Gary McKinnon and his mother, Janis Sharp

In the run-up to the general election, the government is facing growing demands to halt the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US, and to repeal the legally-dubious treaty under which his extradition is sought. With almost 3,000 supporters on Twitter, and a Facebook group with hundreds of thousands of members, the public opposition to the extradition of Asperger’s sufferer Gary McKinnon on what have been acknowledged in court to be groundless allegations is something Gordon Brown can no longer ignore.

Gary McKinnon supporters at the Home Office 15th Dec 09

The Home Office has been flooded with letters, phonecalls and emails from voters objecting to this extradition, and MPs around the country have also been pressed by their constituents to protest the extradition.  Strong cross-party support for Mr McKinnon has been demonstrated in Parliament, and at the recent demonstration outside the Home Office, and the government’s own Home Affairs Select Committee have urged the Home Secretary to halt the extradition, yet the government has so far refused to act.

A Judicial Review into the Home Secretary’s decision not to halt the extradition is now set for 25th and 26th May, but Alan Johnson’s potentially unlawful decision not to prevent the extradition, and his attempts to publicly misrepresent the facts of Gary’s case represent a serious stain on the reputation of this Labour government.

You wouldn’t know from listening to Alan Johnson that the only admission by Gary McKinnon, and the only evidence, is for a Summary Offence, disposable by a Caution, and only prosecutable within 6 months of the offence.  It’s been 8 years!  And let’s not forget that Gary was threatened into making admissions, and that no Appropriate Adult was present (without which his admissions don’t count). You wouldn’t know either, if you listen to Alan Johnson, that the allegations of damage caused by Gary McKinnon (without which he is not extraditable) were laughed out of court under Lord Justice Stanley Burnton as ‘hearsay’ and ‘no evidence’.  None of this seems to matter, however; according to the current extradition treaty, unsubstantiated or even, as in Gary’s case, disproved allegations seem to be considered sufficient to warrant extradition, leaving Human Rights legislation as the only means by which a person can fight extradition.

So far, the Home Secretary seems to believe that extraditing someone with Asperger’s from their home country, someone who is now suicidal after the trauma of being threatened with extradition for 8 long years, for crimes that appear on the evidence never to have taken place is not a violation of that person’s human rights.  In modern parlance, I believe the word I’m looking for is “wtf?”

The extradition treaty with the US, which has been denounced by Liberty, by the American Civil Liberties Union, and by the finest legal minds in the country, was signed under Queen’s Prerogative, an archaic manoeuvre which bypasses Parliamentary process.  The text of the treaty was not even seen by Parliament until three months after it had already been signed.  As such, according to a recent ruling at the end of January, extradition under this treaty is illegal, by virtue of the fact that it was not subject to due democratic parliamentary process.

Under the treaty, any British citizen may be extradited to the US without a shred of evidence against them.  Baroness Scotland, who helped to negotiate this traitorous treaty was keen to reassure US senators in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that IRA terrorists (murderers, let’s not forget) who have found safe harbour in the USA will not be extradited to the UK for their crimes.  She openly admits that this treaty represents a one-sided arrangement in favour of the USA, that when the UK seek extradition, the treaty requires

“a higher threshold than we ask of the United States, and I make no secret of that.”—
[ Official Report, House of Lords, 16 December 2003; Vol. 655, c. 1063.]

Contrast this with Alan Johnson’s oft-repeated claim that there is no effective imbalance in the treaty.

It is not only Gary McKinnon who is being terrorised by this treaty either.  You may have heard recently of the case of retired businessman Ian Norris, who is ill with cancer, and is also being extradited to the USA.  The original allegation against him was not an offence in Britain at the time it is alleged to have taken place, almost 20 years ago, and the House of Lords therefore blocked his extradition, though the Labour government did not, and are now permitting the US to seek his extradition for alleged obstruction of justice instead.

Similarly, Brian Howes and his wife (also seriously ill) are fighting extradition to the US for selling chemicals legal in the UK. They face up to 98 years imprisonment, despite no evidence having been presented against them. They have five children. These are just two cases of many where the USA is seeking the extradition of vulnerable British citizens for non-violent offences occurring in the UK, on unsubstantiated allegations, and or retrospectively for actions which did not constitute a crime at the time, and which took place long before the treaty was even created.

Considering that the US are supposed to be our closest allies, and that the Extradition Act was supposed to be used for terror suspects, it is difficult to understand why the US are persecuting vulnerable British citizens in this way, or why our government is permitting this obvious abuse of process, and the cost to the public purse that this entails.

The government’s failure to step in to protect Gary McKinnon from this blatant injustice may finally be rectified by the courts (whose past record in this matter is pretty shameful, it must be said), but unless the government take action now to stop this and other unjust extraditions, the only conclusion the electorate can draw is that a vote for the Labour Party is a vote for the vicious abuse of the vulnerable to appease a foreign power, a vote against the democratic process, and against the rights of all British people. Who in their right mind is going to vote for that?  Not me.