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International Law

: International Extradition Blog

Extradition from France to the United States - Hans Peterson

High-profile lawmakers have stepped in to aid in the extradition of Hans Peterson, the man accused of killing a Chicago area dermatologist Dr. David Cornbleet.[1] Illinois Senator and 2008 presidential hopeful Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and fellow Illinois senator David Durbin (D-Ill.) have joined forces in aiding efforts to return Peterson from the French territory of St. Martin.[2]

Peterson, an American-born son of a French woman, stands accused of fatally stabbing Dr. Cornbleet in his Chicago office on October 24, 2006.[3] Before investigators were able to identify Peterson as a suspect, he traveled to the island of St. Martin.[4] Upon his arrival, he obtained both recognition of his French citizenship and a French passport.[5] A warrant for Peterson?s arrest was issued in June of 2007, and he subsequently surrendered to French authorities in St. Martin in August.[6]

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs made a formal request for Peterson to be extradited back to the United States to stand trial for Cornbleet?s murder.[7] French officials have denied these requests, citing a 1927 French law that forbids extradition of suspects who face charges punishable by the death penalty.[8] The fact that the Cornbleet family has publicly stated that they would not object to prosecutors pressing charges not punishable by death has not swayed the French government?s position.[9]

Senators Obama and Durbin sent a request by letter to Chargé d'Affaires François Rivasseau at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C, urging the French government to assent to Peterson?s extradition; the senators' request was promptly denied.[10] Obama and Durbin also sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, urging the U.S. State Department to step in and publicly request Peterson?s extradition.[11] The State Department has yet to comment on the matter.

Obama and Durbin?s letter concedes that under the current extradition treaty between the two nations, extradition by a state of their own nationals is not obligated, but is left to the state?s discretion.[12] Further, U.S. prosecutors have stated that European Union treaties can allow for exceptions to the cited French extradition law.[13]

French officials remain adamant that French law will not permit extradition of Peterson.[14] Jean-Baptiste de Boissiere, the French consul general in Chicago, stated that ?[French] law provides very clearly that French nationals are not to be extradited . . . It's a law which doesn't give room for maneuvering.?[15] De Boissiere also claimed that discussions regarding EU treaties are irrelevant in light of the governing French law.[16]

De Boissiere also addressed the criticism that injustice would prevail should France, and not the U.S., prosecute Peterson.[17] "Let me make very, very clear that justice will be rendered and it is not because the trial would be in France and not in the U.S. that justice would not be rendered,? he said from his Chicago office.[18] ?[W]e are a country of very strong legal background. We don't joke with heinous crimes such as the one that has been committed, so justice will be rendered.?[19]

Extradition Agreement with France

Extradition of suspects between the United States and France is governed by treaty.[20] The nations are obligated to extradite persons whom the competent authorities in the Requesting State have charged with or found guilty of an extraditable offense.[21]

The treaty also states that there is no obligation upon the Requested State to grant the extradition of a person who is a national of the Requested State . . . the nationality of the person sought shall be the nationality of that person at the time the offense was committed.[22]

If extradition is refused solely on the basis of the nationality of the person sought, the Requested State shall, at the request of the Requesting State, submit the case to its authorities for prosecution.[23]

[1] Don Babwin, , Associated Press Newswire, August 24, 2007, available at available at LEXIS, News Library, Wire News Services File. [hereinafter AP]
[2] Senator Barack Obama's Office, [hereinafter Rivasseau Letter]
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Senator Barack Obama's Office, , Aug. 27, 2007. [hereinafter Kouchner Letter]
[8] Angela Rozas, , Chicago Tribune, Aug. 24, 2007.
[9] Id.
[10]Rivasseau Letter, supra note 2.
[11] Senator Barack Obama's Office, , Aug. 20, 2007.
[12]Kouchner Letter, supra note 7.
[13] Angela Rozas, , Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 2007.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Paul Meincke, , ABC News, Aug. 28, 2007.
[18] Id.
[19] Id.
[20], Treaty Doc 105-13, 1996 U.S.T. Lexis 53.
[21] Id.
[22] Id.
[23] Id.

Full post as published by International Extradition Blog on September 17, 2007 (boomark / email).

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