Shrien Dewani is suspected of ordering the killing of his new wife Anni, 28, who was shot as the couple travelled in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010. To date three men have been convicted of Anni’s death. Last year, South African Xolile Mngeni was convicted of premeditated murder for shooting her, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Prosecutors claimed he was a hit man Dewani hired to kill his wife, something Dewani has consistently denied. Taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years after he admitted his part in the killing. Another accomplice, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, also pleaded guilty to murder and was handed a 25-year prison sentence. Howard Riddle, the Chief Magistrate for Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London, ruled in 2011 that Dewani should be extradited, but this was successfully appealed against and the magistrate was ordered to look again at the case.
On Wednesday, the 24th of July 2013, the Westminster Magistrate’s Court decided to extradite Shrien Dewani to South Africa, to face trial for the murder of his wife Anni. However, Dewani’s lawyers plan to appeal this decision while Shrien stays in the UK. Dewani has reportedly been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression since his wife’s death. His lawyers are firm that he will return to South Africa once his health will permit a full trial and when appropriate protections are in place for his health and safety.
What is extradition all about?
Extradition is the surrender of an alleged offender or fugitive to the state/country in whose territory the alleged offence was committed. So why is it taking so long for Shrien Dewani to set foot in South Africa?
The Southern African Development Community Protocol on Extradition states that extraditable offences are offences that are punishable under the laws of both state parties by imprisonment or other deprivation of liberty for a period of at least one year, or by a more severe penalty. Where the request for extradition relates to a person wanted for the enforcement of a sentence of imprisonment or other deprivation of liberty imposed for such an offence, extradition may be refused if a period of less than six months of such sentence remains to be served.
An offence is extraditable whether or not the conduct on which the requesting state bases its request, occurred in the territory over which it has jurisdiction. However, where the law of the requested state does not provide for jurisdiction over an offence in similar circumstances, the requested state may, in its discretion, refuse extradition on this basis.
The extradition process
Upon being informed that extradition has been granted, the state parties shall, without undue delay, arrange for the surrender of the person sought and the requested state shall inform the requesting state of the length of time for which the person sought was detained with a view to surrender.
The person shall be removed from the territory of the requested state within such reasonable period as the requested state specifies and, if the person is not removed within that period, the requested state may release the person and may refuse to extradite that person for the same offence. If circumstances beyond its control prevent either state party from surrendering or removing the person to be extradited, it shall notify the other state party. The two state parties shall mutually decide upon a new date of surrender.
The requested state may, after making a decision on the request for extradition, postpone the surrender of a person sought, in order to proceed against that person, or, if that person has already been convicted, in order to enforce a sentence imposed for an offence other than that for which extradition is sought. In such a case, the requested state shall advise the requesting state accordingly.
The requested state may, instead of postponing surrender, temporarily surrender the person sought to the requesting state in accordance with conditions to be determined between the state parties.
One can draw the conclusion that extradition is a good and necessary remedy. If you commit an offence in a specific country, you should be liable for that offence and pay the penalty according to the rules of the country where the offence was committed. One cannot merely run away from one’s sins. Shrien Dewani should accept that because he committed the crime in South Africa, which is where his trial should continue.
Although Shrien’s lawyers argue that his depression and mental health could deteriorate in South Africa, our country has fully qualified doctors that can treat any illness that he might have. The extradition should continue without any appeals in order for his murdered wife’s family to be able to have peace and know that justice has been served in our country.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.