Most extradition treaties between states call for an exemption for crimes that are political in nature. The political offense exemption was originally created to allow states to protect those that another state may wish to prosecute for crimes that are politically committed against that government. R. Stuart Phillips, a Judge Advocate in the United States Army, distinguishes between “pure” political offenses and “relative” political offenses. “Pure” political offenses are directed specifically against the state and do not directly affect civilians. They also do not contain acts that would normally be considered a common crime. This can include efforts to overthrow the government, treason, and espionage. These types of crimes should be protected by a political offense exemption. A problem with the extradition exemption comes up with the “relative” political offenses. These offenses are not entirely political in nature. These crimes tend to be common crimes that are committed for a political purpose. The reason behind the crime is not enough to warrant an exemption from prosecution for the crime itself (Phillips 340-343). Terrorists should not be allowed to find the loopholes in a system that enables them to continue to terrorize those whom they blame for their problems.
This problem is a direct result of the “gray areas” that make it difficult to tell the difference between a common crime and a political crime. It combines the two acts into one, blurring the line of distinction (Anderson). The government being attacked sees it as a common criminal attack on its sovereignty, while the terrorist sees it as a legitimate means to an end. The government behind which the terrorist is trying to...
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Anderson, James H. “International Terrorism and Crime: Trends and Linkages.” James Madison University. http://www.jmu.edu/orgs/wrni/it.htm (8 Mar. 2002).
Kash, Douglas A. “An International Legislative Approach to 21st-Century Terrorism.” The Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millennium. Ed. Harvey W. Kushner. London: Sage Publications, 1998.
Phillips, R. Stuart. “The Political Offense Exception and Terrorism: Its Place in the Current Extradition Scheme and Proposals for its Future.” Dickenson Journal of International Law Winter 1997. 337-359.
Van den Wyngaert, Christine. “The Political Offense Exception to Extradition: How to Plug the ‘Terrorists’ Loophole’ without Departing from Fundamental Human Rights.” International Criminal Law and Procedure. Eds. John Dugard and Christine van den Wyngaert. Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1996.
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