US cites fair trial considerations in Zimbabe lion killing extradition request

In the wake of a request by Zimbabwe for the extradition of a US citizen accused of killing Cecil the Lion, U.S. State department says that all extradition requests take into account the ability of a country to provide a fair trial and other “humanitarian” considerations.

WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES (JULY 31, 2015)(STATE TV) – In the wake of a request by Zimbabwe to extradite a U.S. citizen accused of killing Cecil the Lion, the U.S. State department said on Friday (July 31) that the ability of Zimbabwe to provide a fair trial and other “humanitarian” considerations would likely be taken into account.

Earlier on Friday Zimbabwe’s environment minister said the country’s Prosecutor General had started the process to have 55-year-old dentist Walter Palmer extradited from the United States.

In Harare’s first official comments since Cecil’s killing grabbed world headlines this week , Oppah Muchinguri said Palmer was a “foreign poacher” who paid for an illegal hunt and he should be extradited to Zimbabwe to face justice.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said today that humanitarian considerations and the ability to receive a fair trial play into any extradition request.

“They are received by the Department of State through diplomatic channels and State works closely with the Department of Justice to determine whether an incoming extradition request meets the requirements of the applicable treaty. Department of Justice then presents the request to a US court that determines whether the individual is extraditable. And then after those judicial proceedings have been completed it’s the Secretary of State who makes the final decision on whether to on whether to extradite an individual to another country. And obviously humanitarian concerns and the ability of an individual to receive a fair trial may be considered at this stage of the process,” said Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner.

In its 2014 country report on human rights practices in Zimbabwe the State Department roundly condemned the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, including what it calls the “partisan application of the rule of law.”

Pressed by journalists as to whether Zimbabwe’s poor human rights record would figure in to the Palmer request, State Department Spokesman Toner first restated the general policy, but eventually conceded that it was highly likely.

“I would just say that the ability of an individual to receive a fair trial may be considered at the point where the Secretary of State makes a final decision on whether to extradite an individual to another country,” he said.

“Again it’s, we look at the case, again I’m speaking generally here, and those considerations do come into play,” he added.

The human rights situation in Zimbabwe, said Toner, would likely be taken into account.

“I have may be considered, but that’s, I think that’s something that would be part of the overall calculus,” he said.

Palmer has admitted killing the 13-year-old lion, who was fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study.

He said in a statement issued by a publicist early this week that he had hired professional guides and believed the necessary hunting permits were in order.

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