Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his government will seek the extradition of former military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], currently being held in France on money laundering charges. Noriega faces charges of human rights violations in Panama for crimes allegedly committed during his 1981-1989 rule. He was convicted on three counts of human rights violations in absentia, and each count carries a 20-year prison sentence. Panama's Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Juan Carlos Varela [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his office will write to the judicial branch [AFP report], which must make the extradition request.
Earlier 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. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, sought to enforce a provision of the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder] that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.