Extradition is a formal, cooperative law enforcement process between two countries where one government can turn over a person accused or convicted of a crime to the country where they were charged and convicted. Between countries, extraditions are typically regulated by treaties, which the United States has with over one hundred countries around the world.
An example of extradition is if someone commits a crime in the United States and then leaves the country to evade punishment. Law enforcement in the country where the criminal flees can detain and deliver the accused back to the United States to stand trial.
By allowing countries to pursue fugitives and other wanted criminals abroad, extradition has become increasingly important in combating transnational criminal organizations. Extradition allows countries to detain those involved in terrorism, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and cybercrime.
In some nations, however, there are no extradition treaties in place with the United States. This means that a person convicted of a crime in one country does not have to be returned to that country to face trial or punishment. Even in nations with treaties in place, geopolitical issues can lead to disputes over extradition. Countries that have extradition treaties with the United States but are known for refuse extradition requests are Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Iceland, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. On the other hand, some countries without an extradition treaty, such as Yemen in the Middle East, are known for returning fugitives.
One of the most well-known stories surrounding the issue of extradition is the story of Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and an American whistleblower who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013. When Snowden fled to Russia, he was held at the Moscow airport while U.S. authorities asked Russia to extradite him. Russia, however, had proposed a treaty with the United States asking for the mutual extradition of criminals, which the U.S. never agreed to. Because the United States has never extradited any Russian criminal who had taken asylum in the United States, Snowden’s extradition was not likely.