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Extradition to the U.S.: Political Agenda vs. Sovereignty

Eric Lewis
New York Law Journal
February 3, 2020

Extradition is a process with origins going back to humanity’s earliest legal systems. It is the process of one state surrendering an individual to another state for prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in the requesting country’s jurisdiction. It is typically accomplished pursuant to treaty and the United States has treaties with more than 100 countries. The most recent statistics indicate that there are some 350 to 600 extraditions to the United States each year. The explosion in the digital age of cross-border crimes makes efficient cooperation ever more important, especially with respect to terrorism, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

At the same time, countries must respect the sovereignty of other nations in requesting extradition and must be certain that requests are made in good faith and for criminal acts that meet the requirements of international law. This article sets out the basic process for obtaining extradition to the United States and reviews certain recent cases in which I have served as an expert, which suggest that the United States is trying to leverage its political power to bring defendants to the United States either to fulfill political agendas or where the United States’ interest is tangential at best in view of the demonstrable interest of other countries.

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