Extradition May Undermine Fight Against Organized Crime in Colombia
Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP) has completed a year-long study on how the extradition of more than 900 suspects to the United States has affected Colombia's justice system and their victims' hopes for justice and reparations.
In a series of policy briefs, published in both English and Spanish, the Bogotá-based think tank and OSI grantee found that the policy had gone far beyond targeting drug kingpins to ensnare smalltime traffickers, leftist guerrillas, and right-wing militia members.
By expanding the scope of extradition, U.S. officials have undermined efforts of Colombian judges and prosecutors to pursue their own investigations into corruption and human rights abuse, the study found. Many of the militia members extradited to the United States had been collaborating with Colombian justice officials after turning themselves in during a peace process.
On March 17, 2010, the Colombian Supreme Court rejected the United States' request for the extradition of a major paramilitary leader and alleged drug trafficker, citing his obligation to collaborate with the justice process in Colombia. It was the third time since August 2009 that the court had blocked an extradition request on the grounds that it would violate the rights of victims seeking justice and reparations.
The study also found that extraditions of leftist rebels may be hindering efforts to exchange hostages with the guerrillas, long a means to jumpstart peace talks in Colombia. In another policy brief, FIP noted that officials in both the United States and Colombia seemed to be pursuing the extradition of low-level traffickers to show progress on the war on drugs as they battle for public resources.