How unconventional or precedented was Judge Baraitser's claim that UK-signed international treaties are unbinding or even irrelevant to UK courts?

In ruling on Julian Assange's extradition, she dismissed the defenses contention that extradition for political offences was prohibited under the extradition treaty on the grounds that this provision was not included in the parliament-passed domestic UK legislation that implemented the treaty.

It seems contrived that it shouldn't at least be heavily considered in gathering the context and spirit in which the extradition act was passed, even while on the face her legal reasoning that it shouldn't be binding on UK courts as their principal function is to interpret/apply the body of UK law.

If it wasn't binding but only admissible as perspective for deducing parliamentary intent, then to dismiss it out of hand anyway suggests a biased political impetus to extradite Assange.

Regardless, what is the validity and or precedent for the various components and degrees of this reasoning by Judge Baraitser?

  • Your argument is based on the notion that the drafters of the Act didn't know what they were doing when they omitted provisions for prohibiting political extraditions from the text.
    – richardb
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 7:32
  • That’sa fair point. @richardb Unsarcastically, then, I ask: why else might they actually have omitted those treaty provisions?
    – Timothy
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 20:56
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    It leaves the power with the Home Secretary to decide whether a person accused of a politically motivated crime should be extradited.
    – richardb
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


The precedent is very clear and was accurately applied by the judge

A treaty does not create domestic law and is only applicable to the extent that it is incorporated into domestic law. She extensively quotes the relevant precedents in the judgement at [42-49].

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    "As far as I know, this is the situation in every country with respect to international treaties." This is not correct in the US. The US Constitution declares treaties as well as acts of congress, to be "the Supreme Law of the Land". A treaty can be (and some are) self-executing, so that no implementation ct is needed, and takes precedence over a previous act of Congress. Other treaties re not self-executing, and may be limited by the terms of their implementation acts. See Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920), where there was an act, but the Court held the treaty itself was supreme law Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 21:17
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    @DavidSiegel but Congress has to ratify the treaty, yes?
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 21:20
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    The Senate must ratify, not Congress as a whole. But In the UK I think treaties must be ratified also, aside from any implementing acts. But I gather from your answer that in the UK ratification alone is not binding on the courts. In the US it is, or at least may be. Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 21:29
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    "under the constitutional law of some states (for example, the United Kingdom), treaties as a rule may not be enforced by the courts except via implementing legislation" law.ox.ac.uk/events/… A treaty that doesn't have domestic law effect immediately upon being signed is called a non-self-executing treaty.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 21:35
  • For example 17 USC 103(c) reads: "No right or interest in a work eligible for protection under this title may be claimed by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto. Any rights in a work eligible for protection under this title that derive from this title, other Federal or State statutes, or the common law, shall not be expanded or reduced by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto" so Berne is not self-executing in the US. Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 22:57

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