The United States State Department has made clear that US extradition orders against some FARC members remain intact and active, and that an eventual Colombian government-FARC peace accord protecting the FARC from extradition by the Colombian government will not stand in the way of the United States continuing to seek extradition of wanted FARC members. Whether or not the Colombian government accepts or denies the requests is a Colombian sovereign matter, and Pres. Santos said that he would not extradite FARC members for offenses related to the armed conflict after an overall peace accord is signed and as long as the FARC members under extradition request “behave” well. More than 40 or 50 FARC members, including almost all of its top leaders, are sought for extradition by the United States on drug-trafficking, kidnapping or murder charges. Some Western European countries, Paraguay and Brazil either have extradition issues or judicial investigations pending about some FARC leaders and members.
Even with Constitutional guarantees in a peace accord, the FARC knows that the specter of extradition will always be a sword of Damocles hanging over its head. It would seem that the only way for the FARC to try to resolve it thoroughly would be to face it head-on with US judicial authorities and the judicial authorities of other countries.
FARC leaders worry of a potential double-cross, if not by Pres. Santos, then perhaps by a future Colombian presidential administration that could seize on a spurious or specious pretext, accusing FARC members of continuing links to the drug world after a signed peace accord, to put them on a DEA or FBI plane to the United States. They point to then-President Uribe’s sending in short order to US justice 14 demobilized AUC “paramilitary” leaders who had submitted to the Uribe-supported Justice and Peace program but which Uribe said they violated, despite the denials of the 14 “paramilitary” leaders. There has been speculation of whether Uribe’s extraditing them had anything to do with conjecture that some of them might testify against alleged Uribe links to “paramilitaries,” which Uribe denies. Thus, FARC leaders have indicated to me that there are never too many “guarantees” for them against extradition.
This worry of FARC leaders could be an opportunity for the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and other countries to send law enforcement officials to meet with the FARC leadership on judicial and security matters of interest to their respective countries—assuming the approval of the Colombia government for such meetings and that they don’t interfere with the doings or time-table of the actual peace negotiations. Judicial systems of these countries sometimes take into account cooperation of those investigated, sought, being tried or convicted to weigh possible judicial benefits or considerations in the quest for solving cases and getting judicial resolution.
Some observers think that there could be ways for the US judicial system to suspend extradition orders or for the White House or State Department to ask the Justice Department for suspension of extradition orders, or that the State Department could perhaps table extradition orders on a special presidential executive order. Then there is also the question of the crime. For instance, extradition orders for murder and kidnapping of US citizens cannot be lifted nor suspended, from what I understand, unless indictments or charges are dropped.
If any country decides to send its “professionals” to meet with the FARC leaders or representatives on judicial/law-enforcement matters, the question is timing, where and how.
On one hand, some would say that now may not be the best moment, given that the peace talks are at an intensified rhythm and shouldn’t be side-tracked in any way. Since there are to be Truth commissions and a Special Jurisdiction for Peace requesting confessions and truthful full disclosure after an overall peace accord is signed, that could be the appropriate time, they may say.
On the other hand, it could be argued that it is better to start doing it now, and that it could be done without side-tracking nor interfering with the peace talks, by showing the FARC a way on how to face the issue of extradition head on, and not have to solely depend on a Colombian peace accord that isn’t valid to the foreign and transnational judicial systems. Better to get one in hand now, than have two in the bush, as the saying goes, they would say.
Moreover, while the FARC insists that it is a “self-sufficient” domestic guerrilla movement and has little to do internationally, US, European, and Latin American authorities believe that the FARC has contacts in international, murky, outlawed circles. The FARC denies this, but if it happened to be the case, such contacts would presumably become stale and perishable soon after an overall peace accord were signed, or even as the clock ticks now.