UK-US extradition treaty

This article was published in the Yorkshire Post
15 July 2009
Quest for justice that goes beyond borders
It is local, maybe a regional story in the North, but the strange case of Sheppard and Whittle has so far not made it on to the national media lists. Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle are the first British citizens to be sent to prison for posting racist and anti-semitic material on the net.
Sheppard, of Selby, and Whittle, a York University graduate, can also lay claim to being the first people extradited from the United States for what they wrote. Under the US constitution protecting free speech, it is hard to see how their rantings – unpleasant and evil as they may be – would not be considered as falling under the first amendment.Instead, the US sent them back to face Leeds Crown Court in an important move that strengthens the steady development of international law and the weakening of the doctrine that justice can be avoided by pleading differences between national traditions of law and legal systems.As the BNP takes up its seats in the European Parliament, two of the proponents of the core ideology of the BNP leadership – namely Jew-hate and racism – will be doing porridge rather than beginning to claim expenses, staffing and other allowances.Nick Griffin's only long piece of writing is called "Who are the Mind-Benders?" It is a classic attack on Jews who he alleges secretly control the media. Griffin, like his fellow BNP MEP, Andrew Brons, is obsessed with the Holocaust and wrote that "the very idea of Zyklon-B extermination has been exposed as unscientific nonsense".The two men just sent to prison shared these obsessions even if they went much further. Simon Sheppard published a pamphlet in 2004, Tales of the Holohoax. It was pushed through the letterbox of a synagogue in Blackpool.On Sheppard's website, to which Whittle contributed, there were grotesque images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and posters ridiculing ethnic groups. The website was getting 4,000 hits a day.When arrested, their defence claimed that they should be acquitted because the articles were posted on a server registered in the US beyond the reach of UK law. Their second line of defence was that they were merely satirising politically- correct attitudes.What broader conclusions are to be drawn from this case? Three stand out. Firstly, anti-semitism is alive and well. Too many Jews in Britain and other European countries live with fears and worries on account of their being Jewish, that should have been expunged from our political discourse but which have not.Secondly, can we stop the nonsense that extradition is a one-way street? There was a huge campaign in the right-wing press to stop the "NatWest Three" going back to face justice in the United States after they swindled people. Their innocence was shouted from every City page and by many Tory MPs. When they got there, they pleaded guilty, as they were guilty. The American tradition of free speech allows the internet servers to disseminate the Jew-hate and racism that Sheppard and Whittle printed and posted.Our rules are different. It was right for the US to respect our democracy and rule of law and it is right for us to reciprocate and drop the argument that just because someone is a Brit, he or she should not face justice in America if a crime has been committed under US law.Thirdly, with the internationalisation of crime and use of the net to promote or commit violent hate crimes, it is time to step up the internationalisation of rule of law. Thanks to the European arrest warrant, Britain got someone from Rome in double quick time after the terrorist attacks of four years ago.Contrast this to the case of Rachid Ramda, who was the Algerian Islamist financier of the 1995 Metro terror attacks in Paris. At the time he lived in London. Britain refused to extradite him to France despite clear evidence linking him to the Metro massacres. Liberty, judges, Tory and Labour Home Secretaries all found reasons to protect him in London. This outrageous protection of a killer continued for a decade until finally Charles Clarke, as Home Secretary, had the courage to tell Liberty and the lawyers and judges that Ramda should face his accusers and sent him back to Paris. He is now doing life.So please can we stop the cant that other country's legal systems are not democratic. If you commit a crime – race-hate, fraud, stealing investors' money, Jew-baiting, terrorism, or you willingly attack the government of a democratic nation – then you must accept the consequences.You will have to go and face justice in the country where the crime was committed. America has done British justice proud by sending these Jew-haters back to be sent to prison. Will we return the compliment by developing supranational crime-fighting to tackle anti-semitism and racism in Europe as well as making clear national borders should not be used to stop justice being done?