Colombia extradites 14 paramilitary commanders to US

May 14th, 2008 - 5:36 am ICT by admin  

Bogota, May 14 (DPA) Colombia extradited 14 commanders of a right-wing paramilitary group to the US Tuesday to face drug trafficking charges. The extraditions took place after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe removed them from an agreement that limited the penalties they could face, including extradition, for their leadership role in the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).

“They were not suitably cooperating with the authorities, and all were failing to provide reparations to the victims,” Uribe said.

The 14 men face charges that include conspiring to import cocaine, manufacturing and distributing cocaine, supporting a terrorist organization and money laundering, the US Justice Department said.

The United States agreed under the extradition terms that none of the defendants would receive life sentences if convicted.

Colombian authorities said the paramilitaries violated some of the provisions of the legislation, called the Law for Justice and Peace, that gave them favourable treatment, and many were suspected of smuggling drugs.

“The government must keep the prerogative to say who is a candidate to be covered by the Law for Justice and Peace, and to revoke candidacies,” Uribe said.

Relatives of some of the thousands of civilian victims of the paramilitaries tried to prevent their extradition, fearing it would prevent them from receiving compensation. Uribe said victims’ families will still get reparations from assets seized by the government.

Uribe said Washington has agreed to allow families to observe the US trials while asking Colombians to help identify any assets belonging to the paramilitaries.

“We ask frontmen to approach the public prosecutor’s office to hand over goods registered in their name and which were in fact illegally acquired by criminals,” Uribe added.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US would cooperate with Colombia to ensure that information revealed through the judicial process is shared with Colombia and the families.

“There are mechanisms in our bilateral arrangements which will allow for information to flow back to Colombia in response to questions posed,” McCormack said.

According to human rights organizations, the paramilitaries are responsible for the deaths of at least 9,000 people, including civilians, leftist leaders, trade unionists and peasants.

The former paramilitaries expelled from the agreement face extradition or up to 40 years in a Colombian jail.

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