Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Benefits of extradition -- then the Americans stepped in

A group of paramilitaries in Tulua, about 200 miles south-west of Bogota, Colombia

The  Colombian peace plan which is scheduled to be signed next Monday has given rise to complaints by some that some members of the FARC, who have committed atrocity crimes, should not be permitted to escape punishment.  On Sunday, September 11, 2016, The New York Times devoted three full pages to a cover story on the situation of Colombian paramilitaries entitled "US Extradition Benefits Warlords from Colombia -- Held to Account for Decades of Atrocities- Until the Americans Stepped In." Perhaps the treatment of the FARC is designed to balance the treatment of the paramilitaries.

According to the NYT, several dozen Colombian paramilitary will have completed their prison time and will have served an average of 7-1/2 years in US prisons.  The paramilitary leaders, extradited en masse, will have served an average of 10 years for drug conspiracies that involved tons of cocaine. In comparison, federal prisoners who sold less than an ounce, serve an average of over 12 years in prison.

One notorious paramilitary, Salvatore Mancuso, found responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 1,000 people by Colombia courts, was extradited to the US and under the terms of his plea agreement faced 30 years to life in prison.  Because he collaborated extensively with the authorities and even cried, begging forgiveness from his victims, a federal judge sentenced him to just under 12 years in prison.

Notably, in 2001, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, designated the paramilitaries (the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia known as the AUC) a foreign terrorist organization, just like the FARC. Despite this terrorist designation, two paramilitaries, even though wanted by the Colombian authorities, have been granted permission to the stay in the United States after completing their sentences, and their families have been permitted to join them.  Three more are seeking the same deal and others are expected to follow suit.

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