Legal support in international prosecution and extradition.

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What is extradition?

Brief historical overview

Extradition is one of the oldest and most important institutions of the international law and international relations in general. According to the Art. 1 of the European Convention on Extradition,  “The Contracting Parties undertake to surrender to each other, subject to the provisions and conditions laid down in this Convention, all persons against whom the competent authorities of the requesting Party are proceeding for an offence or who are wanted by the said authorities for the carrying out of a sentence or detention order”.

In other words, extradition is the official process whereby one country transfers a suspected or convicted criminal to another country. Between countries it is normally regulated by treaties.

“And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel.”

(Book of Judges 20:12,13)

It is an ancient mechanism, dating back to the XIIIth century BC, when the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramsesses II, negotiatied a peace treaty with the Hittite King, Hattusili III, where the next was stated: “If a man flees from the country of Hatti, or two men, or three men, and if they come to Reamasesa, the Great King, the King of the country of Egypt… has to take hold of them and to order them to be taken to Hattusili, his brother, since they are brothers. As for their crime, it should not be imputed; their language and their eyes are not to be pulled out, their ears and their feet are not to be cut off; their houses with their wives and their children are not to be destroyed”. The same obligations were required on the part of Egypt.

To the oldest agreements on extradition we can also refer the agreements between William II of the Netherlands and Henry II of Brabant in 1242, between Karl V and Duke Savois in 1376, and between the British King Edward III and the French King Philip the Handsome in 1303.

One of the first Russian agreements on extradition was signed with Sweden on October 19 (29), 1649. However, the expansion of the international judicial cooperation of Russia with other countries began in the second half of the XIX century, when the Russian government signed treaties with Austria (1808), Prussia (1804), Denmark (1866), the Netherlands (1867), Italy (1871), Britain (1886) etc.

The USA first signed the agreement on extradition with Britain in 1794. However, this treaty was a part of a more extensive one, which encompassed certain disagreements between the countries, which appeared after the American Revolutionary War. The first full value agreement was signed with Ecuador in 1872.

The current agreements are mostly focused on those crimes which stipulate the punishment of confinement for not less than one year. The very first treaties, e.g. with Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba, included extradition for a homicide, piracy, organization of revolts, bigamy, forgery of securities and deliberate destruction of railways and bridges among other crimes. Soon the abortion was added to the list.

XXth century

By the end of the XIXth century, most European and American countries signed agreements with each other as well as with geographically remote countries. The British government developed and used quite a unique approach to the issue of the extradition: it started creating a system of parallel extradition relations with the countries forming the British Commonwealth on the one hand, and with all other countries – on the other. Finally, 35 countries, including the United Kingdom itself and basically all the British colonies (Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Cyprus, Malawi, Malaysia, New Zealand etc.), entered this system of extradition within the Commonwealth.

The tendency towards increasing of the number of multilateral agreements strengthened on the other continents as well. In 1889, in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay signed the Convention on the international law, in which extradition was mentioned in the articles 19-43.

In 1902 in the capital of Mexico 17 countries of the South America and the US signed another convention. A couple more conventions were passed in 1911, 1928 and 1933, improving and revoking the previous ones.

In 1952 the League of Arab States started working on the improvement of the regional system of extradition, passing a conformable convention.

In Europe, the regional issues were regulated in the European Convention of 1957, in the Convention of the Benelux Union (1962), members of which did not ratify the previously mentioned document, and in the Scandinavian Extradition Treaty of 1962, signed by Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

In 1924, the League of Nations created the Committee of experts in progressive codification of the international law, one of whose tasks was also to study the issue of extradition.

In the middle of the XXth century, the decisive part in the development of the institute of extradition played the WWII. On January 13, 1942 the Allied powers signed the Declaration of St. James's Palace. The governments of the allied nations were decisively disposed to criminal prosecution and punishment for those guilty in the manslaughter and death penalties, and for those, who voluntarily participated in such actions. This led to the creation of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials.

This situation was the turning point of extradition acquiring the utmost importance in criminal prosecution for the crimes against peace and humanity.  In the Resolution on extradition and punishment of war criminals from February 13, 1946 the UN General Assembly obliged all countries, members of the UN, to arrest and extradite the war criminals into those countries, where they committed crimes, for trial and punishment according to the laws of those countries.

The history of the development of extradition encompasses all historical types of society. However, it acquired the greatest importance in the international crime and crime against peace and humanity only now.

Extradition – is the right of a country, but not its obligation. It becomes an obligation only if there is a bilateral agreement on mutual judicial assistance in criminal cases.

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