When the Indian government decides that an 118-year-old extradition deal signed by the British rulers of this country and their Chilean counterparts of that time is still valid, even seasoned diplomats privately admit that it’s “unique and unusual”.
That’s what happened on April 28 when the government issued an official notification validating the 1897 treaty after Chile sought the extradition of a French woman for her alleged role in the killing of a Chilean parliamentarian in 1991.
With no existing extradition treaty between the two countries, the old treaty was considered a “convenient peg” and was accepted as applicable by both countries since there was “no clause that needed to be changed,” sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Marie Emanuelle Verhoeven, 55, was arrested in February while entering India from Nepal on a valid visa, on the basis of an Interpol red corner notice issued against her.
Verhoeven’s case is now in Delhi High Court with the 55-year-old claiming she was wrongly arrested when she reached the country for a “pilgrimage”. She has also sought bail as well as quashing of the extradition proceedings initiated against her by the Indian government.
According to Chile’s extradition request, a copy of which has been submitted before the court, Verhoeven is the “principal offender” in a “terrorist attack” carried out in April 1991 that led to the death of Senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz.
In her plea, however, Verhoeven has denied all allegations, and claimed that she was a “member of the Latin American Economic and Social Committee and participated in special human rights missions”.
The plea claims that Verhoeven was an “officer of the prison administration in Chile, as an assistant to the National Directorate,” during her stay in Chile between 1985-1995.
She has also claimed that the allegations against her were the result of a “political vendetta”, and that she had been previously detained on similar grounds in Germany, where a court had denied the extradition request.
The notification for the treaty, examined by The Indian Express, confirms that the pact signed between “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the republic of Chile in 1897 and ratified in 1898 shall be considered to be in force”.
The remaining text simply reproduces the treaty signed between the two and includes the stipulation that it would also be applicable to the “colonies and foreign possessions of the UK”.
When contacted, MEA sources said there was “no bar” against the government taking such a step, but admitted it was was a “unique and unusual case”.
Verhoeven has remained in Tihar since her arrest, and a bail application was denied in March by a magistrate’s court in Delhi.
During brief arguments before the vacation bench of Delhi High Court judge Justice Mukta Gupta last week, the MEA argued that the case was “being taken very seriously” by India since the offence involved the “assassination of a parliamentarian” in Chile.
The counsel also informed the court that a court of inquiry, under the Extradition Act, had been initiated against Verhoeven on May 29 after the formal extradition request under the validated treaty was received from the Chilean government on May 27.
The High Court is set to consider Verhoeven’s plea on Wednesday.