The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, tells VOA that member states will refuse to extradite terrorism suspects to the United States, if it means they face the death penalty.
Mr. Russell-Johnston says that while the Council of Europe supports the global war against terrorism, its 43 member states are against capital punishment. "The fact is that no member states of the Council of Europe, none of the 43 countries, operates the death penalty," he said. "Three have not abolished it formally, but they operate a moratorium. And the Court of Human Rights has some time ago in a decision, indicated to the United Kingdom that it should not extradite somebody to the United States who is accused of an offense for which he might have been executed." Consequently, he concludes, "there is the legal background to the political situation and this may cause some difficulty."
Mr. Russell-Johnston adds that the Council of Europe will only allow the extradition of suspected terrorists if the U.S. indicates that it will not execute them following a fair trial. The official also notes what he calls a tendency within security organizations to misuse the legitimate fight against terrorism to violate rights of individuals. Minorities, including Afghan refugees here in Hungary and Arab Americans, have complained about ill treatment by authorities and civilians.
Mr. Russell-Johnston is attending a week-long series of events in Budapest to commemorate 10 years since the founding of the Central European University in Budapest. It was established by former dissidents and financed by the American billionaire George Soros, as a way to educate a new generation of leaders in former Communist nations.
Mr. Soros, who pledged a further $250 million for the university Saturday, has also sponsored an independent research project on the expansion of the European Union.
The Open Society Institute criticizes the EU for not putting more pressure on 10 candidate countries to improve the rights of millions of their citizens. It specifically cites the case of Roma gypsies who have been excluded from mainstream education and employment opportunities.
Mr. Soros says there is a danger that the worldwide struggle against terrorism will further undermine the rights of minorities in former Communist countries. "Obviously we have to accept certain limitations on individual freedom which is necessary when we are facing a very genuine threat," he explained, "but the protection of human rights is all the more important, because if you give the authorities powers that they of course need, they can also abuse them."
Mr. Soros says he will continue to sponsor the fight for freedom as long as he can afford it. The philanthropist predicts a global economic recovery in the new year, after what he calls "a rather steep decline" in the fourth quarter of 2001.