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COLOMBIA COURT STRIKES DOWN ORDER FOR EXTRADITIONS TO U.S.
BUT THE PRACTICE MAY CONTINUE DESPITE JUSTICES’ RULING

SHARE COLOMBIA COURT STRIKES DOWN ORDER FOR EXTRADITIONS TO U.S.
BUT THE PRACTICE MAY CONTINUE DESPITE JUSTICES’ RULING

The Supreme Court struck down a presidential order for the extradition of drug-trafficking suspects to the United States, court officials said Tuesday.

A Justice Ministry spokeswoman, asked if extraditions would continue despite the ruling late Monday, said, "I think so."The court indicated extradition by direct order of the president was illegal while the country still had an extradition treaty with the United States. That treaty, signed in 1979, was suspended by the same court as unconstitutional in 1987.

On Aug. 18, after a wave of assassinations, President Virgilio Barco established "administrative" extraditions that allowed the Justice Ministry to send kingpins to the United States without consulting the Supreme Court.

Four suspects have been extradited since Barco issued the order.

Three weeks ago the court ruled this method constitutional but reversed the decision Monday, citing international law.

"The government can in no way change its international commitments because of a domestic legal situation, such as a state-of-siege," said Supreme Court Judge Jaime Sanin.

The court in its ruling Monday appeared to indicate an administrative extradition order could only apply to countries with which Colombia has no extradition treaty, the idea being that the Colombia-U.S. treaty was suspended but not eliminated.

The government thus would have to cancel the treaty with the United States, likely a complicated procedure, before it could impose the executive order.

Monday, the government notified suspected trafficker Jose Abello Silva he had five days to appeal official plans to extradite him to the United States.

An official statement said Abello Silva was sought on federal charges filed in Oklahoma accusing him of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine to the United States. Abello Silva was arrested in Bogota on Oct. 11.