Where Should Edward Snowden Flee to Avoid Extradition?

Answers to your questions about the news.
June 10 2013 4:49 PM

Where Should I Flee to Avoid Extradition?

Hong Kong? Iceland? Ecuador? Paris is lovely this time of year.

Some of Hong Kong's most luxurious residential buildings lies at Mid-Levels on the island side July 5, 2005.
Is Hong Kong the best place forEdward Snowden to avoid extradition?

Photo by Bobby Yip/Reuters

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old technology contractor expert behind last week’s series of leaks about National Security Agency surveillance, has reportedly holed up in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong to avoid extradition, citing the territory’s “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” But Snowden’s decision has been met with some amusement, since Hong Kong has a history of cooperating with the United States on legal matters and is seen as likely to extradite Snowden if the U.S. government requests it. Are there safe places in the world to flee if you want to avoid extradition?

Yes. Consider France. Although France does have an extradition treaty with the United States, it also has a history of reluctance to send people into the U.S. criminal justice system. France has refused to extradite filmmaker Roman Polanski, a French citizen, back to the United States, where he faces charges for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl. More recently, a French court decided not to extradite Michael and Linda Mastro, who were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, unless American authorities would promise not to imprison them. If France can be a sanctuary for them, perhaps there would be some hope for a whistle-blower (and, according to some, a human rights hero) such as Snowden.

Although it may be tempting to flee to a place that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, many of those countries would be pretty unappealing to a whistle-blower with a taste for human rights: Somalia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Syria, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, the small European nation of Andorra has great skiing, one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and no extradition treaty. But Andorra, Ukraine, and other seemingly livable places without extradition agreements aren’t a sure bet, either. Even without a formal treaty in place, a country can still choose to repatriate a fugitive trying to hide out within its borders.

Advertisement

Iceland, Venezuela, and Ecuador have been discussed as other options for Snowden should Hong Kong prove inhospitable. Those countries have shown popular support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently living as a fugitive in Ecuador’s London embassy, where he has been granted diplomatic asylum. They may be similarly welcoming to fellow leaker Snowden. In fact, according to the Guardian, Icelandic information activists have already made inquiries about the possibility of Snowden being given sanctuary in Iceland.

But if Snowden wants to try his luck in Iceland, France, or anywhere else, he’d have to get there first. Interpol will sometimes issue a “red notice” (the closest thing to an international arrest warrant) but keep it sealed so that the wanted person doesn’t know it’s out there. If so, if Snowden tried to travel, he’d be arrested at the airport. So, for now, perhaps Hong Kong is no less secure a refuge for Snowden than any other place.

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Edwin Smith, a professor of Law, International Relations, and Political Science at the University of Southern California School of Law and attorney Douglas McNabb, an expert in international extradition law based in D.C. and Houston.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?