U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Block Extradition of Noreiga

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused the request of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to block his extradition to France. Noreiga faces drug charges in France which are similar to those that have led to his imprisonment in the U.S.

The court did not provide reasoning for denying the appeal, although Justices Thomas and Scalia objected stating that the case of Noriega raises important questions about how the courts should handle cases arising from the government’s attempt to prosecute terrorists. Noriega was ousted after the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. He has since been convicted of drug racketeering and other charges. At trial the judge presiding over the case declared him a prisoner of war.

Prior to the end of Noreiga’s sentence, the United States filed papers supporting France’s request that he be extradited there to face drug charges. Although courts there have already convicted him in absentia, France has promised him a new trial.

Noriega has argued that the Geneva Conventions holds that prisoners of war must be returned to their home countries, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta said federal law does not allow Noriega to rely on the treaties to challenge the extradition. The Supreme Court decided not to review that ruling.

It is ironic that the 11th Circuit would not allow Noreiga to rely on treaties to challenge his extradition, when in fact it is a treaty, the U.S.-France Bilateral Extradition Treaty, which is allowing for Noreiga’s extradition to France in the first place.

Article 1 of the extradition treaty between the United States and France, entitled Obligation to Extradite, states that [t]he Contracting States agree to extradite to each other, pursuant to the provisions of this Treaty, persons whom the competent authorities in the Requesting State have charged with or found guilty of an extraditable offense. Extradition Treaty, U.S.-Fr., art. 1, Apr. 23, 1996, S. Treaty Doc. No. 105-13 (2002). As such, despite Noreiga’s status as a prisoner of war, the treaty seemingly allows for his extradition to France.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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