A U.S. magistrate judge heard oral arguments Friday concerning the extradition of a woman wanted by authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina for alleged war crimes against civilians.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier made no decision except to change a scheduled Aug. 22 extradition hearing in U.S. District Court in Lexington to a status conference. No new date was scheduled for that extradition hearing.
The woman, whom authorities refer to as Azra Bašic, was arrested in March in Powell County, where she had been living for some time. She is accused of torturing and murdering ethnic Serbs at prison camps from April to June 1992, during the Bosnian civil war.
Bašic, a naturalized U.S. citizen, sat silently as her attorney, Patrick Nash, argued that the extradition petition against her should be dismissed because there is no formal treaty regarding extradition between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, a 1902 treaty between Serbia and the United States prohibits extradition of U.S. citizens.
In addition, Nash argued that Bašic cannot be extradited because the statute of limitations ran out. Finally, Nash said extradition cannot proceed because Bosnia and Herzegovina have not produced a valid warrant.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney James Arehart said an extradition treaty is in force between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he submitted an affidavit from a legal adviser with the U.S. State Department that said an extradition treaty is in force. Arehart also countered that Congress granted authority to the U.S. secretary of state to extradite U.S. citizens.
Arehart's written response to Nash's motion to dismiss notes that U.S. district courts around the country have found at least four other people to be extraditable to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the basis of an extradition treaty.
Arehart also argued that the extradition request satisfies the treaty requirements regarding statute of limitations. And the request from Bosnia and Herzegovina more than satisfies any warrant requirement, Arehart argued.
Before the hearing began, Wier said the case is like an onion in many respects, because there are so many layers to it.
Wier wants to know about more layers, too. He asked the lawyers to submit written briefs on the legal effect of charging someone whose name isn't known. In the initial charges issued against her in 1993, Bašic wasn't fully identified, and the international warrant for her arrest wasn't issued until 2006.
In addition, Wier wants to know whether U.S. torture laws can be applied retroactively to conduct that allegedly happened before the laws were enacted.