United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 161. International Cooperation in Criminal Proceedings
Section D. Political offence exception to extradition
The UK Military Manual (1958), in a footnote related to the provision on extradition of war criminals, states:
An accused person is not to be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is one of a political character or if he proves that the request for surrender has been made with a view to try or punish him for an offence of a political nature.
In 2010, in the Ganić case before the UK City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the Government of the Republic of Serbia sought the extradition of Ejup Ganić in respect of offences said to have been committed during the international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 1992. The Court stated:
4. … Under the terms of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which applied to Serbia at the relevant time, Article 143 (War Crimes against the Wounded and Sick) was punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years or by capital punishment; Article 146 (the Unlawful Killing and Wounding of the Enemy) was punishable by imprisonment of not less than 1 year and Article 148 (the Use of prohibited means of warfare) was punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 1 year. Similar conduct which would give rise to allegations of grave crimes would be prosecuted in the United Kingdom under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 and all such offences carry more than 12 months imprisonment.
5. If the conduct amounts to a grave crime under the  Geneva Conventions, I am satisfied that such offences would have been punishable by virtue of Criminal Code of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by imprisonment of not less than 12 months imprisonment. I am also satisfied that Section 196 of the Extradition Act 2003 would have applied had there not been any law in force in respect of the time and place where the conduct was alleged to have occurred, which would have rendered the conduct an Extradition offence.
6. Therefore, if the conduct in this case is capable of amounting to one or more of the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions 1949, the conduct would amount to an extraditable offence.
The Court summarized the alleged offences as follows:
On 2nd May 1992, in the absence of the President, the defendant, in the capacity of Acting President of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, personally commanded an attack on the military hospital, the JNA Officers’ Club and a column of medical vehicles. On the 3rd May 1992 … [it is] alleged that the defendant personally issued the command to start an attack on JNA [Yugoslav People’s Army] column in Dobroviljacka Street (Volunteers Street).
The Court further held that it is “entirely clear that the events in Sarajevo on the 2nd and 3rd May 1992 and in the weeks prior to that weekend amounted to an international armed conflict.”
The Court also stated:
11. If the defendant was responsible for giving the command for an attack upon the military hospital in Sarajevo and the command for the attack on the medical vehicles on the 2nd May these would amount to allegations of grave crimes under the Geneva Convention[s] and are therefore extradition offences.
12. It is alleged that the defendant in his capacity as Acting President of Bosnia and Herzegovina personally commanded the attack upon the JNA Officers’ Club. There is nothing in the request to indicate why in an international armed conflict such an attack would constitute a grave crime contrary to the Geneva Conventions. I therefore find that no war crime is committed by the attack on the JNA Officers’ Club.
13. The following day a group of 30 JNA vehicles left the officers’ club to restore President Izetbegovic to the Bosnian Presidency. It was also seized upon an opportunity to arrange for the evacuation of JNA forces and military equipment from the officers’ club to a destination outside the city. There is nothing within the request which would bring the conduct alleging issuing a command to attack a military convoy within the meaning of a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions 1949. However there is a reference to an Ambulance within the convoy and the request alleges that Dr Ganic expressly ordered an attack upon the Ambulance within the convoy. To that limited extent I am satisfied that the conduct alleges an extradition offence. I am not satisfied that the rest of the convoy had any right to protection or that the soldiers in the 30 vehicles were prisoners of war.
The Court further noted:
[An] investigation … [had been] carried out on behalf of the ICTY and acting upon a report from their investigators and prosecutors it was the ICTY that [had] concluded that there was no case against Dr Ganic. … The Bosnian War Crimes Office also established itself on an international basis and it was to investigate crimes alleged to have been committed within the State of Bosnia. That enquiry also concluded that there was no case against Dr Ganic. It is in my view not sufficient for the War Crimes Prosecutor in Serbia merely to say that they take a different view of the evidence where a decision has been made by the ICTY.
The Court held that “there is no valid justification for commencing proceedings against Dr Ganic. … [T]hese proceedings are brought and are being used for political purposes and as such amount to an abuse of the process of this court.”
The Court therefore held that “extradition is barred by reason of extraneous considerations by virtue of Section 81(a) and (b) in due course I will be ordering that the defendant be discharged.”
In 2003, in a written ministerial statement in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for the Home Office stated regarding a new bilateral extradition treaty between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America:
The new treaty also maintains the present position that political motivation cannot be used to block extradition in the case of terrorist or other violent crimes. The treaty stipulates that neither nationality nor statutes of limitations will be a bar to extradition.