El Salvador has extradited few criminal suspects under treaty

Posted Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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The United States and El Salvador have a “bilateral extradition treaty,” signed in 1911, that lists a number of offenses for which criminal suspects can be extradited. Intoxication manslaughter is not on the list.

Very few extraditions have actually resulted from the treaty, even for crimes listed, according to government news releases.

Despite having the treaty in place for 89 years, there were no extraditions until after the year 2000. That’s when El Salvador amended its constitution to allow the extradition of Salvadoran nationals, U.S. officials said.

The first extradition from that country was in 2010, and it was for a Texas case.

Jose Marvin Martinez, a Salvadoran national, was convicted in 2006 in Brazoria County of one count of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child. The child was his daughter.

He was released on bail and left the country before the jury began deliberating, the Justice Department said in a news release at the time. When El Salvador extradited him, however, it was just for the sexual assault charge because the charge of indecency with a child was not on the list, the news release said.

Lanny A. Breuer, then an assistant U.S. attorney, said in the release that Martinez’s extradition “paves the way forward in our law enforcement partnership with El Salvador.”

“The long arm of the law reaches farther with every successful extradition to and from the United States, as we work with our partners around the world to make sure criminals cannot find safe haven from justice,” he wrote.

Another notable extradition happened in 2013 when Edgar Benitez Hernandez, a member of the Salvadoran street gang, Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13), was returned to the United States. He was convicted in May of racketeering and attempted murder in Virginia.

Federal prosecutors said in a news release at the time, “This extradition marks the first time in recent history that a Salvadoran citizen has been extradited to the United States to be held accountable for gang-related crimes committed in the United States.”

Since intoxication manslaughter is not on the list of the original 1911 treaty, Israel Moreira, the suspect in the death of Amanda Lizzio in Dallas, is still free in his native country.

Changing the treaty to include other crimes would require the consent of both nations in an “inter-governmental decision,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said.

“Amending a treaty, including by modifying or expanding its list of extraditable offenses, would require that the amendments be submitted to and approved by the U.S. Senate, in the same manner as an entirely new treaty.”

New treaties usually don’t have “lists of extraditable crimes” because they become outdated, he said.

Instead, new treaties are written to include “a general requirement of ‘dual criminality’ — that is, that the conduct be punishable in each country as a felony,” he wrote in an email.

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