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Extradition of Terrorists

NCJ Number
Revue de science criminelle et de droit penal compare Issue: 3 Dated: (July-September 1980) Pages: 661-691
J Borricand
Date Published
31 pages
The theoretical basis for extradition of terrorists and the acts for which particular persons may be extradited are discussed in detail.
While most national and international treaties admit to the need to extradite terrorists, the treaties define 'terrorists' so diversely that uniform practices are impossible. The definition of terrorists is crucial because political prisoners have long enjoyed a special status in the international community and extradition of terrorists is frequently refused on the grounds that they are political refugees. Extradition agreements are designed to assure the protection of the separate states and of individuals from such offenses as air piracy and violent criminal acts against life and limb. However, existing agreements do not permit generalization of the extradition rule because of the wide range of exceptions possible for 'political offenders.' To resolve the difficulties, the relationship between terrorism and political offenses must be more clearly defined. Solutions proposed are 1) to establish a category of partially political offenses which may or may not warrant extradition, 2) to reject terrorism as a political offense and place it in the category of regular offenses, and 3) to give terrorists special status taking into considerations the specificity of terrorist actions. At the present time, extradition in cases of terrorist acts depends on the seriousness of the act and whether the act fits into the list of recognized terrorist activities. This list includes airplane hijacking, offenses against individuals protected by diplomatic immunity, hostage taking, offenses involving bombs or automatic weapons, and severe property damage while performing an act seriously dangerous to human lives. Persons subject to extradition in existing treaties are individuals know to have commited acts of international terrorism, to have attempted to commit acts of international terrorism, or to have aided and abetted terrorist acts, at least in some cases. Most states, except for Great Britain and the United States refuse to extradite nationals. This is regrettable, because criminals can escape by becoming citizens of countries without extradition agreements, prompting the countries seeking extradition to resort to illegal practices to gain custody of the criminal. The most immediate means of facilitating extradition of terrorists is for separate states to ratify existing conventions and for the separate states to cooperate in bringing their internal laws on extradition into agreement. Extensive notes are supplied.