Canada bars death-penalty extradition to US


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that two Canadians who allegedly confessed to a brutal triple murder may not be sent to the United States to face the death penalty which has been abolished in Canada.

But Canada's highest court ruled that it would be unconstitutional to extradite them unless Ottawa won assurances that they would not face execution.

The 9-0 decision effectively overrode a 1991 ruling in another case that allowed the extradition of two US murder suspects to face possible execution. Canada has not put anyone to death since 1962.

In the current case the court said that arguments have since then grown stronger against sending people away to face possible execution.

Canada is now abolitionist for all crimes, even those in the military field, it said, referring to a 1998 law that formalised the practice of not executing soldiers.

The international trend against the death penalty has become clearer, it said, noting that there were also hard-headed concerns about wrongful convictions.

Despite its ruling, the court agreed with the characterisation in 1996 by Canada's then justice minister, Mr Allan Rock, of the crimes as brutal and shocking cold blooded murder.

Rock agreed at the time that Burns and Rafay should be surrendered without seeking assurances from Washington State that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Canada is entitled to seek such assurances under its extradition treaty with the United States but Rock said in 1996 that Canada could not become a safe haven for murderers.