Thu | Jun 17, 2021

Blatant disregard for Coke's rights

Published:Thursday | June 7, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Herbert Hamilton, Contributor

The Gleaner's editorial of May 25, titled 'Other Cokes are possible', gratuitously repeats the canard that "the then Jamaican administration resisted, for nine months, America's request to extradite Coke and engage in unseemly behaviour to have Washington change its mind".

It is not beyond dispute that the 'request to extradite Coke', based as it was on the 'Phillips MOUs' - was in breach of Coke's constitutional rights; but this was of no concern to the media and other 'civic organisations' that were anxious to get rid of him by fair or foul means. It did not matter that Coke - whatever his notoriety - was a Jamaican citizen and, therefore, entitled to the same legal and constitutional protections as any other citizen. More important, that the Government had a fundamental duty to protect/preserve those rights.

A review of the correspondence between the United States (US) and Jamaica will confirm that the Government was engaged continuously during the period (nine months) to have the US purge the request of its taint of illegality/ unconstitutionality.

Further, the US was given the assurance that once this was done, Coke would have been extradited. The US response can only be characterised as truculent. The chargé d'Affaires wrote:

"There is no basis under the treaty to treat comparable extradition requests differently. Given that Jamaica has previously extradited individuals to the US on similar charges involving similar evidence, the US questions why this request has been treated differently."

There was nothing comparable about this case because it involved a breach of our domestic law - the Interception of Communications Act and the Constitution.

It is sad that the media and other 'civic organisations', always so strident in their defence of 'the rule of law and human rights', chose to be silent in the face of such an egregious breach of our law and Constitution and, moreover, joined in the chorus of the misinformed to ignore the rule of law. Their refusal to accept the justice minister's decision that the request was flawed was as irrational as their mobilisation of public opinion in support of the position that the end justified the means.

A fair reading of the 'Record' will confirm that propaganda and partisanship trumped the rule of law. The US's decision to prosecute Coke for lesser offences than those included in the extradition request, and for which the maximum sentence is 23 years, considerably less than the life sentence contemplated, underscored the fact - as the minister contended - that the evidence in support of the request was unsustainable.

BAD PRECEDENT

It certainly is not a matter for approbation that the Government relented in the face of public pressure. It is merely a mani-festation that the 'misinformed' can be mobilised and manipulated to serve an illegal/ perverse cause. It was a thoroughly bad precedent and should not be repeated.

The Gleaner contends again, gratuitously, that Jamaica "outsourced the Coke problem". That is not true. The effect of signing the authority to proceed was that the matter would be put before the resident magistrate. The fact that Coke chose to forgo that course and proceed directly to the US is more an indictment of our penal system, since it is notorious that his father was burnt to death in his cell while in the custody of the State.

Herbert Hamilton is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and hhamilesq@yahoo.com.