[JURIST] Lawyers for former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] filed a petition [text, PDF] with the US Supreme Court [official website] Friday seeking to block his extradition to France. Noriega is relying on the dissenting opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in the court's January decision to deny certiorari in Noriega's appeal of a lower court's decision allowing extradition [JURIST reports]. Noriega argues that hearing his case would enable the Supreme Court to clarify the law after Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which granted federal courts the power to review habeas petitions brought by "enemy combatants." He also contends that a ruling in this case could resolve confusion as to whether § 5 of the Military Commission Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF] constitutes a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and whether it precludes prisoners such as Noriega from bringing claims under the Geneva Conventions [materials]. The petition argues that without clarification, "district courts considering as many as 200 habeas petitions will be forced to determine factual questions under a fog of uncertain constitutional jurisprudence," and that, unless the Court resolves the confusion, "the innocent and the guilty alike will continue to be denied meaningful review of both the conditions of their confinement and the length of their detention."
The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] Noriega's extradition in April, ruling he could not bring a claim to enforce rights under the Geneva Conventions because he was precluded by the MCA. Noriega was challenging a district court's August 2007 ruling that allowed his extradition [JURIST report] to France, where he is wanted 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 rejected [JURIST report] Noriega's arguments to block extradition in September 2007. The US State Department has indicated that it is satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega is extradited to that country.