Supreme Court declines to hear Noriega extradition appeal

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)

See our last posts on Panama and the detainment scandals

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  1. French court allows Noriega extradition to Panama
    A French appeals court ruled Nov. 23 that former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega can be extradited to Panama. Noriega faces charges of human rights violations in Panama for crimes allegedly committed during his 1981-1989 rule. He was already convicted on three counts of human rights violations in absentia, and each count carries a 20-year prison sentence. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Panamanian authorities have been seeking Noriega’s extradition to face charges of human rights violations in Panama since April 2010. French authorities ordered his extradition earlier this year, but it has been held up in court. It is unclear when French Prime Minister Francois Fillon will sign the extradition order.

    A French criminal court sentenced Noriega to seven years in jail for money laundering in July 2010. He was convicted of laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. In April 2010, Noriega was extradited from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges, after fighting extradition since 2007. The US Supreme Court declined to reconsider Noriega’s petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February 2010 after the Supreme Court denied certiorari on the case a month earlier. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, sought to enforce a provision of the Geneva Convention that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited. (Jurist, Nov. 23)