US groups lobby Senators on extradition treaty

Leading figures in Irish America have testified in opposition to the ratification of a proposed extradition treaty between the United States and Britain at Senate hearings in Washington.

In his opening remarks before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Committee Chairman Richard Lugar defended the treaty, which he said would streamline the extradition process. He said the US had “a deep cultural affinity and an excellent partnership” with Britain, and hailed Britain’s support for US foreign policy.

But in his testimony, Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) President Robert C. Linnon criticized the proposed treaty for “chipping away at the very foundation of the American justice system”.

The treaty has been denounced by a variety of Irish American political organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union as an assault on the Constitutional rights and basic civil liberties of all Americans.

If the Treaty was passed as currently constituted, Dr. Linnon testified that the treaty would allow for the arrest and detention of people for sixty days without a formal extradition request from Britain, thereby denying Americans their right to have their day in court in front of an impartial judge.

It eliminated the need for authorities to demonstrate probable cause, while transferring responsibility for extraditions from the Judiciary to the Executive branch.

Dr. Linnon said that the treaty was “politically motivated”.

“It clearly targets Irish American citizens for persecution in British courts -- and all this just for being active in the struggle to defend the Irish against years of British interference and misrule,” he said.

A panelist against the treaty, Professor Francis Boyle from the University of Illinois, could not make the hearing due to inclement weather in Chicago but his prepared remarks were submitted to the Congressional Record.

His testimony outlined a key concern of many in Irish America when pointing out the proposed elimination of the political offence exception.

“As we Irish Americans have repeatedly seen in Chicago, Florida, New York, and elsewhere, undercover government agents infiltrate peaceful Irish American groups, suggest criminal activity to them, and then falsely claim that innocent members of these groups agreed with their suggestions. That is all it takes for a conspiracy to be extraditable under this Treaty,” professor Boyle said.

“Even worse, all it would take for any of the people in this room to get extradited under this Treaty is a false allegation from the British Monarchy that one of its spies overheard them say something reckless about weapons or the armed struggle in Ireland.”

Concluding his testimony, Prof. Boyle said the proposed Treaty “with the British Monarchy” must stand alone and apart from all other modern U.S. extradition treaties “precisely because we Americans fought a bitter Revolutionary War against the British Monarchy to found this Republic”.

“We Americans did not fight a Revolutionary War against any other state in the world. So it is axiomatic that this proposed Treaty with the British Monarchy must be quite carefully distinguished from all of our extradition treaties with every other country in the world -- and soundly rejected,” Boyle concluded.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News