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Report No. 156

Problems of Extradition of the Hijackers

10.23. Yet another shortcoming in the existing law is in respect of extradition of the hijackers. Extradition of alleged offenders is obligatory only when there is a treaty to that effect. Moreover, the hijacking is not included as an extradition offence in some extradition treaties. Also extradition treaties often provide that State is under no obligation to extradite its own nationals, or persons who have committed crimes of political nature.

Further, the reluctance of States to extradite hijackers who have acted for political motives is understandable, hijacking an aircraft is often the only way in which an individual can escape from a country where he is liable to political, social or religious persecution and it would be undesirable to require other States to send him back to a country where he faces such persecution. But unless such an individual is punished, there is danger that other people with less excusable motives will be tempted to imitate him. It is, therefore a matter of regret that the Hague and Montreal Conventions stopped short of requiring States prosecute hijackers, who are not extradited.

As regards action against States which refuse to extradite or prosecute, it may be suggested that an amendment to the Chicago Convention which empowered the Council of I.C.A.O. to order the suspension of all services to or from member States or I.C.A.O. which refused to extradite or prosecute hijackers would override air service treaties previously concluded between member States.

If member States were forced to choose between accepting such an amendment and ceasing to be members of I.C.A.O. they would probably accept the amendment, because they would not like to lose the advantage of membership of I.C.A.O. It was unfortunate that such an amendment when presented to the I.C.A.O. Assembly in 1973 could not be adopted as it failed to secure the requisite 67 votes. It could secure only 65 votes, i.e. only two votes less than the requisite number.

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