Getting real about extradition
Only the naive would have expected Denmark to have extradited Kim Davy to India. The question not one of whether he was guilty or not guilty. It is just that it is the rarest of rare cases that any country allows its own citizens to be sent to a jail in a foreign land. And India is no exception to this rule.
Going by some of the media coverage and commentary on the Davy case, one would think that other countries extradite their people whenever New Delhi crooks a finger. Off hand, I can’t think of any country that has ever extradited its citizens to India – definitely no Western nation.
Countries are happy to extradite Indian citizens back to India. As Portugal did with Abu Salem. Pakistan surreptitiously did with two Khalistanis as well. And I suspect there are a few cases of third country citizens being sent back to India as well. Though the decade spent trying to get Ottavio Quatrocchio extradited from Argentina, Malaysia and lord knows doesn’t bode well on that count.
But it’s a simple rule of international thumb. Countries don’t extradite their own to another. Most legal systems give half-a-dozen opt-outs when such cases come out. Davy’s argument that Indian jails are awful is a common one – fear of torture, inhuman treatment and so on. Almost any political crime is exempted from extradition. Many have straightforward jurisdictional principles – a citizen must be tried in his own country even for a crime committed overseas. It goes own.
Many countries dispense with legal pretence. Asian countries like China and Japan and European states like Germany and France simply forbid the extradition of their citizens to another country. This is why Roman Polanski, wanted in the US for 20 years on statutory rape charges, is walking around in France without a concern – though he nearly got caught when he took a trip to Switzerland. As far as I can tell, countries with Anglo-Saxon legal systems, like India, do not generally have such complete bans. In principle, these countries will allow their own citizens to be extradited – though with difficulty.
So does “self-extradition” ever happen? It seems to happen in only two circumstances. One, when the two countries have extraordinary confidence in each other’s legal systems and political trust at a very high level. Thus the US and Britain extradite their own citizens to each other. But even that doesn’t happen without a fight. And I think the US declined to send IRA supporters to face British courts.
Two, when a country is in a position of subservience to another. Pakistan has extradited a handful of its citizens to the US. But this has been done under extreme pressure, with the Pakistan government overriding normally negative court judgments. And it is not always clear, as in the case of Aafia Siddiqui, whether it was extradition or rendition.
Demanding extradition has become a bit of ritual in India. The media, the opposition and whatnot all call on the government to file extradition papers and bring David Headley, Mohammad Hafiz Sayeed, Warren Anderson and so on.
The Central Bureau of Investigation goes through the motions, even though it knows chances of success are pretty much zero. Nothing happens, the CBI is abused and, after a year or so, the circus begins again. The CBI personnel get a lot of free overseas trips. And the taxpayer pays up – one pointless attempt to extradite Quattrochi from Argentina lasrt year cost, I remember NDTV reporting, the Indian exchequer Rs 4 million.
There is a case for making the noise about extradition a bargaining chip for getting something more reasonable. Thus it may have helped India get the right to interrogate Headley – something, I should note, intelligence agencies almost never allow an outsider agency to do.
India, I should add, is no different. In 1984, Romesh Bhandari was sent by the Indian government to get the United Arab Emirates to send to India the hijackers of an Indian airliners. The hijackers were Indian so the UAE wasn’t overly bothered, but it did ask that New Delhi extradite an Indian wanted in UAE for some crime or another. Bhandari agreed, took back the hijackers and India promptly reneged on its side of the bargain. UAE diplomats still grumble about Indian perfidy.
My response to them is to repeat what I tell Indians who moan about Davy, Headley or Anderson not being extradited: Get real.