Friday, September 02, 2005

A Question for Henry Hyde

Irish Voice:

This week Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois came out in support of sending the Colombia Three back to Colombia to face 17 years in prison.

The Colombia Three are the suspected IRA operatives who were arrested in Colombia on suspicion of helping the rebel group FARC. Despite being acquitted in a public trial, they were later sentenced by an appeals court that refused to meet in public or discuss the “new” evidence. The men escaped while on bail and have now shown up in Ireland.

Hyde is the chairman of the House’s International Relations Committee, and he stated last week that the Irish government had “many reasons and obligations” to send the three back, not least as an example of how Ireland was prepared to play their part in the war on terrorism.

Hyde’s statement to Sean O’ Driscoll of this newspaper claimed that if the Irish government was willing to pay bail money for the Colombia Three, then it should also agree to extradite them when they skip bail.

Hyde also cited UN resolutions and an Interpol warrant as well as the call from the Colombia Vice President Francisco Santos, who wants the three men returned immediately.

All of which makes us wonder where Hyde is on the subject of the five U.S. servicemen who were detained trying to smuggle 35 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. aboard a military plane last March 29.

Three of the men were arrested in Texas, two in Colombia by U.S. officials there after the cocaine was found. Colombia immediately sent in an extradition request. The U.S. response was interesting to say the least.

The U.S. ambassador to Colombia told the government there that the men would not be extradited, and as they were technically working for the U.S. government they had diplomatic immunity.

That was a stretch to put it mildly. It meant that any unlawful action, including murder, could be excused for any American personnel in Colombia on the same basis. One can only imagine what the U.S. response would have been if the Colombians had tried to claim the same immunity for some of their own army narco traffickers.

It turns out that the U.S./Colombia extradition treaty is all one way traffic, with over 200 Colombian suspects brought to the U.S. but no similar flow to south of the border.

“In practical terms, these military personnel committed the alleged crime in Colombia, and according to the extradition treaty, which is bilateral, they should be tried here,” leading Colombian politician Gustavo Petro said.

That sounds sensible. Surely no American politician could disagree with that if they are convinced, as Hyde seems to be, that Colombian justice is among the freest and fairest in the world?

Will Hyde now call for the extradition of the five drug smugglers to Colombia as he has for the Colombia Three? Will he demand that the U.S. give up their claim of diplomatic immunity for the men, which they have used as the major reason why they are not returning them?

Will Hyde stand up to the Bush administration and demand that the men be sent back after the repeated requests by Colombian officials for their extradition? Of course not. It depends on whose ox is being gored.

The posturing of a politician like Hyde on an issue which he can use for cheap headlines to “stand tall” against international terrorism is stripped away when we look at the wall of silence concerning America’s own refusal to extradite their citizens to Colombia. Look at the mote in your own eye first, congressman.

Hyde Wants 3 Extradited


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