The US Supreme Court Jan. 25 declined to hear an appeal by former Panamanian military ruler Manuel Noriega challenging a lower court ruling denying his habeas corpus petition and authorizing his extradition to France on money laundering charges. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, invoked a provision of the Geneva Convention that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. In an April decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that his claim was precluded by the Military Commission Act of 2006, which the government argued “codifie[d] the principle that the Geneva Conventions [a]re not judicially enforceable by private parties.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented from the denial of certiorari, arguing that the Court should use the opportunity to resolve confusion over its decision in Boumediene v. Bush granting federal courts the power to review habeas petitions brought by “enemy combatants.”
It is incumbent upon us to provide what guidance we can on these issues now. Whatever conclusion we reach, our opinion will help the political branches and the courts discharge their responsibilities over detainee cases, and will spare detainees and the Government years of unnecessary litigation.
They said that Noriega’s case presented a unique opportunity to address the constitutional question regarding the Suspension Clause without the complications of dealing with classified evidence or “issues relating to extraterritorial detention.” (Jurist, Jan. 25)