Extradition Act Under Debate in Senate with Adjustments for International Cooperation
Another Bill that was debated had to do with the Extradition Act. Senator Courtenay explained that there were not much changes in this when it comes to the treaty with the United States and Mexico. There were, however, some adjustments with how extradition would work with other countries.
Eamon Courtenay, Senator: “This bill, as you know, has been in committee for a while in order for us to get it right. I think the Senate should be aware of a number of issues. The first is that this bill, Madam President, will make a significant change in the existing extradition regime in Belize. The first change is that extradition has always been on the basis of reciprocity, two states agreeing that they will extradite their nationals or persons requested for trial or to serve sentence in the requesting country in respect of offenses usually listed in the schedule of the bill. This bill will continue reciprocity only in relation to the United States of America and the United Mexican States because there are treaties between Belize and those countries. All other extradition arrangements will be on the basis of what is described as extradition arrangements which are made between Belize and a specific country or a group of countries. And in fact, we are adopting what is described as a Commonwealth model, which is to allow for the requests from Commonwealth states among themselves for extradition of persons to face trial or to serve their sentence. There is therefore no list of offenses in the bill because Senator Peyrefitte the magistrate in this case, is not trying the case in Belize. He or she is looking at the evidence to see whether the element of the offense is made out, which if there was a trial in Belize would constitute an offense, very similar to what we were discussing a short while ago. This provision provides for what is referred to in extradition law of dual criminality. It must be a crime in Belize and it must be a crime in the requesting state. Minimum of five years, the offenses that are covered by extradition going forward. Madam President, members of the Senate, there are a number of further amendments which we propose to move in the Committee of the Whole Senate. The primary reason for these amendments, Madam President, is first of all there are a few typographical errors, et cetera, which need to be done. But in the main, it is to ensure that due process rights of persons who are subject of extradition requests are respected and honored when they are being proceeded with in Belize. We are also ensuring that where a minister enters into an extradition arrangement with another country, that it must be publicized, i.e. it must be gazetted and must be brought for a negative resolution to the National Assembly. That was not in the bill, so we insist that people need to know that they may be extradited to our country tomorrow. That has to be publicized. And as I said, Madam President, it is just to clean up the bill in our view to make it clearer that the due process rights are protected. Madam President, it is hoped that a signal will be sent by Belize to the world community that we are not a haven of rogues and whether an extradition treaty exists or not, you will be able to make a request to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to enter into an extradition arrangement going forward in the future so that a person may be brought to court, go through the process and extradited if the provisions of the Act are satisfied.”
Rising to respond to Courtenay’s explanation was UDP Senator Michael Peyrefitte. In his address, Peyrefitte noted that he is not in agreement with the powers given to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Here is how he explained his disapproval.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Senator: “This is the bill, Madam President, that I would have loved to have seen the government use the opportunity to withdraw this authority that the minister has, because it is not in the best interest of the minister, to be quite frank. I think these are legal matters. The minister, I believe, that role, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that role should be that of a conduit between some foreign state and our courts. And that the ministry of, let me just say so it doesn’t sound ad hominem, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, only responsibility I believe, Madam President, should be to authenticate that it’s a legitimate request from a foreign state and then pass it on to the courts to decide on all matters. Don’t get involved. If you look at section 11.4. “On receipt of any extradition request, the minister may issue an authority to proceed unless it appears to the minister that an order for the surrender of the person concerned could not lawfully be made, or could not in fact be made, in accordance with the provisions of the Act.” Once again, Madam President, I don’t think that the minister should be deciding that. That is for a court of law. And I know if memory serves me correct, Madam President, I think that, I’m trying to think when was the last time we’ve had a foreign minister that was not an attorney. And I think, Madam President, that may have gone all the way back to the Right Honorable George Price, if I’m not mistaken. Yes, man. He was a lawyer too ? I know he was to be a priest, but the first ever foreign affairs, this last one was a lawyer and a very good one. King’s Council like yourself. But from all the way back to, I think, Vernon Harrison Courtenay Madam President from since then to now all foreign ministers have been lawyers. So I think that there is a maybe an unconscious thing that whoever is the foreign minister will be able to understand and dissect legal procedures. And I don’t think that we should make that assumption, Madam President. And we should not be putting the minister in a position to make legal judgments.”