News Archive

Report Urges U.S. to Cooperate with Colombian Drug-Lord Probe

A new Berkeley Law report asserts that Colombian paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States on drug-related charges must be held accountable for their role in mass atrocities and corruption in that country.

Written by International Human Rights Law Clinic students Noah Smith ’10 and Gretchen Gordon ’11, the report—Truth Behind Bars: Colombian Paramilitary Leaders in U.S. Custody—calls for the U.S. to cooperate with Colombia's criminal investigations by providing access to those extradited.

Defendants in U.S. custody include 30 commanders of Colombia’s strongest paramilitary group, which developed a drug-trafficking network that massacred, forcibly disappeared, and tortured thousands of civilians, according to Colombian law enforcement. Before being extradited, the commanders had begun to reveal information about these and other crimes as part of a program that offered legal leniency and public benefits in exchange for an agreement to disarm, forfeit assets, and confess.

Their testimony revealed details of mass atrocities, political corruption, rigged elections, and collusion with elected and military officials that prompted criminal investigations of high-level Colombian politicians. But the report notes that the paramilitary leaders’ cooperation with Colombian investigators has effectively stopped since their extradition to the U.S., and that Colombian prosecutors and judges have limited access to defendants in U.S. custody.

Frustrated by the blocked investigations, Colombia’s Supreme Court has halted future extraditions of demobilized paramilitaries to the United States—undermining U.S. counternarcotics efforts. More information about the report, which recommends several changes to U.S. practices regarding criminal prosecutions of the extradited paramilitary leaders, is available here.