M. Cherif Bassiouni Weighs In on the Amanda Knox Extradition, and Gets It Wrong
I have been feeling a little guilty for blogging about the Amanda Knox case since it is more of a People Magazine topic than an Opinio Juris one. But just today, I realized that even someone as respected in the international law field as M. Cherif Bassiouni has opined on her extraditability in this OUP blog post from last April. So maybe it’s OK after all, especially since Bassiouni’s view that she is not extraditable is (in my view) flatly wrong.
Bassiouni, a giant in the field of international criminal law and the author of the leading treatise on the international law of extradition, argues that Amanda Knox is not extraditable to Italy because of the admittedly unusual Italian criminal procedure that seems to subject defendants to convictions, acquittals, and then conviction again in violation of the rule of ne bis in idem (double jeopardy).
As I have explained, no US court has held that the double jeopardy protection of the Fifth Amendment would prevent an extradition because no U.S. court has applied that Fifth Amendment protection to actions by a foreign government. In other words, no U.S. has held that a U.S. citizen can invoke the Fifth Amendment against the prosecution of a foreign government. It is possible a court might do so, but there has been no signs of that so far.
But what really bothers me is that Bassiouni makes the same mistake that many other (far lesser in stature) legal commentators have made when he suggests that Article VI of the US-Italy Extradition treaty imposes a double-jeopardy requirement on the Italian government.
The 1983 U.S.–Italy Extradition Treaty states in article VI that extradition is not available in cases where the requested person has been acquitted or convicted of the “same acts” (in the English text) and the “same facts” (in the Italian text).
Non Bis in Idem
Extradition shall not be granted when the person sought has been convicted, acquitted or pardoned, or has served the sentence imposed, by the Requested Party for the same acts for which extradition is requested.
I don’t think it is possible to read this language as imposing a non bis in idem requirement on Italy, since Italy is not the “Requested Party” in the Amanda Knox case. The only way Amanda Knox could invoke Article VI is if she has been “convicted, acquitted or pardoned,or has served the sentence imposed” by the United States, which is the “Requested Party.” But Knox has not been charged or punished for this crime in the United States, so she can’t invoke Article VI.
As Bassiouni points out, the complexity of Italy’s criminal procedure could possibly violate the prohibition on non bis in idem contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. I don’t know enough about Italy’s criminal procedure or the ECHR’s jurisprudence in this area to know if he is right, but I do know that this issue is not something that would be considered in the “extraditability” analysis by a U.S. court. Knox could (and probably has) raised this argument in Italian courts, or directly before the ECHR. But it should not affect her extraditability.
Because of Bassiouni’s stature, his blogpost will be (and already has been) repeated by media reports for the proposition that Knox has a credible double-jeopardy defense to extradition. But although they are right to cite Bassiouni as a leading authority on international extradition, he’s wrong on this one.