those that make up the extradition treaty. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, is all the more reason for us to be explicit on extradition and the death penalty.
Our very good relations with both Kuwait and Morocco provide further comfort, so we can raise a range of human rights issues with them. We do so in the context of ongoing bilateral dialogue.
On LGBT status, it is important to note that the same standard of safeguards applies to UK extradition relations with all Part 2 countries. Whether a request is compatible with a person’s human rights is assessed by the UK’s judiciary in extradition cases. If a court found that a person would, for example, be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment as a result of their extradition, they would not be extradited. I hope that provides the comfort that the Committee rightly seeks on this statutory instrument.