U.S. Attorney asks judge not to dismiss extradition request

Andrés Felipe Arias Leiva, the former agriculture minister for Colombia.
Andrés Felipe Arias Leiva, the former agriculture minister for Colombia.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami has filed a new motion in federal court warning U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan that dismissing an extradition case against former Colombian agriculture minister Andrés Felipe Arias Leiva would endanger the U.S. extradition practice with Colombia, undermine the war on drugs, and perhaps erode other extradition treaties around the world.

“Its continuing validity implicates significant U.S. national security interests such as countering the global drug problem, and ensures the availability of a vital international law-enforcement tool for our government,” according to the new government document filed by assistant U.S. attorney Robert Emery. “What would be unprecedented is if this Court were to find that that the [extradition] Treaty is not in force, contrary to the views of both parties to it. Then the United States would be unable to fulfill its Treaty obligation to extradite Arias Leiva, thereby potentially forcing the United States — and not Colombia — into violation of international law, not to mention potentially destabilizing the United States’ extradition practice worldwide.”

The language in the new government filing steps up pressure on Magistrate Judge O’Sullivan, who is overseeing the case and in a November hearing appeared to side with Arias Leiva in his contention — as relayed by his lawyers — that the extradition treaty with Colombia is not in force.

In his own recent filing, Arias Leiva noted that a Colombian diplomatic note itself verified that the extradition treaty is not in effect because the law that activated it in the 1980s was ruled unconstitutional by the Colombian supreme court.

The Colombian diplomatic note indeed says that, but it also indicates that the treaty is in force for international purposes because neither the United States nor Colombiahas renounced it.

In his filing, Emery reiterated this argument but also warned that refusing to send Arias Leiva back to Colombia would disrupt America’s diplomacy worldwide.

“Wherefore, the United States requests that Arias Leiva’s emergency motion to dismiss the complaint and arrest warrant be denied, and, in light of the important U.S. foreign relations concerns raised in this case and the potential impact on future extradition cases, the United States further requests that the Court set a date for a second hearing on the motion,” Emery wrote in his filing.

As of Friday, O’Sullivan had not scheduled a new hearing.