International Crime Control Strategy - June 1998

V. Denying Safe Haven to International Criminals

I now invite every country to [endorse] a no-sanctuary pledge, so we could say together to organized criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers, and smugglers, "You have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide."

President Bill Clinton
Speech at the United Nations
October 22, 1995

A. Goal: Deny Safe Haven toInternational Criminals

The Strategy seeks to deny sanctuary, or "safe haven," to international criminals no matter where they are hiding around the globe. These criminals must not be allowed to remain beyond the reach of U.S. and other law enforcement authorities, nor should the United States provide them any aid or comfort.

B. Objectives

Negotiate new international agreements to create a seamless web for the prompt location, arrest and extradition of all international fugitives;

Implement strengthened immigration laws that prevent international criminals from entering the United States and that provide for their prompt expulsion when appropriate; and

Promote increased cooperation with foreign law enforcement authorities to provide rapid, mutual access to witnesses, records and other evidence.

C. Programs and Initiatives

1. Negotiating New International Agreements

Extradition as a Weapon Against International Crime

International extradition treaties remain the most effective mechanism to obtain the return of international fugitives. The Departments of State and Justice, with appropriate input from law enforcement agencies, are involved in an active program to negotiate modern treaties in order to replace old, outdated instruments and to create new extradition treaties where none existed previously.

Role of State and Local Officials

Federal authorities are not the only ones who rely on extradition. In recent years, the ease and speed of modern travel have increased the number of fugitives wanted for serious violent crimes under state and local law. For example, state and local prosecutors sought assistance from the Department of Justice in obtaining extradition in more than 140 cases in 1996 alone, including murders, kidnappings and serious sex crimes.

New Treaties

The United States will further intensify its efforts to sign, bring into force, and implement modern extradition treaties with countries that might otherwise serve as havens for international criminals. The volume of cases in which the United States seeks extradition of serious criminals located in foreign countries continues to grow. In 1990, the United States sought the extradition of 1,672 people accused or convicted of committing crimes. By 1996, that number had jumped to more than 2,894, including fugitives wanted for murder, rape, kidnapping, major drug trafficking, money laundering, multi-million dollar financial scams, and other serious crimes committed in violation of U.S. law.

Congress has supported the President's aggressive diplomacy in establishing a comprehensive network of extradition agreements that deny safe haven to international fugitives. In August 1996, the Senate gave advice and consent to ratification of seven new extradition treaties. Over a dozen more are now pending at the Senate for advice and consent to ratification.

The 1995 U.S. extradition treaty with Jordan -- the first new extradition treaty with an Arab nation in many years -- demonstrates the importance of such aggressive diplomatic efforts to obtain or modernize bilateral extradition treaties. Just days after that treaty came into force, Jordan arrested World Trade Center bombing defendant Eyad Mahmoud Ismail Najim who, until then, was simply out of reach of U.S. authorities.

Within the past two years, new extradition treaties have also entered into force with the Philippines, Malaysia, Bolivia and Hungary. There are dozens of U.S. fugitives in the Philippines alone, many of whom are wanted for murder and other serious crimes. We now have extradition treaties with over 105 nations, providing the most comprehensive web of extradition treaties in U.S. history.

Expanded Extradition Authority

The State Department, working in conjunction with the Justice Department, seeks the broadest possible extradition obligations in our new treaties. Lists of extraditable offenses can soon become outdated. Thus, instead of negotiating "list" treaties, the United States advocates "dual criminality" provisions in our modern treaties. These ensure that extradition is possible whenever a fugitive is charged with a crime that is punishable in both the country seeking extradition and the country of refuge. This guarantees that developments in the criminal law are accommodated - and that new crimes such as money laundering and computer fraud may be covered - without the need to amend existing extradition treaties.

The U.S.-proposed treaties will provide for the mandatory extradition of nationals, whenever possible. As a matter of fundamental law enforcement policy, the Administration believes that persons should be brought before the courts in those countries which have suffered the criminal harm and which are best positioned to ensure fair and effective prosecution. The Administration further believes that criminals should never escape justice based simply on their citizenship or nationality.

Some Recent Successes

Our policies have begun to bear fruit, even in some countries that traditionally have not surrendered their own nationals. For example, our new extradition treaty with Bolivia requires the extradition of nationals for numerous serious crimes, and our recently signed extradition treaty with Argentina will require extradition for all crimes that are punishable by at least one year in prison. Our recent extradition treaty with Thailand makes the extradition of nationals discretionary, but in 1996 at the strong urging of the United States, Thailand extradited a former member of its own parliament to face prosecution in San Francisco for organizing multi-ton shipments of marijuana to the United States.

During the past year, Mexico agreed for the first time in its history to extradite several of its nationals to the United States. Under current law, Mexico may authorize the extradition of its citizens only in "exceptional" cases. In 1996, the Mexican government deemed two cases exceptional. Mexico surrendered Francisco Gomez Garcia who was wanted in Arizona for child molestation and Aaron LeBaron who was wanted in Texas for ordering the murders of ex-members of his religious cult. In 1997, the Mexican government expanded its use of "exceptional" circumstances and approved the extradition of 10 Mexican nationals sought by the United States. The United States and Mexico also concluded in 1997 a protocol to our extradition treaty that allows for temporary extradition, thereby facilitating trials when evidence is fresh and before criminals have completed serving a sentence in their country of nationality.

Alternatives to Extradition

For those countries that continue to refuse to surrender their nationals, whether for legal or policy reasons, other creative ways of denying safe haven will be developed and utilized in as many cases as possible. In appropriate cases, the United States will urge such countries to transfer defendants to the United States temporarily to stand trial, with the understanding that if convicted they will be returned to their home countries to serve their sentences. This option resolves any concern over perceived unfair treatment in U.S. prisons by allowing the country of nationality to assume responsibility for the ultimate incarceration of the convicted defendant.

Most countries that refuse to extradite their nationals have jurisdiction to prosecute them no matter where the crime occurred. In some cases, the United States has agreed to provide evidence to the country of nationality so that its authorities can prosecute and punish its nationals domestically. However, the United States does so only as a last resort. Experience has taught that transferring witnesses and evidence from the United States to another country is time consuming, expensive, unfair to U.S. victims, and does not necessarily ensure appropriate punishment.

Extradition Without a Treaty

The Administration believes that limited expansion of U.S. government authority to extradite fugitives without a treaty is appropriate and necessary. Until recently, U.S. law required an extradition treaty in order to extradite fugitives to countries seeking their prosecution or punishment. Recognizing the need for a more effective response to international crime, however, the President called on Congress to reconsider these strict limits on extradition, and Congress supported an expansion of U.S. law to meet this need.

In 1996, Congress amended federal law to provide for extradition from the United States, even in the absence of a treaty, of foreign nationals who have committed crimes of violence against U.S. nationals outside the United States. Thus, a foreign national who murders an American traveling or living in a country without an extradition treaty with the United States may no longer be able to avoid prosecution by taking refuge in this country. Also in 1996, Congress enacted legislation authorizing extradition of fugitives from the United States to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and to the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda.

In addition, critical components of the proposed Inter-national Crime Control Act of 1998 (ICCA) will expand our ability to surrender fugitives either when a treaty fails to cover a serious crime for which surrender is sought or in the absence of an extradition treaty. Because many existing treaties contain outdated lists of offenses and because the United States has no extradition treaty with nearly 70 nations, these two ICCA provisions will open the door to the possible surrender of fugitives currently not subject to extradition and make it even less likely that the United States will serve as a safe haven for international criminals.

2. Implementing Strengthened Immigration Laws

Denying Safe Haven to Criminal Aliens

Our international obligations and the protection of our citizens demand that we rid our nation of dangerous foreign criminals. The United States relies primarily on extradition treaties to surrender fugitives from foreign justice located here in this country. The number of foreign requests for extradition submitted to the United States continues to grow. In 1990, we received 536 requests. In 1996, we received 1,069 requests. The ability to extradite fugitives to other countries serves the shared international goals of justice and due process and at the same time better ensures that such countries will reciprocally cooperate in returning fugitives from U.S. justice.

United States immigration laws will be used to rid our country of dangerous criminal aliens and fugitives from foreign justice in certain circumstances where formal extradition is not available. Thus, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) creates a new expedited removal process for aliens attempting to gain admission to the United States by fraud or misrepresentation or without valid travel documents. Additionally, the new law increases penalties for alien smuggling and document fraud and grants the INS wiretap authority to investigate alien smuggling, document fraud, citizenship fraud and passport fraud. It also expands forfeiture statutes and the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Speedy detection of document and benefits fraud is important because such fraud has been shown to have a connection to other criminal activity. For example, Mir Aimal Kasi, the Pakistani terrorist recently convicted for killing two CIA employees outside CIA headquarters in 1993, submitted false documentation to obtain a document that authorized him to work in the United States. Had this fraud been detected sooner, he might have been removed from the country and his crimes prevented. In addition, suspected Russian organized crime figures, who have benefited from fraudulent visa petitions for intracompany transfers, also have been linked to benefit fraud and other criminal activity made possible by their unlawful entry into the United States.

Special emphasis is required to keep criminal aliens off our streets. Criminal aliens include aliens convicted of U.S. crimes as well as all deportees convicted of reentering the United States without special permission of the Attorney General. Recent amendments to the immigration law that greatly expand the scope of "aggravated felonies" for which conviction renders an alien inadmissible to, or subject to removal from, the United States will be rapidly implemented.

The United States will not tolerate the presence of aliens who commit crimes in our communities. Those who think they can slip back in following removal will be subject to stiff punishment. During fiscal year 1995, the United States Attorneys along the Southwest border filed 1,322 cases against deported aliens who reentered, a 105 percent increase over 1994. Indeed, more criminal aliens were arrested and prosecuted between 1995 and early 1996 than during the entire previous nine-year period from 1985 through 1994.

Removing Incarcerated Aliens

All incarcerated criminal aliens will be removed immediately following their release absent extraordinary circumstances, such as when their testimony is needed in a related matter. In most cases, once they have completed their sentences, or even before their sentences are complete, U.S. policy is to deport them as quickly as possible. Immigration authorities recently began implementing an Enhanced Institutional Hearing Program to determine deportation status at the beginning of a criminal alien's sentence, or well before the release date, rather than at the end. This program, coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Prisons as well as state and local equivalents, enables more effective use of INS detention space and significantly reduces the threat to public safety by effecting immediate deportation upon completion of the sentence.

The Trafficking in Women Interagency Working Group of the President's Interagency Council on Women is carefully evaluating the proper approach toward alien victims and witnesses in trafficking cases who are critical to the investigations of traffickers and who may face reprisals from the traffickers upon deportation.

Denying Terrorists Entry

On April 24, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. This statute authorizes the Secretary of State to establish sanctions against certain groups considered to be foreign terrorist organizations. The Secretary used this authority on October 8, 1997 to designate 30 groups. Under the statute, the representatives and members of designated terrorist groups are inadmissible to the United States and will be denied visas to enter this country.

Preventing Entry to Avoid Prosecution

Finally, to ensure the United States is not a safe haven for international criminals, the proposed ICCA includes a provision that authorizes the Attorney General to deny entry to persons who attempt to enter the United States in order to avoid prosecution for a crime of moral turpitude. This same provision will also permit removal of fugitives directly to the foreign countries seeking their prosecution, a strong deterrent to attempted entry into the United States.

3. Promoting Increased Cooperation With Foreign Law Enforcement Authorities

Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs)

Obtaining physical custody of fugitives means little absent the evidence needed to convict them at trial. MLATs provide for assistance at all stages of U.S. criminal investigations and prosecutions, including grand jury proceedings. Moreover, the treaties enable much speedier assistance than is available through the cumbersome mechanisms traditionally used for this purpose. Available assistance under MLATs includes bank or other financial records (even from "bank secrecy" jurisdictions), witness statements and testimony, search and seizure of people and things, and, depending on the law of the requested state, immobilization and forfeiture of the proceeds of criminal activity. In state and local prosecutions, MLAT requests are coordinated by the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs.

As one example, in 1997, the United States made an MLAT request to Canada on behalf of prosecutors in Kitsap County, Washington, who were investigating a murder. Pursuant to this request, the United States sought and obtained from the Canadian authorities the murder suspect's car, copies of airline ticketing records, billing information, and other evidence used to secure a conviction.

The number of U.S. requests for evidence located outside the country continues to grow. In 1990, the United States made approximately 928 requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. In 1996, that number had increased to approximately 1,644 requests. Barely 20 years ago, the United States entered into its first MLAT. Today there are 20 MLATs in force that extend to 23 countries. These include the five MLATs (with Austria, Hungary, Korea, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom) to which the Senate gave its advice and consent during the 104th Congress. The Administration will seek to create a network of MLATs as broad as currently exists for the extradition of fugitives.

MLATs Pending Advice and Consent

The Departments of State and Justice have worked together in negotiating 14 additional MLATs that will require the Senate's advice and consent to ratification, including agreements with Australia, Hong Kong and Poland. Ten of these MLATs are now awaiting the Senate's advice and consent, and several more are expected to be transmitted to the Senate in the near future. The United States also has signed a multilateral MLAT adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS), which could create MLAT relations between the United States and the 33 other member states of the OAS. That multilateral MLAT is also awaiting Senate advice and consent to ratification.

Bilateral Maritime Drug Interdiction Agreements

International law provides that, with few exceptions, boarding and searching a foreign vessel in international waters requires prior consent of the flag state. When vessels or aircraft are used for trafficking, they often move quickly from one national jurisdiction to another. For example, a smuggling vessel or aircraft could sail or fly quickly through 14 different national jurisdictions on a trip from South America to Puerto Rico. Unless prior consent exists to stop, board, and search such vessels or aircraft, U.S. and other law enforcement authorities can easily be frustrated in their efforts to interdict traffickers crossing multiple jurisdictional lines.

Bilateral maritime drug interdiction agreements solve this problem. They provide standing authority for the U.S. and its foreign partners to: (1) board and search each others' vessels in international waters, (2) embark foreign law enforcement officials who may authorize patrols, boardings, searches, seizures, and arrests in foreign waters and on board foreign vessels, (3) pursue suspect vessels and aircraft into waters and airspace, (4) enter into each others' waters and airspace to investigate suspect vessels, (5) fly in each others' airspace in support of drug interdiction operations, and (6) relay an "order to land" from the partner nation to aircraft suspected of drug smuggling.

The United States is currently party to 19 maritime drug interdiction agreements in force with South American, Central American and Caribbean nations and overseas territories located in the Caribbean. Nineteen proposed agreements or amendments to less comprehensive, existing agreements are pending approval or are in negotiation.

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