Wednesday, 14 March 2012


In light of the Kim Dotcom drama playing out I have been thinking about how our Government and to be fair most other government's in the West have been prepared to surrender their citizens' into the hands of the US justice system for alleged breaches of copyright.

What we are talking about here is the extradition of people from within the borders of sovereign countries to the US because they are accused of diverting money away from US corporate  interests. In other words we are talking about people who are accused of diverting revenue away from private business interests.

While the US will flex its muscles to compel other countries to surrender others when money is at stake it is entirely another matter when other countries seek to extradite a US citizen to face trial in other countries for their wrongs.  The US has a consistent record of inconsistency in this regard. The clearest example the US's one rule for us and another for everyone else can be seen from the fact that not one US citizen has ever been held to account for the deaths of thousands of Indian nationals in the Bhopal Gas Disaster.

In December 1984, a plume of toxic gas from an American-owned Union Carbide pesticide plant wafted over the city of Bhopal, India. The initial leak killed 2,000 people with thousands dying later from the after effects of the toxic gas, an ingredient in pesticides the plant produced.

Officially some 578,000 people were affected. Yet there were no criminal convictions stemming from the leak until June 7, 2010, when eight former executives of the company's Indian subsidiary were convicted of negligence. The men were sentenced two years in prison and fined 100,000 rupees, or $2,100.

Victims groups and activists, who had sought more serious charges, immediately criticized the verdict. The defendants, one of whom is dead, were all senior officials of the company at the time of the leak, India's deadliest industrial disaster.

Indian government officials in June 2010 announced a raft of measures, including increased compensation for victims and a fresh effort to extradite Warren M. Anderson, the octogenarian former chairman of Union Carbide.

The convictions were announced after a bitter quarter-century-long court battle. Initially the defendants were charged with culpable homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, but India's Supreme Court reduced the charges.

The company has always claimed that the leak was a result of sabotage, but evidence has pointed to poor safety procedures and maintenance. Advocacy groups have lobbied for years for tougher action against Union Carbide and its chief executive at the time, Warren Anderson. Importantly not one US national has been extradited to be held to account for what happened in Bhopal.

So, you could be extradited to the US if you stand accused of diverting money from corporates based there, but if human life has been lost as a result of the actions of US corporate interests in another country, the US will fight tooth and nail to make sure  that the heads of those corporates are never held to account in the country where the wrong occured. 

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