An international court will hear arguments for an appeal to suspend the extradition of the suspects being held for the murder of a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent in Colombia last year.
The suit, accepted for review by the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), would see the defendants stand trial in Colombia, rather in the US, as had been requested.
The case in question pertains to the murder of DEA agent, James “Terry” Watson, who was killed on June 20, 2013 during a botched attempted robbery in northern Bogota. Watson’s diplomatic status as an “internationally protected” agent meant that the US government could ask for the extradition of the criminal group, despite the fact that the crime was committed in Colombia by Colombian citizens.
President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian Supreme Court had already signed off on the extradition of the seven suspects involved, who were expected to stand trial and face penalties in the United States.
Caracol Radio reported Monday, however, that the IACHR has elected to intervene, at least until it has had time to study the matter.
Miguel Ramirez, the lawyer for the defendants, filed an appeal on his clients’ behalf, despite the express wishes of one of the suspects that his case be tried in the United States, where he reportedly felt more confident he would receive a fair trial.
The suit claims that the United States has no jurisdiction in the murder, as the crime was committed by Colombian citizens on Colombian territory.
The seven alleged killers have reportedly expressed their remorse for the crime and are willing to face 45-year maximum sentences within the Colombian judicial system. The United States does not have maximum sentencing laws and the defendants’ sentences could be longer than 45 years if they are extradited to the United States.
The seven defendants have also confessed to having taken at least 50 additional victims on “millionaire rides,” a common form of robbery in Colombia in which a victim is taken to a series of ATMs and forced to withdraw money, often under the influence of drugs.
The taxi drivers will remain in Picota in the south of Bogota while awaiting the IACHR’s decision.
Extradition has been a controversial subject in Colombia. Originally implemented as part of the countries’ joint drug war offensives as a means of bypassing corruption in the Colombian courts, extradition policy now faces criticisms that it delegitimizes Colombian justice and prevents convicts from testifying against politicians and members of the military also involved in organized crime.
Generally, extradition is employed against criminals convicted of international drug trafficking.