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2004-07-17 12:14:36

Bahamas Turns Down 35 U.S. Extradition Requests

The government does a balancing act in carrying out extradition requests...

The United States government recently made application for 50 Bahamians to be extradited to answer various charges in American courts, but the Bahamas has rejected the requests for more than half of those people.

“In the case of 35 of those, we felt that we had evidence that the crimes had been committed in this jurisdiction and we declined,' said Attorney General Alfred Sears, who was speaking in the House of Assembly on a bill to amend the Extradition Act of 1994.

“We insisted that the trials be held here. In other words, you answer here first.'

Minister Sears noted the importance of making it “abundantly clear' that anyone who committed an offense in the Bahamas and violated penal laws here be tried here.

“We don't send people off as a matter of convenience,' the Attorney General pointed out.

In cases where Bahamians were extradited, they were most likely involved in transnational crimes and apprehended in joint operation with other Caricom countries or Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), Minister Sears said.

According to the Attorney General, the government does a balancing act in carrying out extradition requests as it must take into consideration upholding Bahamians' liberties and maintaining the country's integrity while complying with the country's international obligations.

“Where we have evidence that someone has committed an offence in a crime, we have made application to extradite people back to the Bahamas and we have in fact extradited people from these countries to answer criminal charges here in the Bahamas,' he said.

Minister Sears said that his government has consulted extensively on this matter.

But Member of Parliament for South Andros Whitney Bastian questioned this point.

“Have you consulted the Bar Association?,' he asked. “Sending someone a copy of the proposed amendment is not consultation. Have you consulted the public? Have you consulted us in this parliament about this bill? Why is there this ungodly rush?

“Why can't you give us this amendment to look at over the summer holiday so that we can have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve? Why don't you come clean to us and the Bahamian people and explain why you are rushing this bill? I don't see the reason.'

Minister Sears responded, “We're all entitled to our points of views, but when he asks me to come clean, it by implication suggests that something unclean has been done in relation to my involvement.'

He denied that there was any underhandedness in bringing the bill to parliament, although Mr. Bastian insisted that the government was reacting to foreign pressures in bringing the bill to amend the Extradition Act.

Seconding the proposed amendment to the Extradition Act, Minister of Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Peet said it was necessary to correct a “major mistake' made when the first law was passed.

He noted that under the present legislation there are two parties in an court battle and one does not have the right to appeal (the prosecutor), while the other (the defendant) does.

However, Member of Parliament for South Andros Whitney Bastian was of the opinion that parliament could have better utilized its time to debate other “more relevant' bills, like the Bail Act and legislating the right to appeal a Bankruptcy Order, which directly affects Member of Parliament for Holy Cross Sidney Stubbs.

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