Statement of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Justice in the International Extradition System: the Case of George Wright and Beyond
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I thank the Chairman for convening this hearing about an important aspect of international law which impacts citizens of the United States and those of countries around the world, as well as our government’s relationships with other nations. This review of extradition will be conducted through the prism of the heart wrenching experience of the Patterson family.
The murder of Walter Patterson in 1962 devastated his wife and two young teenage daughters, one of whom, Ann, will testify here today. The late Mrs. Patterson died two years after her husband, leaving Ann and her sister orphans. George Wright, who participated in the robbery that resulted in Walter Patterson’s death, was apprehended, convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison, thereby providing, I would hope, some modicum of relief for the family. Certainly closure is another matter and the numbing grief of loss is never ending.
I cannot begin to imagine the shock and apprehension endured by the family when Wright escaped from prison seven years later and was then reported to have participated in the hijacking of a Miami-bound plane to Algeria – only to vanish from sight for the next 41 years. The FBI’s announcement last year that he had been discovered in Portugal and the rigors of the extradition proceedings have, I am sure, regenerated the cycle of grief once more for the family.
The Helsinki Final Act contains Ten Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States. Principle Ten requires that the 56 OSCE States “fulfill in good faith their obligations under international law, both those obligations arising from the generally recognized principles and rules of international law and those obligations arising from treaties or other agreements to which they are parties.” The United States has extradition treaties with the overwhelming majority of the 56 OSCE participating States, including Portugal, as well as a multilateral treaty with European Union countries. Exceptions are the former Soviet Republics (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – the United States never recognized the forcible incorporation of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union and those three Baltic States are covered by the EU multilateral treaty.) The status of extradition agreements with the successor states of the former Yugoslavia is in the process of being regularized.
Extradition treaties can help the United States ensure that those who have committed crimes here are brought to justice. But, as we have seen, the implementation of extradition agreements among nations raises challenges. Many treaties bar extradition based on exceptions carved out for citizenship, statutes of limitation, military offenses, political offenses or cases where the death penalty may be imposed.
I hope that the testimony to be presented here today will shed some light on ways to address these challenges and ensure justice in the international extradition process.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.