We’ve seen it all before in the movies: there is a big heist and the crooks get away from the long arm of the law to some international safe haven. But, is there such a thing? Can you really live on the lam, like a fugitive in the movies or is this purely make-believe?
The objective truth is, if Uncle Sam wants you bad enough, you will be found. With the real-time connectedness of the Internet, GPS and mobile phone technology, the world has certainly become a much smaller place. Anyone can, from anywhere, read the news of the world - which could include wanted posters, and just maybe a story about your escapades. This whole business, from a legal standpoint, is called “extradition” and the laws vary greatly between countries. The particulars of US extradition law are covered thoroughly in the US Code: Title 18, Section 209.
Extradition to the USA
Some things to consider include the fact that since fighting the US on a particular extradition case is very expensive and thus most countries will not automatically fight an extradition order to the USA unless the defendant is a citizen. There is also this business of “dual criminality” which means that if you are accused of a crime in the USA and the same offence is a crime in your new country in which you are a citizen, you could fight the whole extradition by allowing yourself to be tried for the crime in the same country you are being extradited from. Also, if you being under an extradition order (and you are a citizen of the country you are being extradited from back to the USA), you most likely will not have grounds to fight if the crime in the USA is said to have taken place before taking up citizenship in the nation you are being extradited from.
Grounds to Fight Extradition Back to the USA
- The extraditee can claim that the USA has no more authority over them as they are no longer a citizen or a resident.
- One could also claim that they are likely to not get a fair trial due to relevant aspects of the US legal system with regards to the particular offense.
- One could argue that they face human rights discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
- With many States in the US still having capital punishment on the books, one could argue that they might face cruel and unusual punishment.
- One could argue hardship on financial grounds, that they might not be able to afford a legal defense in USA.
- Another angle is that the extraditee may have medical issues that might be worsened by extradition.
Like most if not all legal matters, it is all very subjective. The more one can “muddy the waters” by raising as many arguments as fit, the better off one is. It also concerns international relations and politics with the nature of the relationship between the two nations (ie, the so-called “mutual legal assistance treaty” which may or may not exist between the nations), the nature of what you face trial for and the assertions against your extradition. If the crime in question is not equally punishable in both jurisdictions, you may well be in luck.
Where to be an International Fugitive
Countries without any extradition treaties with USA. In these countries, there is no legal means to extradite you: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Maldives, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome e Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, USSR, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Yemen South, Zaire, Zimbabwe.
Countries that have no extradition treaties with USA but have some degree of diplomatic relations. In the following list of countries, although there is no formal extradition treaty, it all depends on foreign affairs and how well they get along. It’s pretty much a coin toss with these countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bophuthatswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Ciskei, The Comors, Cote d’ Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Jordan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Maldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Philippines, Principe and San Tome, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Samoa.
Countries with both no extradition treaties *and* no diplomatic relations whatsoever with the USA. If you are in one of these nations, you will have the lowest risk of being extradited: Andorra, Angola, Bantu Homelands, Bhutan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Ciskei, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Maldives, Serbia, Somalia, Taiwan, Transkei, Vanuatu, Vietnam.
Lack of Extradition Treaty May Still Not Guarantee Safety From Extradition
Again, this all depends on what you are accused of having done. If its something like fraud, theft or some other non-violent crime, you really stand a good chance at not being extradited, whereas if you are accused of having done something really bad, the local authorities may not want you around. If the nation has a terrible relation with the USA, it wouldn’t be surprising if no-one was willing to co-operate with the FBI or Interpol. With the current authoritarian trend with the US Government’s behavior, they could well try to stretch it and brand you a threat to national security, which sure seems to be the catch-all tool to undermine civil liberties these days. Again, the big key is getting citizenship in at least one other nation and also several passports so that you have more than one back door.