Extradition: Introduction

Extradition has grown in importance as countries find that they are increasingly having to make extradition requests to be able to prosecute offences or enforce sentences that have been imposed. This trend is likely to continue as people are increasingly mobile and able to carry out activity in countries without being physically present.

It has led to a renewed focus by some countries on establishing extradition arrangements, which are generally contained in bilateral or multilateral treaties or conventions. Some extradition schemes, such as the European arrest warrant system, are regional and involve simplified or streamlined procedures. Countries may be able to accept extradition requests even without a general extradition agreement.

Interpol can be used to transmit requests (for example, by issuing a red notice) to detain people in order for an extradition request to be made. However, countries can choose whether to allow a person to be detained only on the basis of a red notice – many will require a domestic arrest warrant to be issued and will not act solely on the basis of a red notice.

Extradition proceedings can be regulated by treaties, domestic legislation, or both. While there are similarities between extradition procedures and concepts, there are also significant differences both in terms of the law and the way in which the law may operate in practice. For example, it will be important to understand whether bail is available for extradition cases. Even if bail is available in theory, there may be practical issues that mean that it is hard to obtain or that preparations need to be made in advance of an arrest.

An extradition request will have to fulfil the requirements set out in the extradition arrangements or the domestic legislation, as appropriate, and there will be mandatory or discretionary bars that may stop extradition. In many countries, it is possible for a person to consent to his or her extradition but this may lead to the loss of protections and may be irrevocable. Some countries place restrictions on the extradition of their nationals or residents.

Lawyers may be asked to consider the differences between extradition systems in other countries when clients are deciding where to live or which countries to travel to. This guide can provide a starting point for this comparison and allow practitioners to understand the extradition framework so that they can then obtain more detailed and fact-specific advice if this is required. 

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