Extradition treaties run into trouble in Dublin

These are frustrating times for politicians who push extradition treaties. This is especially true in the Republic of Ireland, where the prospects for such treaties seem to have evaporated, like mirages in a desert. The Irish Supreme Court ruled July 24 that the Irish-US Extradition Treaty is invalid because it was never ratified by the D'ail, the lower house of the Irish parliament.

The treaty was signed in 1983, and was ratified by Peter Barry, Ireland's minister of foreign affairs, in 1984. But under the Irish Constitution, a mea sure that might involve expenditure of public funds must be ratified by the D'ail. It seems not to have occurred to the government's lawyers that public funds might be involved, for example, if a person challenging an extradition order were defended in court at public expense.

By coincidence, the court's decision came only a week after the United States Senate ratified the US-British supplmentary extradition treaty. But the ratification, which the British government pushed hard for, may prove a Pyrrhic victory for London. There has been little public or political reaction here to the treaty. The official Irish view is that the treaty was so heavily amended during its passage through the Senate that it will make it no easier for the British authorities to obtain extradition from the US of people suspected of terrorist offenses in Northern Ireland.

The Irish view is that the matter would have been best left to the American courts, and that the agitation over the treaty merely provided Irish-American sympathizers of the outlawed Irish Republican Army (IRA) with a pretext for raising funds and gaining support for their views in the US.

Although the Irish authorities cooperate closely with London in efforts to suppress terrorism across the border with Northern Ireland, they privately say that the British have an ``obsession'' with extradition.

But the same authorities favor another extradition bill that is meeting opposition at home. Several months ago, the government signed the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which is due to come before the D'ail for ratification this autumn. At least one opposition party plans to propose that there should be no extradition unless a prima facie case has been established in the Irish courts. Unless the government accepts this, its survival could be at risk, since its parliamentary majority is paper-thin.

Government sources note, ironically, that the Irish Supreme Court has extradited people sought for alleged terrorist offenses in Northern Ireland without requiring prima facie evidence. They also point to the existence of a Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act; this act provides that people alleged to have committed terrorist crimes in Northern Ireland can be apprehended and tried in the Republic.

There has been a trend against allowing people wanted in another jurisdiction for alleged terrorist crimes to plead political motivation as an argument against extradition. But a case has arisen in the Netherlands that appears to reverse this and the trend toward allowing extradition merely at the request of a friendly government.

On Sept. 10, the Dutch Supreme Court is due to start reviewing the case of two IRA men, held in the Netherlands, whose extradition is sought by Britain on charges of jailbreaking, murder, and attempted murder in Northern Ireland. Whatever the eventual decision, the court's willingness to hear the case suggests that it is not prepared to grant extradition without the establishment of at least a prima facie case.

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