The Terrorist’s Extradition Loophole Essay

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The Terrorist’s Extradition Loophole

Most extradition treaties between states call for an exemption for crimes that are political in nature. The political offense exemption was originally created to allow states to protect those that another state may wish to prosecute for crimes that are politically committed against that government. R. Stuart Phillips, a Judge Advocate in the United States Army, distinguishes between “pure” political offenses and “relative” political offenses. “Pure” political offenses are directed specifically against the state and do not directly affect civilians. They also do not contain acts that would normally be considered a common crime. This can include efforts to overthrow the government, treason, and
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Should the person be extradited to stand trial as a terrorist? The answer to the final question is ultimately left up to the individual state. That state may have ulterior motives for using the political offense exemption as an excuse for not extraditing the individual in question. This exemption gives some governments the excuse they need to protect terrorists, whether or not that is their actual intention. It also gives the terrorist legal recourse to avoid extradition for the crimes that were committed. If nothing else, this exemption allows the terrorist to stall the process of justice while awaiting a ruling on whether the terrorist act should be considered a “political offense.”

The United Nations has condemned all forms of terrorism, but what exactly that means is still up for debate. Most states would probably be willing to extradite a “terrorist,” but not quite as willing to extradite a “freedom fighter.” The first step that is necessary to close this loophole is defining the concept of terrorism itself. The current usage of the term “terrorism” is politically contrived. The former U.S. Judge to the International Court of Justice, Richard Baxter, has shown the problem with the definition of terrorism: “[W]e have cause to regret that a legal concept of terrorism was ever inflicted upon us. The term is imprecise; it is ambiguous; and above all, it serves no operative legal purpose”
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