Response to Sections 211 (b)(1) and 211 (b)(2) of Public Law 106-113:
“Discuss the factors that contribute to failure of foreign nations to comply fully with their obligations under bilateral extradition relations with the United States” and “Discuss the factors that contribute to nations becoming ‘safe havens’ for individuals fleeing the United States justice system.”
The United States generally enjoys a productive and mutually beneficial extradition relationship with our treaty partners. Fugitives are brought to justice in the United States, and the U.S. Government is able to return fugitives seeking safe haven in the United States to face trial or punishment in the legal and judicial systems of our treaty partners. In recent years, many hundreds of fugitives have been returned to and from the United States based on extradition requests or immigration or other proceedings that ensue following extradition requests. Many of these fugitives were returned to face justice for serious offenses such as narcotics trafficking, terrorism and other violent crimes, and major financial crimes. According to U.S. Justice Department statistics, in the past 5 years over 600 U.S. extradition requests have been granted by foreign countries, and more than 200 other requests have resulted in the return of fugitives to the U.S. via deportation or expulsion.
For many reasons, however, not every request for extradition results in a fugitive being delivered to the requesting country. Sometimes the requesting state doesn’t know where a fugitive is located and makes multiple contingency requests for provisional arrest and extradition. In other cases, fugitives learn they are being sought and flee or go into hiding. For example, over the past several years the U.S. has made requests for the provisional arrest of BCCI defendant Gaith Pharaon to over two dozen countries, but to date he remains a fugitive. Even following a fugitive’s arrest, court proceedings and appeals can last a very long time and can be delayed by fugitives’ exercising all possible rights to challenge extradition. For example, fugitives in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America can seek judicial amparos (akin to habeas corpus review).6
Apart from these general issues of timing, extradition treaties provide specific bases on which extraditions can be delayed or denied. The obligation to extradite under a bilateral extradition treaty is not absolute and protections are built in to accommodate both U.S. and foreign interests. While the exact terms of such treaties result from country-specific negotiations and thus vary somewhat among the treaties, set forth
6 In the United States, we note while some extradition cases proceed fairly swiftly, extradition proceedings in U.S. courts, including the initial extradition hearing, petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, and appeals, can also last for years before the matter is referred to the Secretary of State for decision.