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Jamaica: Prime Minister Refers Extradition Case to Courts

(Apr. 19, 2010) In an apparent attempt to diffuse a bitter dispute with the United States over an extradition request presented by U.S. officials, Prime Minister Bruce Golding of Jamaica has asked the courts to review his actions in the case. The subject of the request is Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is an alleged “drug kingpin” in Jamaica facing charges in New York for conspiracy to traffic in illegal drugs and firearms. (Jamaica Seeks Clarification on Extradition Treaty, CBS NEWS, Apr. 2, 2010, available at

The U.S. Department of State has reportedly stated that Coke has ties to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party and controls an area of west Kingston that is represented by the Prime Minister. The United States and Jamaica are parties to an Extradition Treaty that requires a party seeking to have a person extradited to show a prima facie case that an offense has been committed. (Extradition Treaty Between the Government of the United States and the Government of Jamaica, 1983, Organization of American States website, (last visited Apr. 12, 2010).)

The United States' request for the extradition of Coke was presented to Jamaican authorities in August 2009. In support of the application, U.S. authorities reportedly produced recordings of conversations made by Jamaican law enforcement agents that indicate his involvement in several conspiracies. The recordings are supported by affidavits signed by a Jamaican police official. On March 3, 2010, the Prime Minister informed Parliament that while the wiretaps by Jamaican authorities may have been legal, the turning over of these materials to U.S. officials was illegal under the Interception of Communications Act. (2002 Jam. Stat. No. 5, as amended, Ministry of Justice of Jamaica website, (last visited Apr. 13, 2010). U.S. officials contend that the arrangement between the two countries' law enforcement agencies was legal. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister directed the government not to present the case to the courts for review of the evidence. (Bruce Zagaris, Jamaican Prime Minister Defends Refusal to Process Extradition Due to Illegally Obtained Evidence, 24 INTERNATIONAL ENFORCEMENT LAW REPORTER 194 (May 2010), Lexis-Nexis online subscription database, News Library, Combined Sources File.)

The Prime Minister's actions were severely criticized on both political and legal grounds in Jamaica, the United States, and elsewhere. In Canada, an editorial in the prestigious Globe and Mail (Toronto) termed the decision “unwise.” (Seeking Mr. Coke, GLOBE AND MAIL, Apr, 5, 2010, at A10, Lexis-Nexis online subscription database, NEWS Library, Combined Sources File.) The Prime Minister's response has been to ask the courts whether he is obliged to turn an extradition request over to them or whether he can decline to do so on the grounds that improper procedures were used.