Thursday, August 13, 2009

Victor Bout Won't Be Extradited

There are several reports out about how suspected Russian arms dealer Victor Bout won his case in Thai court against extradition to the US. Even the Washington Post has an editorial about it. You'll recall that Bout was arrested last year on charges he worked to supply Colombian rebels with weapons. The DEA apparently posed as FARC officials trying to buy all sorts of goodies and then arrested him.

Now, Bout's role in ferrying weapons to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Afghanistan, and other places is well known. He's long had a fleet of airplanes and for a price, he's delivered said weapons everywhere anyone can think of. Reporters Doug Farah and Stephen Braun wrote a book about him. Nicolas Cage's character in Lord of War is supposedly based on him. If the book isn't enough (it's really an easy read, almost like a beach novel). The book even has a nice section on how the US hired Bout's company to help ferry supplies to Iraq during the initial phase of the war. If you want to read more about him, I'd also suggest reports of the UN Panels of Experts on Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and DRC--yes they're drier and you'll have to dig a bit more for the "fun" Victor Bout parts but the stories are well worth it.

Bout is also on the Liberia sanctions travel ban and assets freeze list, the list the Security Council maintains for people it views as having contributed to war in Liberia. Still, he continues to deny being an arms dealer and he's now won a motion to not be extradited to the US to be tried here.

Now I don't know if he's going to be tried in Thailand or not. The Russian authorities have expressed their pleasure at the Thai court's decision (of course the US has done the opposite). I also think that we need to focus on more than just one link in the illicit arms trade but let's hope this guy doesn't get off on just a technicality (namely that the US charges don't apply under Thai law) because that would set a really bad precedent. So I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens on appeal. Either that, or we'll have to make sure not to trick bad guys like this in Thailand anymore...that and we'll need to support judicial reform there too.


  1. Should we be applying US law overseas? In light of the fact other laws will then be used against us?

    The illicit arms trade? As opposed to the llict one?

    Come now Sir.

  2. Several things Anon. I'll start from the bottom. First, of all, it's Ma'am.

    Second, yes, there is a licit arms trade and an illicit arms trade. For example, it's perfectly legal for the US to sell say aircraft, tanks, and an assortment of rifles, to a veritable legion of other countries. My co-conspirators could I'm sure point you in the direction of the relevant law, regulations, and procedures. And don't even get me started on how easy it is to legally buy a gun here in the US.

    In terms of the international weapons trade, there are rules and conventions in this area as well (the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs provides relevant information here: There are rules and regulations from transporting dangerous items across borders whether you're talking weapons, nuclear material, washing machines, or candy bars. It's called international trade law.

    But to get back to weapons. In the case of Bout, UN member states could legitimately decide to prosecute him for violating UN sanctions. Indeed, UN sanctions in order to be legally effective, require member states to implement legislation making it illegal to do whatever the resolution prohibits within any member states' borders. Now of course he could be tried, acquitted, and released just like any other suspect but that's a different matter.

    Finally, I really don't understand your point about other laws being used against us. It's sounds awfully conspiratorial to me so some data on that would be nice. There are things that are illegal everywhere. No matter where you do them, you fall under the writ of some law so if that's what you're worried about, you'd better not leave the house because then indeed, other laws will be used against you.

  3. Argh...for transporting obviously