Croatia, but not UK, stands firm

Observations on US power

More details have emerged of the extradition treaty that David Blunkett signed, without warning, in the US at the end of March. The New Statesman disclosed two weeks ago how the hitherto unpublicised treaty would allow people to be arrested and packed off to the US without any need for the British courts to see evidence that they had done anything wrong.

Now the text of the treaty reveals the total absence of consultation. Treaties are normally accompanied by a Foreign Office "explanatory memorandum" that includes a list of those consulted before the treaty was negotiated and signed. For example, a treaty drawn up in 1998 on the worthy but less than earth-shattering topic of making driving bans effective throughout Europe lists six organisations consulted, including the AA, the RAC and the TGWU. Turn to the list of those consulted on Blunkett's rather more profound extradition treaty and who do we find? No one.

The government does not have available the defence that only grave and weighty offences threatening the existence of nations are involved. All offences that carry a maximum sentence in excess of 12 months are included - so don't get accused of shoplifting on holiday in Texas, or you could be arrested and shipped off without that state producing a shred of evidence.

Moreover, the treaty that Blunkett has signed in our name prevents US citizens being delivered up to the International Criminal Court. Mighty Croatia, on the other hand, feels able to hold out against this demand. The real absurdity about indulging the Americans on this subject is that their fears are groundless. As Kofi Annan has pointed out, no UN troops of any nationality have ever been accused of a crime serious enough to fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Nor is there any basis for the belief that activities such as the recent invasion of Iraq could be used by political opponents to embarrass the US government and arrest its troops: the founding treaty has steered clear of such controversial political waters. The judges of the ICC are well aware that the court's survival depends on its being seen as an uncontroversial force for good, and there are powerful filter mechanisms to block attempts at gesture-politics prosecutions.

A true friend might actually point all this out to the US, but judged by that standard the UN and Croatia are the only true friends America has.

Joel Bennathan is a barrister

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