x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Extradition treaties say 'no haven here'

Bilateral agreements streamline process of delivering fugitives to justice in other countries and 'send a message', according to experts.

Shanwaz Ali was killed in Birmingham in 2006. UK detectives are keen to interview Jeleel Ahmed, who has been extradited by the UAE.
Shanwaz Ali was killed in Birmingham in 2006. UK detectives are keen to interview Jeleel Ahmed, who has been extradited by the UAE.

Extradition treaties make it clear to criminals that there is no haven in the UAE, legal experts said yesterday. Although such agreements do not necessarily need to be in place for a wanted individual to be handed over to a foreign government, they streamlined the process and sent an important message to people who think they can escape the law, said Dr Mustafa Alani, from the Gulf Research Centre, who has studied UAE law and its impact on security.

"People have to understand that the UAE isn't a safe haven," said Dr Alani. "These agreements are important because they send the message that you can't hide here, the UAE will not give you refuge or protection." There is no obligation under international law for one country to surrender a criminal to another, so nations have built up a web of agreements to help bring to account fugitives who flee abroad.

The UAE has extradition agreements with at least 34 countries including the Philippines, India, Russia and other Gulf nations. Thailand is reported to be stepping up its efforts to sign an extradition treaty with the UAE, in order to bring home Thaksin Shinawatra, its former prime minister, who is believed to be in Dubai. Mr Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years' prison for abuse of power.

"It isn't necessary to have a bilateral agreement if the case is proven and all the papers are submitted, but if you have agreement it is faster, and the other party will know exactly what is required to be for the extradition to take place," Dr Alani said. Extradition usually also has to be authorised by the courts in the country where the wanted person is residing. A court in Thailand earlier this month rejected an application from the US government for the extradition of Viktor Bout, the former Sharjah-based air cargo operator suspected of arms dealing.

Dr Alani said that in cases related to terrorism bilateral treaties were less important as extradition was covered by antiterrorism legislation. Professor Jassim al Shamsi, dean of the college of law at UAE University, said extradition agreements were particularly important for crimes involving large international networks, such as money laundering and human trafficking. The process of repatriating a wanted criminal often goes through Interpol, which will provide a "red notice" for the fugitive.

Unlike an international arrest warrant, a "red notice" means that the person is wanted by a national jurisdiction. Interpol then helps national police forces to locate or identify the individual with a view to his or her arrest and extradition. Prof al Shamsi said it was important that both sides honour these agreements, as even when treaties were in place extradition did not always take place. "If a crime is committed here in the UAE and he flees the country, these agreements help bring him back, but countries will sometimes make excuses not to hand someone over," he said.

Many nations refuse extradition if the accused is likely to face the death penalty, others will not extradite their own citizens. The UAE is among the latter, according to Prof al Shamsi. Russia has not yet handed over seven people wanted in connection with the death in March of the former Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai. The suspects, for whom Interpol has issued "red notices", include the Russian MP and former Chechen prime minister Adam Delimkhanov, whom police accuse of masterminding the killing in Dubai.

lmorris@thenational.ae