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Roman Polanski aside, extraditions to US are on the upswing

Film director Roman Polanski may have avoided extradition stemming from a 1977 child sex case, but his case runs counter to the trend. Why more countries are handing over suspects to the US.

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Filmmaker Roman Polanski may have beaten the US justice system by avoiding extradition stemming from a 1977 conviction for having sex with an underage girl. But these days, he's more the exception than the rule.

Suspects on the lam are more likely to be sent back to the US for trial or sentencing than was the case not so long ago. Part of the shift is attributed to treaty amendments, so that crimes in the US are accepted as crimes in other countries. Moreover, the political will abroad to prosecute drug smugglers has improved, resulting in more high-profile extraditions in recent years.

The Department of Justice says it does not have statistics on its extradition success rate. However, says spokeswoman Laura Sweeney of the Office of International Affairs, “We are increasingly successful in extradition requests as law enforcement around the world continue to work together in a more cohesive fashion.”

Still, some nations, such as France, will not extradite individuals likely to face execution if convicted. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights held up the extradition to the US of four individuals detained in British prisons, citing the possibility that they could face life in prison – possibly a violation of Europe’s human rights charter.

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