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PhD defence: The political offence exception clause to extradition in Europe

  • November 14, 2022

FRC member, Sibel Top, will publicly discuss her PhD thesis on Monday 21 November 2022 at 10 AM in the VUB Promotion Room D2.01.


Title: The political offence exception clause to extradition in Europe: An analysis of its evolution and application with a special focus on the Catalan independence crisis


Abstract: This research examines the evolution and current application of the political offence exception clause to extradition in the European context. The political offence exception is a clause traditionally found in extradition treaties that aims to protect people who fought for democratic and liberal values from extradition to a country where they may not get a fair trial. However, in the European institutional context (Council of Europe and European Union), the protection granted to political offenders has been progressively diminished because of the similarity of political regimes of European countries. It was indeed considered that, in a framework where mutual trust prevailed among partner countries sharing similar values, there was no need to uphold this type of protection. In an unexpected turn of events, however, the Catalan independence crisis, the subsequent self- imposed exile of some of the Catalan leaders to other EU and Council of Europe countries, and the systematic refusal of European partners to surrender Catalan leaders to Spain turned all previous certitudes on the obsolescence of the clause around. The discomfort of European partners to surrender Catalan exiles to Spain came, first, from the fact that the Catalan project - albeit illegal- had democratic ambitions; and, second, from the severe reaction of Spanish authorities to the process that did not appease emerging questions about their ability to provide a fair trial to Catalan leaders. Using Bourdieu’s theory on state creation as its prism of analysis, this work scrutinises the shrinking protection of political offenders in the Council of Europe and European Union contexts to understand the dynamics at play behind this evolution. Looking at the specific case of the Catalan independence crisis, this research argues that a form of ‘ghost political offence exception’ has been applied by European countries to the case of Catalan leaders.


Supervisors: Prof. dr. Paul De Hert (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Prof. dr. Florian Trauner (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)


Jury members: Prof. dr. Ilke Adams (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Dr. Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet (Conflict Management Consulting), Prof. dr. Kristin Henrard (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Dr. Julia Jansson (Helsinki Police Department), Prof. dr. Valsamis Mitsilegas (University of Liverpool), Prof. dr. Angela Tacea (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).


For more information about the reception and the chance to join online, click here