Written by Brad Calloway
Headlines have recently focused on the topic of extradition, ranging from France’s expulsion of Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana to Germany’s excellent record on prosecuting Nazi war criminals. While many European Union (EU) countries have stepped up war criminal extradition, many reports suggest that the United Kingdom has lagged behind. The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) reported that Great Britain has become a haven for suspects of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, and acts of genocide. Out of the 495 suspects against which the UKBA has recommended action in the past five years, 383 remain living unpunished within the borders of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom, along with all Member States of the EU, is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Upon request of extradition, the United Kingdom is required by the Rome Statute to return suspects to their country of origin or to the ICC. Otherwise, it is up to British laws to investigate and prosecute suspects of such crimes. Jack Straw, a Member of Parliament from the center-left Labour Party, recently passed an act through the House of Commons allowing for the prosecution of British nationals accused of international war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide dating back to 1991. The previous law had only permitted British courts to place suspects on trial for such crimes dating back to 2001. Despite Straw’s efforts, not a single investigation into war criminal suspects has taken place since the law was enacted in 2010.
“The biggest problem,” Member of Parliament Michael McCann states, “is the lack of resources dedicated to investigating these serious cases, and that we often don’t know where these individuals are. It means that if an arrest warrant is issued there is little likelihood it can be served.” The United Kingdom has only seen two successful trials on war crimes since the end of the World War II.