Criminals are always seeking ways to evade justice.
When a criminal commits a crime in their own country and escapes to another country, does their refuge in that country protect them from being arrested by their home country?
No, if there is an extradition treaty in place between the two countries and they have both signed it, the treaty mandates the extradition of the offender to their home country. This ensures that they can be tried in their country of origin. However, some criminals manage to escape the reach of justice by taking refuge in countries that do not have an extradition agreement with their home countries. In such cases, their home country faces challenges in bringing them to trial.
A notable example is the case of Edward Snowden, the accused in the Bangalore serial explosions case in India. Snowden is currently hiding in Russia. Despite the United States Attorney General’s Office requesting Russia to extradite Snowden, there is no extradition agreement between the United States and Russia for such cases. Russia has claimed that Snowden has not committed any crime and is not facing any charges within its jurisdiction.
What is an extradition agreement or treaty then?
An extradition agreement or treaty is a legal agreement between two countries that facilitates the extradition of individuals who have committed crimes in one country and seek refuge in the other. The purpose of such agreements is to prevent criminals from evading punishment by escaping to another country.
The Indian-Emirati Treaty for the Extradition of Criminals:
The governments of the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of India entered into an agreement in 1999 regarding mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Subsequently, the extradition treaty between the two countries came into force in the year 2000. According to this treaty, each country is obligated to extradite individuals wanted for criminal charges in the other country.
The extradition can be carried out for offenses punishable under the laws of both India and the UAE with a minimum imprisonment term of one year or if the individual is sentenced by the court of the other country to a term of not less than six months.
The purpose of the treaty is to enhance bilateral cooperation and take concrete steps in combating terrorism and other crimes. Extradition can be pursued regardless of whether the offense was committed before or after the treaty’s entry into force.
Conditions for extradition under the treaty include:
- The extradited person will be prosecuted or punished only for the offense for which extradition is requested or related crimes, or crimes committed after extradition.
- The signatory country that extradites the person must not extradite them to a third country without the consent of the other signatory country.
- If the requested person is already under investigation, trial, or has been convicted in the requested country for a different crime, the requested country must decide on the extradition request. If extradition is approved, it will be deferred until the completion of the ongoing trial and sentence in the requested case.
- If the extradited person had the opportunity to leave the territory of the extraditing country but did not do so within thirty days of their final release, or if they left but returned voluntarily, they may be subject to investigation for other offenses.
- Extradition may be refused by either country if the offense for which extradition is sought is considered a political crime.
- In cases where multiple extradition requests are received from contracting countries for the same crime, priority is given to the contracting party whose security, interests, or the interests of its nationals are affected by the crime. The second priority is given to the party in whose territory the offense was committed, and finally, the party to which the accused is a national.
When governments decide to sign an extradition treaty, they must ensure that the individuals extradited will receive proper care and protection of their rights. This includes the right to a fair trial, reasonable sentencing, and treatment in accordance with the principles outlined in the Human Rights Charter.
Many Western countries already have extradition treaties with the UAE, and recently Australia and India have also signed such treaties. The UK requires legal safeguards to guarantee the rights of extradited individuals, while Australia is yet to agree to similar provisions to protect its citizens.
Extradition treaties send a clear message to criminals that the UAE will not serve as a safe haven for them. These treaties also establish a legal framework for requesting the extradition of terrorists, economic offenders, and other criminals from the UAE.
It is important to note that extradition for crimes related to taxes, excise duties, and customs fees may not be covered under the provisions of the treaty unless the offense is similar to a crime recognized by the requested country’s law.
Furthermore, extradition is not limited to cases where the actual crime has been committed. It can also be sought for individuals involved in planning or attempting to commit a crime.
Under certain conditions, a criminal can be extradited to any signatory country of the extradition agreement, even if requested by a third country.
In addition to extradition, there is a Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners Agreement signed between India and the UAE in 2011. This agreement facilitates the social rehabilitation of convicted individuals in their respective countries, allowing them to serve their sentences within their communities. However, certain crimes such as murder, drug offenses, and financial crimes may not be eligible for this program.
Both the host and receiving countries have the right to accept or reject prisoners’ transfer requests, and the prisoners must have served at least six months of imprisonment with no pending cases against them.
It is crucial for both parties to uphold and respect these agreements. However, there have been cases where extradition has been refused despite the existence of an agreement, particularly when the accused may face the death penalty. For instance, an Indian individual facing charges in the UAE who fled to India was not extradited due to the potential application of the death penalty. Nevertheless, based on the judicial cooperation agreement signed in 1999, the individual could be tried in India for the same case initiated in the UAE.
While extradition agreements do not necessarily require the extradition of wanted criminals to foreign governments, they simplify the process and send a clear message to those who believe they can escape justice.
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