SAARC council of ministers discuss ‘exclusive extradition treaty’

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Renewing their commitment to strengthen comprehensive region-wide cooperation among member states to combat terrorism in forms, the SAARC Council of Ministers in Colombo Saturday discussed how to work out an exclusive extradition treaty in the region.

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“We have discussed this matter. Extradition is matter in terms of bilateral treaties and agreements. But, as a group, there is nothing to prevent us from advancing and graduating into a level within the region for us to view the extradition,” Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said.

“This is something that we are pursuing…But there has to be certain fundamental principles associated and the parity in terms of many a legal system that could address this,” Bogollagama told reporters at the end of the two-day session 31 of the Council of Ministers here.

Claiming that the mutual legal assistance agreement that the SAARC entered into in August 2008 has now become operationalised, Bogollagama said it has several provisions “in terms of areas including criminal activities leading to terrorism being included in terms of the country-wise reciprocation”.

Pointing out the existence of the Commonwealth extradition arrangement, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said although the SAARC has given “thought for an exclusive (extradition) arrangement, it has not gone very far”.

“There are lots of things that need to be considered before we come to a conclusion,” Kohona said.

Bogollagama said the council of ministers assisted by the foreign secretaries of SAARC member states has adopted two important documents – the SAARC ministerial declaration on cooperation in combating terrorism, and the SAARC ministerial statement on global economic crisis.

He said the declaration on combating terrorism “reiterates and re-emphasizes the common and collective resolve of all SAARC member states to work together to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from our region”.

“We also decided to establish a high-level group of eminent experts to review and make proposals to further strengthen the SAARC anti-terrorism mechanisms, including for pragmatic cooperation,” he said.

He said the the SAARC council of ministers while recognising the need to strengthen intra-regional trade, have also agreed to develop mechanisms to create bilateral arrangements in the region to address short-term liquidity difficulties and to supplement international financing arrangements.

“We also called on multilateral agencies such as World Bank and ADB as well as development partners to consider a moratorium on repayment of debt,” Bogollagama said.

Both India and Pakistan were represented by their respective state ministers of external affairs for this ministerial meeting.