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So, say someone commits murder in state A, then flees to state B. State A requests the extradition of the murderer.

Does state B, in lack of any treaties governing the subject, by the power of customary international law owe any obligation to state A to extradite the murderer? Can they deny it? Can they just omit the extradition and not do anything?

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  • This is not real "black and white", for example Mexico and Canada won't extradite a felon to the United States (or any other country) if they are facing the death penalty, even if they have an extradition treaty. Another famous case is Snowden going through Venezuela, Hong Kong, and finally Moscow, Hong Kong allowed him to travel to Moscow on a "technicality" with paperwork from the US... Now Moscow refuses to extradite him...
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 9, 2018 at 19:50
  • It appears that this question is pertaining to international extradition. Interstate extradition within the United States is not discretionary.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:32
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    The phrasing of the question, "commits murder", and "murderer" (twice) seems to imply that the fugitive has been tried and convicted in State A, prior to his fleeing the country. Is this the intent of the OP?
    – DJohnM
    Oct 19, 2018 at 4:26

1 Answer 1

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In general, when a country is requested to extradite a person to another country, the source country has discretion on whether to comply or not. If there is a treaty to which both countries are parties (whether bilateral or multilateral), its terms will normally be followed, but not always. A country can, after all, denounce a treaty and cease to be bound by it at any time, and the other party can only use what diplomatic or economic influence it has, possibly including retaliation or in an extreme case, actual war.

There is generally a detailed procedure to follow when one country requests another to extradite a person, and if it is not followed exactly, the request may be denied.

Other reasons why a request to extradite may be denied include:

  • Most countries will only extradite people charged with offenses which are also crimes in the source country.

  • Many countries will decline to extradite anyone who might face the death penalty in the requesting jurisdiction.

  • Some countries will not extradite for petty crimes. Different countries will have different rules about this.

  • Some countries will not extradite for "political" crimes. Each such county has its own definition of such cases.

  • Some countries will not comply with any extradition requests unless a treaty with the requesting country is in force.

  • Most countries will not extradite someone already acquitted of the accusation.

  • Many countries will listen to evidence that the accusation is a case of mistaken identity, and refuse to extradite if convinced by such evidence.

    • Some countries, notably Russia, have constitutional or other legal prohibitions on extraditing their own citizens.
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  • "A country can, after all, denounce a treaty and cease to be bound by it at any time" Most countries do not recognize this as a legal possibility. The right to extradition of the demanding country could be enforced in the domestic courts of the country receiving the request and the domestic courts would enforce that request in most countries.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:35
  • I think it is a legal possibility, but would only happen in extremly extraordinary circumstances. If a country decides that extraditing one particular person is worse then denouncing a treaty, which has most serious consequences, then I would assume it can happen. In practice, it won't.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 18, 2018 at 14:45
  • Granted, unlikely. I suppose what I meant to imply, but should have said explicitly, was that if a nation could denounce a treaty, it could surely fail to comply in a particular instance. Again a bit unlikely, but quite possible. Whether the domestic court of the country holding the accused would regard a treaty as legally binding on them would depend on the country, and the wording of the treaty, i should think. Nov 18, 2018 at 16:01
  • Actually, because international law is only as strong as the country or countries willing to enforce it, @DavidSiegel is correct in his statement about denunciation. It's only that diplomatic pressure from the international community would be so strong that countries wishing to stay a member will almost surely abide.
    – A.fm.
    Nov 19, 2018 at 8:23

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