The French Justice Ministry on Thursday denied a request from former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to be treated as a prisoner of war (POW). Noriega currently awaits trial in France on money laundering charges. Justice Ministry spokesperson Guillaume Didier said that Noriega will not be treated as a POW [AFP report] because the charges are based on breaches of common law not related to military service. Being treated as a POW would entitle Noriega to special treatment under the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder], but Guillaume says conditions of French prisons are consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions regardless. Noriega was already sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but under French law is entitled to a new trial.
Earlier this week, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said that his government will seek the Noriega's extradition [JURIST report] to face charges of human rights violations in Panama. Also this week, a French judge ruled that Noriega must remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. He had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. The US State Department had indicated that it was satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega was extradited to that country.