Kingston, Washington exploring possibility of int'l mediation on extradition request Experts fear worsening of diplomatic relations
BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor - Operations Investigative Coverage Unit firstname.lastname@example.org
THE Jamaican and United States governments were at the weekend weighing expert advice that they subject their extradition dispute over Christopher 'Dudus' Coke to international mediation, possibly involving the United Nations (UN).
Impeccable Sunday Observer sources said the suggestion was floated in Kingston and that Washington had indicated it was willing to explore mediation as an option.
"While the Golding administration remains adamant that it cannot act outside of Jamaican law, it has made it clear to the Americans that it wants the dispute resolved with its long-time ally," said the high-level source who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The US is demanding that Coke, the Tivoli Gardens strongman, be handed over to face trial on an indictment by the grand jury for the Southern District of New York, on two counts of alleged conspiracy to, inter alia, distribute and possess with intent to distribute narcotics, specifically cocaine; and conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a licence.
But the prime minister has said the evidence presented by the Americans had not satisfied the Government that there was enough to convict Coke in a Jamaican court for those offences, as required by the Extradition Treaty.
Jamaica also expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the US came in possession of intercepted information on Coke, saying it was done in breach of the island's Interception of Communications Act. To sign the extradition request would therefore be a violation of Coke's constitutional right to freedom of expression.
But critics have lashed Golding, suggesting that he was protecting Coke, who resides in the prime minister's West Kingston constituency, because of his alleged links to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party.
In the meantime, relations between Jamaica and the US remain tense, with advisors suggesting that it could further deteriorate, as there was little prospect of a resolution, if both sides stuck to their guns.
Asked about the likelihood of the US accepting mediation, the source said the State Department did not initially warm to the idea and was still insisting that its extradition request be taken before the Jamaican courts for a decision. But it said it would explore the option.
"Jamaica's willingness to put the issue to mediation was at least an indication to the US that we want to see the matter resolved in a mutually satisfactory way," the source said.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding was said to be listening to his advisors who had outlined several options that were available to him, including mediation, before he made his next move.
The advisors themselves were apparently not pressing Golding to take the matter through the Jamaican courts, arguing that its ruling was not binding on the US under the 1993 Extradition Treaty and subsequent Memorandum of Understanding signed and ratified by both countries.
"The Jamaican Government is of the view that this is a matter in which both parties have an obligation to sit and amicably resolve the issues through negotiations as two sovereign states to a bilateral treaty," the source said.
"Placing the matter in the Jamaican courts would not address the issues and would not be binding on the US under the treaty and the MOUs. The issues which have arisen in this extradition request, if not addressed, will almost certainly arise in future extradition requests," he said.
The high-level source insisted that even if the various procedural obstacles were overcome, "a court judgement, while persuasive, would not be binding on the US".
"The issue would still remain until it is resolved in a conclusive way," he said. "The domestic court is not an arena to resolve what is essentially obligations under international law between two sovereign states and their relations internationally."
He said the Jamaican administration was confident that it had a case that could stand scrutiny at any level of mediation, including the secretary general of the UN Ban Ki-Moon; the Washington-based Organisation of American States; the European Union, a third country or some person or similar body with international standing.
Such mediation would determine the legitimacy of the US assertions that it acted in accordance with the spirit and intent of the Extradition Treaty and the Memorandum of Understanding. "This decision would be a strong factor which any minister (of justice) would take into account when considering whether to sign the authority to proceed or not," said the source.
Read tomorrow's Observer for a blow by blow account of how the Christopher
'Dudus' Coke extradition story unfolded.