A controversial treaty linked to terrorism and allowing extradition of persons suspected of crimes - without producing evidence of their involvement - sent British bankers known as the NatWest 3 to stand trial in America. But that same treaty is meeting some resistance when it comes to extraditing an Israeli soldier who allegedly killed a British documentary-maker. British peers are also seeking justice in the 2003 murder of a British pro-Palestinian activist.
In its 4th-17th August issue, the British satirical magazine Private Eye reports the story:
"Can it be only three weeks since the 'NatWest Three' were air-freighted to Texas, US marshals at their side, manacles dangling?
The Blair government kept stressing the merit of making suspects face justice in the jurisdiction of an alleged crime's victims (in that case, Enron investors). Tony Blair repeatedly said that it was "the right thing to do." Extradition was the handmaid of global justice. Let truth be judged in an open court!
In the House of Lords a few days later, however, the attorney general proved very much cooler to the idea of extradition. A different case, you see. Politically more embarrassing. It concerned trigger-happy Israeli soldiers killing unarmed Brits. Suddenly extradition was a matter of great tentativity. Doubtful chins were stroked. Extradition? No, no, no most difficult.
Lord Goldsmith was facing demands that the government try to extradite the Israeli soldier who allegedly killed James Miller, a TV documentary-maker shot in Rafah in 2003. Peers also wanted British justice to pass verdict on the 2003 murder of Tom Hurndall, a young British pro-Palestinian activist. A 22-year-old Arab member of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was given a short sentence for Hundall's manslaughter. Taysir Hayb insisted he was made a "scapegoat" because he was a Bedouin.
Lib-Dem Lady Northover noted that Miller's suspected killer was "not only still in the Israeli Defence Force but has been promoted in it." It was hardly evidence that the Israelis were taking the matter seriously. She added that the British coroner investigating Miller's death was given the bum's rush by Israeli authorities. How much better had Goldsmith fared when he went to Israel recently? Oh, said Goldsmith, they had been most "cooperative."
Indeed. The Israelis were thinking about giving him some sensitive information which was at present not being made public. And, er, that was about it. He went on to explain that "it is difficult to reinvestigate something after this length of time"- not a difficulty, mind you, that has stopped the government spending umpteen hundred million on the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
Former Thatcherite Home Secretary Lord Waddington explained that James Miller was the brother of his daughter-in-law. An unhappy Waddington said that since any progress in Israel was "very unlikely," he felt that "a prosecution in England is at present the only way in which any justice will be done for James Miller's family."
Goldsmith claimed again that "the Israelis have been cooperative." He gave almost as little evidence to support this assertion as he did to support his now notrious change of mind that war against Iraq would be legal. Really, this was a lamentable performance.
Lord Thomas of Gresford (Lib-Dem), a notoriously tenacious lawyer, then gave ministers and officials good reason to gulp. He started quoting the Geneva Conventions Act of 1957 and said that the unlawful killings of Miller and Hurndall had been ruled by the coroner to be "an extraditable offence with extra-territorial jurisdiction that the courts of this country have full power to deal with." In other words - we'd be well within our rights to tell Israel to hand over its suspected soldiers now..."
"A watery Goldsmith accepted that "in theory, there are offences that would be extraditable" but tried to waffle that the coroner had not seen all the evidence. Yes, we know that. He himself had just admitted that the Israelis were withholding some of it.
"We are not at the stage where it would be right" to look at extradition, said Goldsmith. What a difference three weeks make!"