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US extradition 'needs reform'

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MPs will debate a call for changes to extradition rules later today. Campaigners say that Britain's arrangements with the United States and EU countries are unbalanced, although a review by a retired judge rejected the claim.

The issue has been highlighted by the case of Gary McKinnon, who is fighting extradition to the US for alleged computer hacking. The Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, Dominic Raab, secured the debate.

He told the Today programme that the discussion is a vital opportunity for Parliament to stand up for safeguards to protect British citizens.

The data shows that five Americans have been extradited to the UK under the new regime, 29 British citizens the other way. I think the key issue here, no-one is suggesting abolishing extradition, but it's about reform.

"The key issue in the American treaty is "forum". So where you have cross border cases like Gary McKinnon, where should it be decided and who decides? At the moment it's done by sort of haggling between prosecutors behind closed doors.

"Actually it should be done openly in court. And just by the way, the US has treaties with Mexico, Brazil and Australia, giving their authorities much greater discretion to refuse to extradite their citizens. So why shouldn't Britain, a stalwart ally, ask for this very modest change? And I think it's important that both countries depoliticise this and I think a forum clause would help us achieve that."

But the former Labour home secretary David Blunkett said that, while some changes would be beneficial, those in favour of change, including Mr Raab and the Daily Mail newspaper, are asking for too much.

"Where I disagree with Dominic and the Daily Mail is the notion that we can trump international convention rights that the joint committee on human rights which is what this resolution tonight is based on should take us further than international convention rights and specifically for British citizens because as Scott Baker says if you don't think the administration and the justice system in the United States is up to it we shouldn't be extraditing anybody."


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