Introduction to Extradition

Extradition, in law, surrender by one sovereign power to another of a fugitive from justice. Between nations, the right of one power to demand of another the extradition of a fugitive accused of crime, and the duty of the country in which the fugitive has found asylum to surrender this person, exist only when created by treaty. Because the political systems and penal codes of various nations differ considerably, most nations have given definite expression in treaties to their mutual obligations regarding extradition. The conventions between the United States and Britain in 1842, 1889, and 1900 enumerate what offenses two leading nations consider extraditable. The general rule is that extraditable crimes must be those commonly recognized by civilized nations as malum in se (acts criminal by their very nature) and not merely malum prohibitum (acts made crimes by statute), and must be included in the extradition treaty.

It is an almost universal rule, however, that a state will not surrender its own citizens to a foreign power, and it is generally regarded as an abuse of the principal of extradition for a state to secure the surrender of a criminal for an extraditable offense and then to punish this person for an offense not included in the treaty.

The right of extradition between the states of the U.S. is laid down in the Constitution and in a federal law of February 12, 1793. The right of interstate extradition can be exercised only by the executive authorities of one state at the request of the executive authorities of another; it gives no extraterritorial force to laws of the demanding state, providing only a means for securing the return to that state of an individual accused or convicted there of a crime, so that within its own confines that state’s laws may be executed.

To extradite, the governor of the state from which the fugitive has fled must make a request to the governor of the asylum state. This requisition must be accompanied by an indictment or an affidavit made before a magistrate, charging the person sought with a crime. The power and duty of determining whether the requisition shows sufficient cause to warrant extradition of the person demanded rests on the governor of the asylum state; the governor may grant a hearing, although as a matter of law the accused is not entitled to such hearing. Because the purpose of extradition is to prevent the successful escape from a state of any person who has been accused of crime, the only extraditable offenses are those that are punishable by law in the state in which they were committed.” (1)

Extradition and Mutual Assistance

The Historical and International Context of Extradition and Mutual Assistance includes:

History of Extradition and Mutual Assistance

Main Entry: Extradition History

Double Criminality and Speciality

Political Offences and Offenders

International Crimes and Immunities

Extradition and Human Rights

Irregular Rendition and Abduction

Extradition of a British Subject: International Incident

In the book “International Incidents for Discussion in Conversation Classes”, in relation to this subject, L. Oppenheim wrote in 1909: The following is a cutting from the police court reports of a daily paper:

“At Bow-street, Julius Kuhliger, alias Nollier, 35, of Field-road, Forest-gate, was again brought up before Sir A. de Rutzen for extradition on the charge of obtaining money by false pretences in Belgium. Mr H. Lewis defended. In consequence of certain complaints Detective-sergeant Brogden kept observation upon a newsagent’s shop in Shoreditch, and on the 2nd inst. he saw the prisoner call there and receive several letters. He followed the prisoner and saw him examine the contents, and then arrested him. The letters were found to contain four money orders of the total value of £6. 7s. 1d., and the prisoner was brought up at the Old-street Police-court and charged with being in the unlawful possession of them. It was afterwards discovered that the orders were the proceeds of an alleged swindle in Belgium which had been carried on from this country, and the original charge was abandoned in favour of the extradition proceedings. Detective-sergeant Brogden now gave evidence that the prisoner claimed to be a British subject, alleging that his mother was English, though his father was a Swiss. Since his arrest he had made a statement to the effect that about three months ago, finding himself in financial difficulties, he thought he would embark upon a system of fraud. He advertised in the German newspapers, he continued, stating that an English lady wished to send her two daughters to Germany for the purpose of learning the language of the country. Several persons replied offering to take the children, and he wrote to each of them accepting their offer, and stating that the luggage had already been sent on. He followed this by another letter purporting to come from a firm of railway carriers, saying that they had been instructed to forward certain trunks, and would do so on the receipt of their fees in advance. He arranged for the replies to these letters to be sent to five or six different newsagents’ shops in various parts of London, and each place brought him in an average of about £10. The prisoner, on oath, now said that he was a British subject, and Mr Lewis asked the magistrate to say that this was not a case in which he ought to surrender the prisoner to a foreign Power. The magistrate said that with regard to the point raised as to the accused’s being a British subject, the article in the Treaty with Belgium dealing with that matter said that ‘in no case or on any consideration whatever shall the high contracting parties be bound to surrender their own subjects whether by birth or naturalization.’ It had been held that such provision implied that the high contracting parties might surrender their own subjects, and that such surrender must be left to the discretion of the Secretary of State. He ordered the prisoner to be committed for extradition, and it would be for the Home Secretary to decide whether it was a case in which he ought not to sanction the surrender.”


In relation to the extradition and constitutional law, Trina Malone and Michael Waibel[1] made the following observation: Extradition concerns the official surrender by a state (the requested state) of an alleged offender or convicted criminal to another state (the requesting state) for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing that individual in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the requesting state. Extradition is one of a number of distinct methods by which a state may remove an individual from its territory: Other methods including expulsion and deportation (Plachta 108). States are under no obligation under general international law to extradite alleged offenders (…)

Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance

In relation to the international law practice and extradition and mutual legal assistance in this world legal Encyclopedia, please see the following section:

International Criminal Law

About this subject:

Extradition of Bosnian National for War Crimes Charges

Note: there is detailed information and resources under these topics during the year 2013, covered by this entry on extradition and mutual legal assistance in this law Encyclopedia.


Embracing mainstream international law, this section on extradition explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.


Further Reading

  • The entry “extradition” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


Notes and References

  1. Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law, Trina Malone, Michael Waibel, “Extradition” (2018, Germany, United Kingdom)

See Also

  • Extradition
  • Jurisdiction
  • Death penalty
  • Fair hearing
  • Fair trial
  • Freedom from arbitrary detention
  • Individual rights


See Also

Extradition Treaties
Extradition and Human Rights
Extradition History
Concept of Extradition
Interstate Extradition
Extradition in Federal Countries

Notes and References

Guide to Extradition

Extradition in Constitutional Law

From the Comparative Constitutions Project: The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory, and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other.

Hierarchical Display of Extradition

Law > Criminal law > Criminal law > International criminal law
Politics > Politics and public safety > Public safety > Political violence > Terrorism
European Union > European construction > European Union > Area of freedom, security and justice > Judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the EU > European arrest warrant


Concept of Extradition

See the dictionary definition of Extradition.

Characteristics of Extradition

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Translation of Extradition

Thesaurus of Extradition

Law > Criminal law > Criminal law > International criminal law > Extradition
Politics > Politics and public safety > Public safety > Political violence > Terrorism > Extradition
European Union > European construction > European Union > Area of freedom, security and justice > Judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the EU > European arrest warrant > Extradition

See also