BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 1980 law that ratified a 1979 extradition treaty between Colombia and the United States to help combat international drug trafficking.
All 24 of the Supreme Court's judges decided the law approved by the National Congress ratifying the extradition treaty was not properly signed as required by the constitution.
Under the bilateral treaty adopted by the two countries, 13 people have been extradited to the United States for trial on drug trafficking charges.
Magistrate Juan Hernando Saenz said the Colombian constitution dictates that laws must be signed by the president and not one of his ministers.
The law was signed in 1980 by German Zea Hernandez, a cabinet minister at the time, because President Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala was out of the country.
'We have not touched on the treaty, the court only declared the 1980 law that made it effective illegal,' Saenz said.
Several people accused by the United States of participation in drug trafficking asked for a study of the legality of the treaty.
In a communique last month, the alleged drug traffickers said that if the extradition treaty was annulled they would be willing to go to trial in the Colombian court.
'We prefer a Colombian tomb than a cell United States cell,' they said.
U.S. authorities have petitioned the extradition of 49 people for alleged links to international drug trafficking.
Judge Jaime Pinzon Lopez said the Court's decision forced the extradition treaty 'into a state of suspension and (it) can't be applied to send Colombians to the United States.'
'The agreement is not a treaty at this time and it becomes a mere bill. Only when registered as a ratified law can it be applied again,' he said.