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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Supreme Court Won’t Halt Noriega Extradition

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the extradition appeal of former Panamanian military ruler Manuel Noriega, despite a two-justice dissent arguing that the case should be used to clarify the authority given courts to review detainees' petitions for release.

A prisoner of war, Noriega had asked the high court to block his extradition to France on money-laundering charges. He had been convicted in U.S. courts of drug conspiracy and racketeering, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was scheduled for parole on Sept. 9, 2007, but the French government asked the United States to send him there, instead.

Noriega fought his extradition, invoking a provision of the Geneva Convention requiring immediate repatriation at the end of his prison term.

The 11th Circuit ruled that his claim was precluded by the Military Commission Act of 2006, which, according to the government, "codified the principle that the Geneva Conventions [are] not judicially enforceable by private parties."

The justices declined to review the case, though Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia argued that Noriega's case should be used to clarify Boumediene v. Bush, the ruling that gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detentions.

"It is incumbent upon us to provide what guidance we can on these issues now," Thomas wrote. "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."

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