Germany refuses to extradite Albanian ‘drug trafficker’ to UK citing inhumane conditions in British jails

LONDON: Germany has refused to extradite an Albanian alleged drug trafficker to the UK owing to the state of British prisons.
The higher regional court of Karlsruhe, southwest Germany, blocked the extradition of the man, accused of trafficking 5kg of cocaine and laundering £330,000, stating the request was “inadmissible” owing to fears he would receive inhumane or degrading treatment in a British jail. The decision is ironic as UK extradition barristers frequently slam Indian prisons, claiming overcrowding and prisoner violence to persuade UK judges not to extradite requested persons from the UK to India.
The Albanian man had gone to Germany to visit his ill fiancée and was arrested by German police after Westminster magistrates’ court issued an international arrest warrant against him.
His lawyer, Dr Jan-Carl Janssen, cited chronic overcrowding, staff shortages, and violence among inmates in British prisons as reasons why he should not be extradited, saying it could be a violation of Article 3 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The German court asked the UK for details of the prison the man would be kept in and an assurance that the conditions would comply with the ECHR, but no specific details were forthcoming.
Instead the court received an email from a police station in Manchester, which exacerbated the court’s concerns, saying that the UK was creating 20,000 new prison places to overcome overcrowding. The email said the man would likely be detained in a London prison, leading Janssen to point out how overcrowded Wandsworth prison is, which prison inspectors once described as “crumbling, overcrowded and vermin-infested”.
“The German court made no judgment on the compliance of our prisons with the European Convention on Human Rights, but said it had yet to receive requested assurances. Our prisons meet the standards of the convention whilst helping to rehabilitate offenders, cut crime and protect the public. We continue to press ahead with delivering 20,000 additional, modern prison places and our £100m investment in tough security measures – including X-ray body scanners – is stopping the weapons, drugs and phones that fuel violence behind bars,” the UK ministry of justice said.
Jonathan Goldsmith, Law Society Council member, said: “This is an embarrassment for the UK. There have been similar court decisions before, but in relation to member states with whose records on prisons and human rights we would not wish to compare ourselves.”
In 2019 a Dutch court blocked the extradition of a suspected drug smuggler back to Britain after the judges were handed prison inspector reports on the squalid conditions in British jails.
There is currently an over-occupancy in British prisons of 111% and Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, recently warned England would soon run out of jail spaces.
“Many UK prisons are over 100 years old and severely overcrowded. The lack of funding and investment has led to this judgment. Indian extradition cases in the UK routinely require assurances on Indian prison conditions. The fact the UK cannot provide one is problematic and this judgment shows that the UK has failed on human rights grounds,” said Ben Keith, an extradition barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill in London.
Between 1992 and 2016, India had successfully extradited only one individual — Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel — from the UK. He was extradited in October 2016. Many other requests until then were refused, with India’s prison conditions being a central plank of the defence arguments.
The tide turned in 2020 with the case of Sanjeev Chawla, who became the second person to be extradited from the UK to India since 1992, as the judges were satisfied with assurances from the Indian government over conditions at Tihar jail.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Repeatedly, official inspections have revealed British prisons to be filthy and riddled with vermin. People eat – and go to the toilet – in cramped cells with poor ventilation, and it is common for two people to be forced to share a cell designed for one. Our prison conditions are now internationally recognised as unfit for purpose.”


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