Why didn't France extradite Polanski years ago?

Do we not have an extradition treaty with France? That seems unlikely.

For 1 thing they have to be asked to extradite him. It sounds like nobody bothered to ask until recently.

Does not France have a policy in which they will not extradite French citizens? I think I remeber reading that somewhere about another case. Or maybe it is that they will not extradite French citizens to nations with capital punishment.

They, like many countries, won’t extradite where the possibility of capital punishment exists. However Polanksi’s crimes wouldn’t get him capital punishment in the US, so it wouldn’t apply. In non-capital cases, they extradite to the US perfectly happily.

The extradition agreement generally requires a guarantee that the extraditionee will not be subject to capital punishment.

It is, of course, a lot harder for the US to extradite a French citizen from France than it is to extradite a US citizen hiding in France. And vice versa.


But see, http://untreaty.un.org/unts/1_60000/22/37/00043806.pdf (Supplemental treaty makes clear that executive has the power to surrender a national to the requesting government, as long as local law permits it).

but then see,


It’s nothing to do with capital punishment. French law prohibits the extradition of French citizens to other countries, irrespective of whether they have a death penalty. No such obligation is imposed by the extradition treaty between France and the US. American citizens on the run from the States may be extradited back there, and it’s in those cases where the death penalty comes into play. France would not return a US citizen who faced such a penalty.

So a French citizen can commit any crime in another country and return home without worrying about facing trial? Or maybe not based on the post I reread above.

France allows for French citizens to be tried under French law in French courts for crimes commited abroad. I’m not sure why they never did that to Polanski.

An article in the New York Times suggested that in France, artists and intellectuals are considered special somehow:

“‘Being an artist or intellectual is considered a privilege in France,’ is how Christian Viviani, a French professor of film, put it the other day. Translation: prominent French artists and intellectuals, or many of them anyway, believe that their work, by virtue of its excellence, allows them moral leeway.”

Ireland says artists don’t have to pay taxes so they get that kind of special treatment.

I’d say that most countries have laws that state that they don’t extradite their citizens to other countries whatever crimes they have committed. Sweden has some problems with Turkey right now as the leader of a criminal outfit has fled there and he has a Turkish passport.

On the other hand Sweden has just started a new approach regarding getting citizens home from abroad to stand trial: we just withdraw their passports and as illegal aliens they are likely to be expelled.

Not always, though. A recent example of this was Gregory Despres, a dual U.S./Canadian citizen who murdered an elderly couple in New Brunswick and then drove across the border into the United States. He was arrested two days after entering the U.S., at which point the RCMP (the national Canadian police) learned that he had been picked up and sought his extradition. He was shipped back to Canada six months later, and was later found “guilty but not criminally responsible” due to his mental state.

It seems fairly straightforward to extradite British citizens from here to the US, there have been a couple of high-profile cases recently:


While it’s never been precisely stated here, the California prosecutor (well, presumably LA’s) could have requested that Polanski stand trial in France. However, that was never asked. There are two considerable reasons why this would have been done: first, we don’t really want France to take over the prosecution when they don’t have the evidence or the local jurisdiction over the crime. Second, there were real questiolns about the kind of justcie France would consider “fair”, given that they do indeed have a certain cult of the artist. There were and are serious doubts about whether they would hoenstly prosecute Polanski or just have a sham prosecution.

But Polanski had already been convicted in California. France wouldn’t need to try him for rape, but for skipping out on his sentence. I’m reasonably certain that fleeing a sentence is a crime over there, too.

You have cites for this information, no? Or have we rechristened this forum “General Speculations”?

I really don’t care what the obnoxious and snide call it. I explicitly labelled two clear reasons why it was not done, as well as the circumstances surrounding the event, so you can pretty much engage in complex anatomical enjoyments of the self.

Well said! Do you mind if I use that line myself, probably on another board?

Ditto, and golf clap.