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18 October 2022

Ukraine has ratified an extradition treaty with the US. The two countries can now cooperate more effectively in fighting organized (and other) crime, by delivering up those suspected of wrongdoing.

Ukraine’s parliament on 18 October 2022 ratified the 1933 Inter-American extradition convention, providing for extradition between member states of persons accused of crimes. The treaty includes the US and a number of Latin American countries, with Ukraine being the only member state outside of the Western hemisphere. 

Under the treaty, a member state is free to decide, based on its law and relevant circumstances, whether to extradite its citizens. But in case of refusal, it must itself try the accused and inform the requesting state accordingly.

The ratification is a welcome step as US enforcement efforts have long been hampered by the lack of an extradition mechanism with Ukraine, making it difficult to do a good job of prosecuting Ukrainian nationals and other residents. Now law-breakers will no longer be able to hide in Ukraine, and vice versa.

In ratifying the treaty Ukraine has made a number of reservations, including that it will not extradite its citizens and that it may refuse an extradition request where that would be contrary to its national interests. But these should not be unduly burdensome. If necessary, Ukraine can always strip its nationals of their Ukrainian citizenship (if sufficient grounds exist).

The development augurs a breakthrough. Up until now Ukraine has had only a few mutual assistance treaties contemplating extradition, and those mostly with former socialist countries. This one is a promising first step on the road to bringing Ukraine into a wider legal community. 

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