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11 August 2011

Will Dewani really get extradited?

CyberShrink comments on the chances of Shrien Dewani really being extradited to SA, and what still needs to be done to get him here.

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CyberShrink comments on the chances of Shrien Dewani really being extradited to SA, and what still needs to be done to get him here.

So the British Courts have made a sensible and wise decision, largely ignoring all the carefully designed performances and grand-standing, and Shrien Dewani is supposed to be deported to South Africa to stand trial.

Of course he may be innocent, but only a proper trial with careful examination of real evidence, will convince most people of his guilt or innocence.

But despite this judge's decision, his lawyers are very likely to appeal, and to drag out the process for as long as they possibly can. There are several other levels of the British legal system within which they can indeed appeal. Especially as there have been reports that the key witness against him has a brain tumour and may be unable to testify, his lawyers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by delaying this case in every way possible.

Judge Howard Riddle seems to have been careful to explain his decisions and not to provide grounds for a successful appeal against his decision. The curious gullibility and lack of critical thinking shown in some of the reports placed before him seem to have escaped the sort of comment they may have received from other judges in different circumstances, though there seems a tinge of sarcasm in his comment: that “only by going to stand trial can [Shrien] Dewani be acquitted and clear his name. That may improve his mental illness”.

Sexual abuse in SA prisons
He was generous in accepting some of the arguments of Dewani's team. He accepted the convenient, but not really proved argument that Dewani would be especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, but was content that he would be held in a prison with good facilities and in a single cell, and accepted the assurance of the SA authorities that he would be protected.

Nasty things definitely do happen in SA prisons, and indeed in all prison systems internationally. This is not usually considered grounds for refusing extradition, and there is no reason to assume Dewani would be specially vulnerable. In the judgement, which took over two hours to read to the court, he described Dewani as "good-looking, youthful and physically well-preserved", and accepted that he would be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse (apparently assuming that most awaiting trial prisoners in SA are ugly, old and physically grotesque?), and added that "there has been some suggestion that he may be gay."

It's disappointing, perhaps, that the judge expressed "no doubt" that Dewani suffers from severe PTSD and depression, and is at high risk of suicide or self-harm. This after considering the oddly selective evidence of his doctor, and ignoring reports of the bizarre exercise regime of the supposedly "retarded" patient. There was also the notable failure to provide normal treatment for the conditions diagnosed.

However the judge was clear that he was satisfied that the man would receive appropriate psychiatric care from the SA authorities. If Dewani ever reaches South Africa, is should be a major priority to have him carefully examined by South African psychiatrists appointed by the Prosecution and the Court, and not merely by those selected by his parents and his own lawyers. He may well be suffering from these conditions, but the evidence for this is so far eccentric and far from clear.

What now?
What may happen now? The judge has decided he can be extradited. This decision and the details of the case will now be sent to the Secretary of State to make the final decision. This would be the notoriously indecisive British Home Secretary, Theresa May, known as "Theresa May, Or, On the Other Hand, She May Not". And she is currently distracted by the British riots and criticisms of ineffective handling of them by British police. Let us hope she will not dither, and that she will be reminded of the extreme urgency because a key witness is severely ill with a brain tumour.

The Dewani defence team will have a month to make representations to her, and she would have to decide within two months of receiving the case, and would actually have no excuse to need so much time. It'll be interesting to see if the defence chooses to dawdle strategically, to prolong matters, and perhaps to forward their arguments to her only at the last permissible moment.

If she decides he should be extradited, this should happen within a further month of this decision. Except that his lawyers would have two weeks within which they could lodge an appeal in the UK High Court. If that decision also went against them, after a hearing that could be made lengthy, they would also have the further right to appeal to the British Supreme Court.

t should be routine practise between civil and well-organised countries, to extradite people accused, on cogent evidence, of serious crimes. Some countries, including the UK, choose to require a restriction, imposing their own government's choice to give up the death penalty on other countries, and refuse to extradite someone to a country which still has the death penalty and might choose to impose it in the case under consideration. Otherwise the proceedings ought to be routine and unexciting.

As Dewani has been given unusually preferential guarantees of special and good treatment, and as he asserted (when he still spoke) that he was eager to prove his innocence, perhaps he will accept extradition now, accept whatever treatment he might need, and return to Cape Town and prove his lack of guilt.

His team's heavy emphasis on prison conditions seemed almost to assume he would be found guilty, and to be arguing, not against risks in the pre-trial and trial phase, but against him serving a sentence in SA. This would imply that the conditions of a prison sentence in South Africa would themselves be unacceptable, and would be tantamount to a death penalty. It was appropriate for the SA authorities to promise good treatment of a pre-trial prisoner presumed not to be guilty. But if he is found guilty, it would be unfair to expect the prison authorities to provide someone guilty of such an ugly crime, with preferential treatment to all other prisoners in the country.

Odd details of the murder
If Dewani's defence eventually get into court in the trial itself, they will need to provide an alternative explanation for the evidence.

If he is entirely innocent, it's hard to believe that carjackers would have picked on the vehicle he was in (not an especially desirable one, and not likely to contain rich people). Having done so, it is unthinkable that they would let the driver and the husband go free and unharmed, and then kill the wife (without raping her) - the murder was bound to be discovered, and then Shrien and the driver would have been able to identify the perpetrators.

If they wanted the vehicle, why did they abandon it so soon?  And why would they have taken the woman along with them, without any attempt to either extort ransom for her safe return, or to use her as a hostage to protect their own safety?  It's hard, too, to construct an argument that Shrien was framed  - who by? The SA authorities could only lose by such an event; the hijackers gained nothing; who else could profit by causing the death of the woman and framing the husband?

(Professor M.A. Simpson, aka CyberShrink, August 2011)

 

 

 

 

 
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