Changes to Extradition Act won’t infringe infringe people’s rights — Chuck

JUSTICE Minister Delroy Chuck has assured that changes to the Extradition Act will not infringe on the rights of people who are sought for extradition to the United States and other countries.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday gave the nod to amendments to the Bill to allow admission of evidence in the form of records of evidence in extradition hearings, as well as allow parish court judges, whether or not they preside in the same parish as the person who is being sought, to issue an arrest warrant for committal purposes.

Chuck explained that “the amendments will explicitly allow for the admission of records of the evidence of a case, which will be in addition to the other forms of evidence already permitted under the Act. The Bill defines record of the evidence of the case to include, among other things, documents or statements which describes the identity and probable location of the person sought and statements of the facts of the case, including the time and location of the offence”. He added that the amendments do not interfere with the court’s inherent power to request more evidence or to deny the request if the evidence presented is not deemed satisfactory or sufficient to accede to the extradition request. The legislation is being clarified, the Government says, with the aim of modernising the extradition process to allow use of records of evidence of a case through affidavits sworn to by prosecutors or law enforcement personnel, rather than relying only on witness affidavits, given that those are often difficult to secure.It’s noted that hearsay evidence is generally admissible in court as a result of the other party’s inability to cross-examine the person making the statement, but given that extradition hearings are usually based on the presumption that the actual trial would take place in the country/state requesting the extradition, the judges presiding over those proceedings usually use a more liberal approach in admitting evidence from the requesting state.The argument put forward, however, is that despite this, if the requesting country were to rely solely on hearsay evidence, there is a risk that the extradition request could be denied. The Extradition Act was last amended in January 2013, consequentially on amendments to the Terrorism Prevention Act, to enable Jamaica to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

In 2010 there was a dispute between the Jamaican Government and the United States regarding the application of the extradition treaty between the two jurisdictions in relation to the extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke to answer to criminal charges in the US. Jamaica contended that the US authorities had acted in contravention of provisions of a 2004 bilateral agreement in relation to the interception of communications.

Coke gave up his right to an extradition hearing and was subsequently taken to the United States where he is now serving time in prison.

— Alphea Saunders

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