Extradition Between UK and Russia – an update on current judicial practice

March 10, 2010

A seminar and panel discussion

Speakers and panel members:

  • Professor Alena Ledeneva (University College London)
  • Professor Richard Sakwa (University of Kent)
  • Robert Brownand Peter Binning (Corker Binning Solicitors)
  • Geoffre Vos QC (3 Stone Buildings)
  • Edward Fitzgerald QC (Doughty Street Chambers)
  • Rufus D’Cruz (18 Red Lion Square)

The seminar was chaired by Geoffrey Vos QC. The main speakers were Peter Binning and Robert Brown of Corker Binning.

An overview of the fundamentals of extradition was provided by Peter Binning who explained that although extradition retains elements of criminal law, such as arrest, it is a procedure, not a criminal trial. Under the Extradition Act 2003, for an extradition to take place, it is necessary to show that the conditions for extradition are established and there are no bars to an extradition request.

Although there is a general public perception that extradition between the UK and Russia is not possible, the legal framework for extradition between the two countries is in place and extraditable offences in the UK and Russia are similar. The extradition process between the UK and Russia was streamlined following Russia’s ratification the Council of Europe Convention on Extradition in 1999. Subsequently, a Memorandum of Understanding between Russian and UK Prosecutors was signed in 2006 which envisaged cooperation between the Prosecutors of the two countries in the sphere of extradition, joint meetings, consultations, discussions, as well as exchange of information on the national legal systems and legislation.

However, the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and the stand off between the UK and Russia in relation to the UK’s formal request to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to be tried for murder in the UK and Russia’s refusal to do so led to a cessation of the cooperation envisaged by the Memorandum 2006.

Peter Binning emphasized that although the legal framework for extradition between the two countries exists, of the 12 extradition requests to the UK which Russia has made since 2000 all but one was refused. The refusals were for the following reasons: (a) the request was considered to have been politically motivated and/or the defendant would be punished on account of his political opinions; (b) it was considered that the defendant’s human rights would be violated because of a real risk of torture or other cruel or inhuman treatment (Article 3) or that there would be flagrant denial of justice at trial (Article 6); (c) the request was considered to be an abuse of the process of the UK court. It was pointed out that although they are different concepts, there is an interplay between extradition and asylum cases.

Robert Brown’s presentation considered the bars to extradition. He explained each of the possible bars applicable to Russian cases and, in particular, the wide interpretation of political motivation. He pointed out that economic as well as political opinion could fall within the scope of the bar and that the defendant need not be an overtly political figure for it to operate. Robert explained the application of the political motivation bar to extradition requests in the Yukos cases and Zakayev cases as examples of the application of the human rights bar to extradition.

The presentation was accompanied by slides which you will be able to access shortly on this website and was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Geoffrey Vos QC. The panel members included Professor Alena Ledeneva (SEES, University College London), Professor Richard Sakwa (University of Kent), Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC (Doughty Street Chambers), Rufus D’Cruz (18 Red Lion Court) and Robert Brown and Peter Binning of Corker Binning Solicitors.

It was a rare opportunity to hear from people who personally dealt with and fought high profile extradition cases and who have conducted extensive research into the subject and related areas.

The subsequent debate provoked the following questions: Can diplomatic assurances be relied upon; is it possible to police them and is there any remedy if they are breached? Are tax offences extraditable? Was the British government deliberately escalating the conflict in the Lugovoi extradition request by completely ignoring that the Russian Constitution (similar to the constitutions of many other countries) prohibits the extradition of its citizens and that Russia signed the Extradition Convention with a reservation to this effect? Was the British government inconsistent in its approach in treating Russia and its constitutional bar to extradition differently to other countries with a similar regime? These were examples of the questions posed. Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC who acted for Ahmad Zakhayev, Boris Berezovsky, Aleksandar Temerko and Natalya Chernysheva in fighting extradition to Russia shared his first-hand knowledge of such extradition cases. Professor Sakwa who has recently written a book on Yukos cases analyzed these extradition cases and, in particular, the Lugovoi extradition request. Professor Ledeneva brought interesting data relating to Russian extradition requests and spoke about a recent research project “Telephone Justice in Russia” undertaken by her team. Rufus D’Cruz pointed out that cycles can exist when it comes scrutinizing the human rights records of certain countries and cited issues relating to Turkey that until quite recently occupied much of the work done by the European Court of Human Rights.

The seminar was followed by a drinks reception at which the participants had an opportunity to talk to the panel members and fellow BRLA members.

The BRLA would like to express its gratitude and appreciation to Corker Binning Solicitors for its help in organising the seminar and for its sponsorship and to the speakers for their contributions. Particular thanks is due to Geoffrey Vos QC, who agreed to chair the meeting at very short notice

Publication in Angliya newspaper, 27 March – 2 April 2009 (in Russian) Extradition between UK and Russia, Angliya 27 March -2 April 2009

An article “Russia Special report: Russian convolution” by Robert Brown, Andrew Smith and Rupert D’Cruz was published in The Lawyer on 1st June 2009 –