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Eleventh Circuit upholds Noriega extradition to France

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [text, PDF] Wednesday a lower court decision denying the habeas corpus petition of former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] and authorizing his extradition to France. The court held that Noriega was precluded from invoking the Geneva Convention [text] as a source of rights in a habeas proceeding by § 5 of the Military Commission Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF]. Noriega alleged that although he could not use the Convention as a source of rights for purposes of a judicial proceeding, the Convention was not abrogated in its entirety, and sought to enforce the provision requiring his repatriation at the end of his confinement against the Secretary of State, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Justice. The court reasoned:

Accordingly, the plain language of § 5 of the MCA, which is clearly supported by its legislative history, precludes Noriega’s Geneva Convention claims. As the Geneva Convention is Noriega’s only substantive basis for relief he has failed to state a claim upon which habeas relief could be granted.
The court concluded that even if Noriega's claim were not precluded, the extradition would not violate his rights under the Convention, and reasoned that courts were not meant to review the political determinations of the US Department of State (DOS) [official website]. Noriega's lawyers have said that they will continue to appeal [AP report] the extradition determination.

Noriega was challenging a district court's August 2007 ruling [JURIST report] that allows him to be extradited to France. He is wanted in France on charges of money laundering through French banks. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail in 1999, but France has agreed to hold a new trial if he is extradited. Noriega has made multiple attempts to block his extradition. In addition to a January 2008 ruling [JURIST report] by US District Court Judge Paul Huck, another federal judge in September 2007 rejected [JURIST report] Noriega's arguments to block extradition. The DOS has indicated that it is satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega is extradited to that country.

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