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United States refusing to amend extradition treaty, says Golding

Published:Thursday | March 24, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The United States (US) is still playing hardball in its refusal to amend the extradition treaty between itself and Jamaica, according to Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

"Up to last Friday, the US said they saw no need to have the treaty revised," Golding told the Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry in reference to a 19-year disagreement between the two countries. "The US authorities must comply with the provisions of the treaty."

Golding asserted that the US could circumvent the extradition treaty and spirit Jamaicans out of the country at will, as it did with Norris Barnes, a Jamaican fugitive.

"Norris Barnes was kidnapped and the United States had never acknowledged that it did wrong," Golding told the commission.

"We are going to insist that the extradition issues be done in compliance with the laws of Jamaica."

Golding said the dispute between the two countries started 19 years ago after an extradition request for former Jamaican fugitive Richard 'Storyteller' Morrison was inadvertently signed by then Justice Minister Karl Rattray in 1992.

He said although the P.J. Patterson administration made strenuous efforts to have the suspect returned to Jamaica, the US refused to do so.

The prime minister said K.D. Knight, who succeeded Rattray as justice minister, moved in 1994-1995 to have the extradition treaty amended after a Mexican was kidnapped from his country and taken to the United States to stand trial for crimes he allegedly committed.

"Mr Knight quite correctly sought to have the treaty revised to prevent kidnapping," said Golding.

Planned talks

The prime minister told the commission that given the developments in the Coke extradition, his administration had planned to hold discussions with the US to register its concern about the extradition treaty.

Golding stressed that this was in keeping with the approach undertaken by the Government in 1995. "The approach was in keeping with the approach undertaken by former Minister K.D. Knight when he met with the officials of the US Department of Justice," the prime minister said.

He told the commission that, on February 3, 1995, the then Foreign Affairs Minister Seymour Mullings told Cabinet that the Government should not issue any authority to proceed until the extradition matters are resolved.

Golding also made reference to a statement by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson that the breach by the US had clear adverse implications for the provisions of the treaty.

He quoted Patterson as saying his administration would not be satisfied until the breach which occurred in the Morrison case was addressed.

The commission was told that the impasse between the US government and the Patterson administration lasted for three years until the Americans gave the Government a letter promising to address the ills and review existing cases.

Golding said his administration was playing its part by amending the Interception of Communication Act to address the thorny issues relating to the sharing of wiretapping information.

He said the amendments, which are with the Chief Parliamentary Council, are to go to the Legislation Committee of Cabinet for final review, then to Cabinet for approval, after which it will be tabled in Parliament.

Golding said this development has been brought to the attention of the US.

"They have been and remain very interested," he said.