Levi Mukarati Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe has taken a huge step towards greater co-operation with the United States after Harare agreed to a pact for extradition of criminals between the two countries.
The development comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa spearheads a policy shift to close holes that have been a drain on Zimbabwe-US relations.
Mr Robert Mugabe’s regime had sat on the treaty for about 21 years.
Last Friday, Government issued Statutory Instrument 199 that paves way for smooth transfer of offenders between Zimbabwe and United States.
According to the Extradition (Designated Country) United States of America Order 2018, the treaty is bound by the mutual desire to “provide for more effective co-operation between the two states in the suppression of crime”.
The agreement comes after a High Court ruling in March blocking the extradition to the US of Chris and Julius Marimbire and Andrew Tashanduka Bere for tax fraud involving $7 million.
In 2015, Zimbabwe failed to secure the extradition of American dentist Walter James Palmer, who was at the centre of killing Cecil the Lion.
Palmer’s allegedly illegal hunt was masterminded by Theodore Christian Bronkhorst, who was fined $2 300 or three years imprisonment.
The High Court last week set aside Bronkhorst’s conviction and sentence, but Palmer remains a wanted man.
Home affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema said extraditable offences were those punishable under laws in both countries, carried sentences above one year, or any other severe penalty.
Minister Mathema said the regulations allowed for extradition even in cases where the person sought was a national of the requested country.
No extradition will be enforced for political charges.
Said the minister in the notice, “For the purpose of this treaty, the following offences shall not be considered to be political offences; a murder or other wilful crimes against the person of a Head of State of one of the contracting states, or of a member of the Head of State’s family;
“An offence for which both contracting states have the obligation pursuant to a multilateral international agreement to extradite the person sought or to submit the case to their competent authorities for a decision as to prosecution.
“The executive authority of the requested state may refuse extradition for offences under military law which are not offences under ordinary criminal law.”
Minister Mathema said extradition procedures and required documentation would be done through diplomatic channels.
The documentation includes detailed information on the person sought, their alleged offences and the law describing their punishment.
International relations, peace and governance academic Dr Darlington Mahuku told The Sunday Mail yesterday that the treaty was a milestone in Zimbabwe-US relations.
He said, “… United States policy since the late 1990s was very acrimonious as it partnered opposition political parties in Zimbabwe.
“So if then there is that willpower to co-operate in the extradition of criminals, it shows there is a thawing of relations and this is a positive for the New Dispensation in Zimbabwe.
“It is also tied to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in that if a person has committed a crime and runs away, for example, from Zimbabwe to the US to seek asylum, that person can be brought back to face the law.”
Dr Mahuku the previous Govenrment had sat on the agreement for around two decades, and President Mnangagwa’s speedy resolution of the matter boded well for bilateral ties.
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