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Amend Extradition Act, urges West Kingston Commission

Published:Wednesday | June 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

The panel of commissioners that conducted the Commission of Enquiry into the deaths of 73 civilians and a member of the Jamaica Defence Force in west Kingston during the May 2010 operation by the security forces has recommended that the Government amend the Extradition Act.

The terms of reference of the Sir David Simmons-chaired commission included enquiring "whether, and if so, under what circumstances, civilians, police officers, and soldiers of the Jamaica Defence Force were shot and killed or injured during May 2010 in connection with the security forces seeking to effect the arrest of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on a provisional warrant in extradition proceedings".

In its more than 900-page report, which was tabled yesterday in Parliament, the commissioners pointed out that under the current law, there is no time limit within which the minister responsible for extradition requests must issue an authority to proceed.

The commissioners indicate that extradition proceedings in the magistrates' courts do not involve the determination of innocence or guilt, and a fugitive is not stopped from invoking such legal challenges to the request as he or she may be advised.

"We recommend that Section 8 of the Extradition Act be amended to make it mandatory that the minister make a decision on authority to proceed within a finite time," the report stated.

The commissioners recommended that where a request for the extradition of a resident or a fugitive is made and the attorney general intends to sign the authority to proceed, this should not be publicised. It is further recommended that immediately upon its execution, the attorney general should inform the commissioner of police.

Then Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne delayed signing the authority to proceed, for a period of nine months, with the extradition of Coke, saying it would be illegal to do so.

However, under mounting pressure from various private sector bodies and civil society groups, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in an address to the nation, said the document would be signed.

Coke later waived his right to an extradition hearing and was taken to the United States, where he was tried and found guilty for drug and racketeering charges and is now serving a 23-year sentence in prison.