Colombia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the U.S.’s extradition request for Freddy “El Aleman” Rendon Herrera, a former top paramilitary leader wanted by the U.S. for drug trafficking.
A court spokesman said Herrera must answer to Colombian justice and make reparations to his victims before the issue of extradition can be addressed.
El Aleman is currently taking part in the Justice and Peace process, in which demobilized paramilitaries are given reduced sentences in exchange for confessing the truth about their crimes and paying reparations to victims.
The former fighter was close to the notorious Carlos Castaño, who founded paramilitary group the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba. He was sentenced to fourteen years in prison in October last year for the murder of a child, and has accepted responsibility for the deaths of 451 other people between 1996 and 2001.
Patricia Perdomo Gonzales, of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, welcomed the decision not to extradite El Aleman with “great joy,” acknowledging concerns that the Justice and Peace process is slow but saying that “we must also bear in mind that there have been many years of this conflict, many years that have caused great damage and prosecutors must investigate thoroughly all that has passed to arrive at this point.”
Colombia decided in March not to extradite El Aleman’s brother, Daniel “Don Mario” Rendon Herrera, on the same grounds; that he should remain in the country to participate in the Justice and Peace process so that the truth about his crimes can be uncovered, and his victims compensated.
The Supreme Court is considering amending the U.S.-Colombia extradition treaty, due to concern that it interferes with the Justice and Peace process.
The proposal includes a recommendation that the extradition of criminals should not be approved until they have completed their participation in the process and have paid adequate compensation to victims.
Extradited paramilitaries themselves have complained that their extradition has stopped them from adequately participating in the reparation process.
The U.S-Colombian extradition treaty has been in place since 1982 and was amended in 1997 to allow for the extradition of Colombian nationals.