I listened with interest to the Minister's response to Senator Eoin Ryan's amendment even when he was technically out of order having overrun the alloted time. There are a number of points on which I would like to have a further opportunity to clarify. I am in favour of the principle of an amendment of this kind. I am not entirely sure that I go along with the precise wording of this amendment, partly for some of the reasons the Minister has identified, but there are a number of important issues that arise in relation to this amendment.
The first one is to explain why, as I am assuming, it is drafted in terms of applying only to a citizen of Ireland, in other words, that the prima facie requirement would only apply to a citizen of Ireland. Senator Dooge criticised this approach and said we should not be discriminatory in that way, that if we believed in it in principle we should do it for everyone. Unfortunately, that is not open to us under the European Convention on Extradition of 1957. Article 6 of that convention allows a country to refuse to extradite its own citizens and to make any other provisions relating to its own citizens. If we are going to have any prima facie requirement, unless we were to denounce the European Convention on Extradition, something I would not be advocating, we could only do it in the context of our own citizens. There is some justification for that. We are entitled to be that little bit more concerned about our own citizens, if we are requested to send them to another country for trial, than about other persons who may be only very temporary visitors to the country or who may have resided here for longer. We apply a different law to aliens generally and it is not that exceptional that we would apply it in the area of extradition.
The Minister has pointed out that this prima facie rule would apply, as it is drafted in the Bill, to all requests for extradition for any offences. Therefore it would be introduced right across the board. That would be a substantial change in our existing law. I would be satisfied to confine it to the area we are talking about, where we receive a request in the particularly sensitive context of the type of offence for which formerly under international law a claim might have been made that the offence was either a political offence or connected with a political offence and the request for extradition could have been denied on that ground. In moving away from that, there is a reason to seriously examine the possibility of requiring some degree of — I do not know how to put the word so as to fit in with countries which do not have a concept of a prima facie case as common law countries would — preliminary factual evidence to substantiate the charge or charges which are preferred against the person whose extradition is sought.
The Minister in his response to Senator Eoin Ryan made a point he made on Second Stage also. The Minister said that to seek to introduce a prima facie rule or preliminary evidence rule of some kind or some basic requirement that some factual evidence be put forward is moving against the tide and is going against the approach adopted by other European countries. There are two responses to meet that objection of the Minister. First, Senator Eoin Ryan is correct in pointing out that a significant number of countries simply apply a much broader reserve. They refuse to extradite their own citizens. If we were to do that, it could be said that we were not seriously interested in extradition. That would be a kind of political dishonesty because of the way in which we have defined Irish citizenship and in the context of the Border and so on. I would not advocate that we adopt that approach.
There are countries that share quite a similar heritage and approach to ours, for example, the United States of America where a prima facie evidence rule in relation to extradition is required. Indeed, in the recent extradition treaty between Ireland and the United States the Americans required a prima facie rule. The Minister is shaking his head so let me put it this way. I am interested in having clarification on the record of this House as to whether I am correct in understanding that the United States requires, before it will extradite, that there be some establishment of a prima facie case against a person from the requesting country and that this would, under principles in international law, provide for the invocation of a reciprocal requirement if a country so wishes in agreements with the United States. That is my understanding of the position and I would welcome clarification from the Minister if that is so.
We do not need to be concerned about the difficulties and the practicalities. They are problems to be overcome but that is a question of the draftsman wording the particular requirement in such a way as to make it one that can apply either to another common law country or to countries which have an inquisitorial system and have a different way of establishing the basic case before they proceed further to a trial. The formulation does not concern me so much if we are agreed on the principle, but we should discuss in some detail why the principle is important. The reason the principle of having that requirement is important in the context of this Bill is that we are talking about a charge being preferred, in other words, an accusation being made that somebody was guilty of one of the very serious offences listed in section 3 (3) (a) of this Bill. We are saying that where a request is made for the extradition of one of those persons by a party that has ratified the convention, the person whose extradition is requested cannot claim that what was done was done in connection with a political offence. They cannot resist the extradition. Ireland does not, under present law, require to be satisfied that there is the prima facie factual basis for proceeding with the particular trial and proceeding either to a conviction or acquittal on the basis of evidence already available.
That is a very big commitment in trust and a very big step to take. I am aware that it is an approach which we have adopted in our extradition law. We have adopted the approach basically favoured under the earlier convention, the Convention on Extradition in 1957. We have not applied a prima facie rule in relation to extradition, but we have had, as part or our extradition law, the reserve that a person could not be extradited for a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence. It is in the context of moving away from that that I am certainly still worried about doing so with no reserve on our part that we want to examine the bones of the case against the person who is to be extradited under the provisions of this Bill. I am still at the stage of looking for clarification on the point.
The Minister would certainly be helpful if he would perhaps set out, in so far as he is aware of them for the benefit of Members of the House, the countries that in their extradition laws apply some variation of the prima facie rule, whether they be member states of the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism or whether they be countries like the United States who are outside the Council of Europe framework. It would be helpful to know their approach in this area.