Britons face extradition for
'thought crime' on net
Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
British citizens will be extradited for what critics
have called a "thought crime" under
a new European arrest warrant, the Government has conceded.
Campaigners fear they could even face
trial for broadcasting "xenophobic or racist" remarks - such as
denying the Holocaust - on an internet chatroom in another
The Government has undertaken that if such "offences"
take place in Britain the perpetrators would not be extradited - but
it will be for the courts to decide the location of the crime.
This opens up the prospect of a judge agreeing to
extradite someone whose observations, though made in Britain, were
broadcast exclusively in a country where they constitute a
Legislation now before Parliament will make
"xenophobia and racism" one of 32 crimes for which the
European arrest warrant can be issued without the existing
safeguard of dual criminality. This requires that an extraditable
offence must also be a crime in the UK.
Alongside the arrest warrant, EU ministers are
negotiating a new directive to establish a common set of offences to
criminalise xenophobia and racism.
Countries such as Germany and Austria have crimes
such as denying the Holocaust which have no equivalent in Britain. Under
current laws, if a British citizen committed this offence in Germany
and returned to the UK, he could not be extradited.
However, this will change when the arrest warrant
becomes law next year. Lord Filkin, the Home Office minister, told
MPs: "If someone went to Germany and stood up in Cologne market
place and shouted the odds, denying the Holocaust, and then came
back [to Britain], they would be subject to extradition under the
European arrest warrant."
Holocaust denial laws are in place in seven EU
they would be a big departure for Britain, where a risk of
fomenting public disorder is needed before a thought becomes a
A German historian who claimed that Auschwitz
prisoners enjoyed cinemas, a swimming pool and brothels was
sentenced to 10 months in jail.
Lord Filkin has insisted that no one would be
extradited "in respect of conduct which has occurred here and which
is legal here". But when he was asked by the European scrutiny
committee of the House of Commons whether comments originating in
Britain but carried abroad on television or through an internet
chatroom would be extraditable, he said: "It will be for the courts
While he was adamant that a British citizen would not
be extradited for a xenophobia or racism offence if part of the
conduct took place in the UK, the committee asked whether this
principle would be made clear in the
Extradition Bill now before Parliament.
The proposed EU directive would extend the offences
of racism and xenophobia to include discrimination on the grounds of
religious conviction - something that was dropped by the Government
more than a year ago following fierce opposition.
Britain has negotiated a deal under which the
offences will only apply when they involve incitement to violence.
Lord Filkin said this was in line with current UK race laws.
However, Britain has been forced to concede a review
after two years at which point the directive could be extended to
opinions that are simply considered offensive and not just those
likely to incite violence. Agreement on the directive has been held
up because some EU countries want a "low threshold for criminality
on these issues".
Philip Duly, campaign manager for the Freedom
Association, said the Government should protect citizens from
extradition for what he called "thought crimes".
He added: "The Government has previously maintained
that no one will be extradited for conduct which is not a crime in
the UK. But here we have Lord Filkin admitting that there are
circumstances which will be decided not by ministers but by
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