Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Eighth Report


15 July 2003

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.




8296/03 CATS 21 USA 30 and
8295/1/03 CATS 20 USA 29 Rev 1
Draft Agreements between the EU and the USA on extradition and on mutual legal assistance, under Articles 24 and 38 of the TEU



We regret the limited time available to us to examine the major constitutional, legal and political issues arising from the two Agreements. These were declassified only in May and the decision authorising their signature was taken at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 6 June.

The Committee pressed hard for the text of the Agreements to be made public. We refused to scrutinise them in secret and (jointly with the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee) we invited the Presidency to supply the text to all the parliaments in the Union.

The 'confidential' classification on the Agreements after the negotiations between the EU and the US had been concluded was unnecessary. It was also contrary to the democratic accountability that ought to inform decisions by the EU institutions regarding access to documents. We hope that in future a clearer understanding of the requirements and importance of open government will prevail.


The Agreement does not provide explicitly for the possibility of extradition being refused on ECHR grounds. This is regrettable.

The Agreement does not preclude the prospect of the EU deciding to give primacy to European Arrest Warrants over extradition requests by the US.

Mutual Legal Assistance

The wording of Article 4(1)(b) (on the identification of bank information) is broad and could cover a wide range of information about legitimate every day transactions of innocent third parties.

It is unclear whether the establishment and operation of joint investigation teams will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

There appear to be major differences in the data protection systems of the EU and the US. We urge the Government to ensure that a high level of data protection is required as a condition for the provision of information to the US authorities.

The Government's Assurances

We welcome the Government's assurances that extradition can be refused by our courts in the event of a successful ECHR challenge to extradition, including breach of fair trial rights.

We also welcome the Government's clarification that it will always seek assurances when responding to extradition requests from the US that the death penalty is not imposed, or if imposed, not executed.

There is no specific treatment of the capital punishment issue in the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement. We welcome the Government's assurance that the UK could—should it ever so wish—properly decline to assist in such cases or could properly subject any cooperation to conditions.

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