Thursday, July 12, 2018

“New bilateral cooperation” in law enforcement

Well this is interesting, and good news: The United States and Cuba held a fourth set of talks in Washington on law enforcement, after which the State Department’s statement mentioned “new bilateral cooperation that resulted in the conviction of a Cuban national who murdered an American citizen and who had fled prosecution in the United States.” Cuba’s statement was less specific, referring to cooperation that has enabled the “prevention of crime and the prosecution of violators of the law.”

For some time there has been discussion in Havana of a person who fled to Cuba after being accused of committing a murder in Miami. After talks between the two governments, the story goes, it was decided that the person would be tried in Havana; he was tried with evidence provided by U.S. authorities, and was convicted in May. I have found no confirmation of these details, nor any court documents. But with the U.S. statement, it seems that the story is starting to come out.

There are several points of interest here.

Law enforcement cooperation has been going on for decades, mainly involving drugs and alien smuggling cases. The Obama Administration brought greater structure and regularity to these contacts, and the Trump Administration has continued this process and built on it, noting that “new bilateral cooperation” made the conviction possible.

It would be good to get legal records or some official account of the legal process in Cuba to see how U.S. evidence was employed in the prosecution, and how the defense functioned. Also, is it possible under Cuban law for a Cuban to be tried in Cuba for a crime committed abroad, or was it necessary to bring charges for related crimes committed in Cuban territory?

There are many obstacles to establishing functioning extradition agreements between the United States and Cuba. Among these are U.S. distrust of Cuba’s court system, and U.S. reluctance to assume a commitment to send persons to a place where they will not get a fair trial. The obstacles are not going away soon, so extradition agreements remain a distant prospect. But in this case, the U.S. side is clearly pleased at a conviction obtained in a Cuban court. Will this be a precedent, and could it lead to action against Medicaid scammers and others who have fled charges in the United States?

In related news, deportations to Cuba are up under Trump, according to New Times.

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