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International Extradition Defense Lawyers

December 16, 2023

International Extradition Lawyers: A Guide

Extradition is the formal process of transferring an individual accused or convicted of a crime from one jurisdiction to another. As cross-border crime rises, international extradition has become increasingly common and complex, often requiring the expertise of specialized legal counsel. This guide aims to provide an overview of international extradition law and the role of extradition lawyers in advising and representing clients facing extradition requests.

Overview of Extradition Treaties and Laws

International extradition is largely governed by bilateral treaties between countries which establish the conditions and procedures for the surrender of fugitives. Multilateral treaties, such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, also contain provisions on extradition. These treaties form the legal basis for most extradition requests.In the absence of a treaty, some countries may still extradite based on reciprocity, comity, or domestic laws that allow extradition in certain circumstances. However, extradition is generally easier when a treaty framework is in place.Extradition treaties set out the extraditable offenses – these are typically serious crimes punishable under the laws of both countries, such as murder, fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism. Political and military offenses are often excluded. Treaties also specify the documentation and evidence requirements for extradition requests.Many treaties are supplemented by domestic extradition statutes and case law which provide further procedural rules and protections for requested persons. Issues like double jeopardy, dual criminality, specialty and humane treatment may be addressed.

Dual Criminality Requirement

A key requirement in most extradition treaties is dual criminality – the alleged conduct must be considered criminal under the laws of both the requesting and requested country. This aims to ensure extradition is not pursued for conduct that is lawful in one country.For example, if medical euthanasia is legal in one country but not the other, the dual criminality rule would likely bar extradition for euthanasia-related offenses.However, some countries apply dual criminality more flexibly by focusing on the essential character of the acts rather than the precise legal terminology or elements of the offenses. U.S. courts have endorsed this “substantial equivalence” approach in cases like Factor v. Laubenheimer.

Role of Extradition Lawyers

Extradition lawyers play a crucial role in advising and advocating for clients facing extradition. Their services may include:

  • Analyzing the extradition treaty and laws
  • Challenging the legal basis for extradition
  • Contesting the evidence and charges
  • Asserting defenses such as dual criminality, double jeopardy, asylum
  • Seeking alternative outcomes like deportation
  • Negotiating surrender terms and conditions
  • Litigating appeals and habeas corpus petitions

Skilled extradition counsel intimately understands both the U.S. and foreign legal systems implicated, allowing them to identify potential defenses under either country’s laws. They work closely with local attorneys in the requesting country to build the strongest case.Top extradition lawyers like Jacques Semmelman also leverage their extensive courtroom experience and relationships with prosecutors to negotiate favorable case resolutions. Outcomes like dropping extradition in favor of deportation or having charges reduced or dismissed abroad are not uncommon for clients with robust legal defense.

Stages of the Extradition Process

While procedures vary, the extradition process generally involves the following key stages:

1. Request

The requesting country first prepares a formal extradition request with charging documents, arrest warrant, summary of facts and copies of applicable laws. This is transmitted through diplomatic channels to the requested country.

2. Provisional Arrest

If there is urgency due to flight risk, the requesting country may ask the requested country to provisionally arrest the person pending receipt of the full extradition request. The standard of proof is relatively low at this stage.

3. Extradition Hearing

Once arrested, the requested person appears before a judge or magistrate for an extradition hearing. The judge considers whether procedural and treaty requirements are met, and if there is sufficient evidence to sustain the charges – similar to probable cause.

4. Surrender Decision

The extradition judge sends a recommendation, but the final surrender decision is made by the requested country‘s executive branch (Secretary of State in the U.S.). Courts have limited scope to review this decision.

5. Appeals and Habeas Corpus

If unsuccessful, the requested person may appeal through the court system and ultimately seek habeas corpus review to challenge detention. These proceedings can add years to the extradition process.

6. Surrender

Once all avenues are exhausted and the surrender decision upheld, the person is finally extradited to the requesting country for prosecution. In some cases, further appeals or negotiations may still occur post-surrender.

Skilled extradition lawyers leverage their expertise to aggressively litigate at each stage with an eye towards securing the client’s ultimate release. Even where extradition appears likely, creative lawyering can result in reduced or dismissed charges overseas.

Recent Notable Extradition Cases

Some recent high-profile extradition cases highlighting this complex area of law include:

  • Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks): Battling extradition from the UK to the U.S. since 2019 on charges relating to publication of classified documents. Raises novel issues around extraterritorial application of U.S. espionage laws.
  • Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Arrested in Canada in 2018 for alleged U.S. sanctions violations, her extradition case sparked a major diplomatic rift between China, Canada and the U.S. She was allowed to return to China in 2021 after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities.
  • Kim Dotcom: Flamboyant internet entrepreneur indicted in U.S. over his now defunct file hosting site Megaupload. Lengthy litigation has so far thwarted his extradition from New Zealand since 2012.

These cases highlight the extensive legal complexities around international extradition, making experienced specialist counsel invaluable for mounting a vigorous defense. Reputable extradition lawyers are experts in navigating this multi-jurisdictional legal minefield.

Choosing the Best Extradition Lawyer

When selecting an extradition attorney, key credentials to seek include:

  • Deep expertise in extradition law specifically – it is a niche specialization.
  • Cross-border experience with the legal systems of multiple countries.
  • A strong track record successfully defending extradition cases.
  • Relationships with prosecutors and government officials facilitating case negotiations.
  • Creativity in developing case strategies and defenses drawing on different legal frameworks.
  • Tenacity reflecting the often protracted litigation timeframes.

Leading extradition boutiques like Jacques Semmelman offer these attributes. Their specialized expertise and connections can make the difference between liberty and incarceration abroad.For those potentially facing extradition, securing skilled counsel at the earliest opportunity is critical. Reputable extradition lawyers know how to strategically navigate the complexities of this international legal process. They can analyze the case, identify defenses across multiple jurisdictions, and formulate a robust litigation plan towards the best possible outcome for the client.


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