It’s not often that I feel sickened by political decisions. Economically at least, I’ll take the rough with the smooth, and won’t allow politics to affect the things I do in my life. When it comes to human rights though, and the need to protect our own nationals from practices we would not undertake on our own soil, I get interested. Under the current UK – US extradition treaty, America is able to request extradition of a British national without providing evidence of the crime allegedly committed. This does not work the other way around however, and as was mentioned in a recent Forbes article, the US government put in a similar situation to the UK government in the Christopher Tappin case, would probably be very reluctant to agree to the extradition of one of their own citizens for such a minor offence. The treaty also means that we would have to provide the US authorities with evidence to support our extradition request. In Tappin’s case they’re using scare tactics of mentioning a 35 year possible jail sentence in order to force him into accepting a plea bargain – therefore admitting his guilt even if he knows he’s not guilty. Denying him bail and keeping him locked up 23/24 hours a day will also make a plea bargain more likely.
The 2003 Blair-era agreement was set up specifically to allow for the speedy extradition of terrorists, a legitimate purpose. Since then however, the treaty has been used against Gary McKinnon, Christopher Tappin, Richard O’Dwyer, and others. The reason this is hitting people so hard, is because we all know that none of us would want to be put in a similar situation by our own government – the one we elected to protect our interests. Both Clegg and Cameron promised to address concerns over the treaty before the election but have failed to keep this promise. Until now, I’ve supported the coalition, but an issue such as this which is clearly threatening our rights to a fair trial is perhaps the most concerning issue to me in politics right now. I can live with cuts, bankers bonuses, health reforms, questionable education related policies, but the one thing I cannot and will not abide is policy and law which threatens the values our country was built on. The time has come to stand up for the rights of our own people.
It has surprised me how little #christappin and #freegary have been trending on Twitter. Most of the recent news and conversation has been related to Rebekah Brooks’ borrowed horse. I find it shocking that the British public are more interested in whether David Cameron did or didn’t at some point ride the aforementioned animal, but it is so trivial I’ll waste no more time or words on the subject. Whilst some have taken an interest in Chris Tappin’s case, I still don’t think it has received the attention it deserves, or requires to bring the extradition treaty to be debated in parliament. Let’s not forget, Tappin was set up by the FBI in a sting operation in which he claims to have no knowledge that the ‘batteries’ he was exporting were going to Iran. Further to that, the inventor of FBI sting operations has spoken recently about his dislike for the practice, and how “you can fill jails all day long”, but it doesn’t mean you’re filling them with the right people.
In the end though, after many years of believing that the west was superior when it came to justice, I seem to have been proved wrong. The US justice system screams guilty until proven innocent. It’s something we appear to have got at least half-right in the UK – we recognise the importance of rehabilitation and giving people a second chance to make right some of their wrongs. We give mostly proportionate sentences, only locking up those who pose a genuine threat to their peers, and we don’t throw away the key either. The current situation is the kind of human rights abuse you’d expect China or Russia to be involved in – and duly be condemned by the US. How can the US expect to have credibility on these issues when this is how it treats one of its 65 year old ‘special friends’. America appears to be moving steadily backwards in its moral development, which is a great shame considering the great ideals it was built on. Time to move to Switzerland I think.
Since this Article was first written, Chris Tappin has been denied bail by the US authorities. The prosecutor claimed that “whilst he’s not going to punch someone in the face”, he possesses the “skills and computer knowledge” which does indeed pose a threat to the American people. Figure the logic behind that?