The Colombian Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a U.S. request for the extradition of demobilized paramilitary boss Edwar “Diego Vecino” Tellez Cobos, saying he must first comply with the terms of the Justice and Peace process.
The Court’s denial was based on concerns that extraditing paramilitary leaders prevents their versions of the truth on atrocities committed by paramilitary groups in Colombia from being heard.
The Court stressed that Colombia’s first concern should be “the protection and assistance of victims. We are at an important stage in the Justice and Peace process and Cobos Tellez’s extradition would affect the point of the process, which is to promote the victim’s right to the truth, justice and reparation and respect the right to due process and a fair trial of the accused”.
The prosecution argued that Diego Vecino is linked to massacres which constitute human rights abuses and that he must respond to these allegations in Colombia.
The ex-paramilitary is wanted by a New York district court on drug trafficking charges.
There are ongoing concerns that Colombia’s Justice and Peace process – in which former paramilitaries are given reduced sentences in exchange for collaborating with justice – is too slow.
A report published on Tuesday by Berkeley University was the latest in a series of criticisms that paramilitary extraditions are leading to extradited paramilitaries enjoying impunity for human rights abuses they committed while in Colombia.