Durbin, Obama Call on State Department to Publicly Ask France to Follow American Example of Cooperation on Noriega's Extradition and Extradite Hans Peterson Immediately
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to consider, in light of the State Department's support for France's extradition request for Manuel Noriega, to publicly request that the Government of France extradite Hans Peterson, an American citizen who reportedly confessed to the 2006 murder of Dr. David Cornbleet in Chicago.
In today's letter, the Senators note that: "The State Department has publicly expressed support for France's request for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to be extradited from the United States to France to face money laundering charges. While there are certainly compelling reasons for Noriega to face justice in France, there are also compelling reasons for Hans Peterson to face justice in the United States. We therefore ask that the State Department immediately make a direct appeal to the Government of France to extradite Hans Peterson to face charges in Cook County, Illinois for the murder of Dr. Cornbleet."
Earlier this month, Peterson turned himself in to French authorities in St. Martin and reportedly confessed to the brutal murder of Dr. Cornbleet, a Chicago dermatologist. Peterson is currently in French custody in Guadeloupe. According to reports, Peterson, whose mother is French, fled to French territory after committing the murder in an effort to avoid criminal prosecution in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs has issued a formal request to the Government of France for Peterson's extradition.
On August 23, France announced its decision not to extradite Peterson. While the extradition treaty between the United States and France says that there is "no obligation upon the requested state to grant the extradition of a person who is a national of the requested state," this treaty does not preclude France from exercising its discretion to extradite one of its nationals to the U.S.
Last week, Durbin met with the newly appointed French Ambassador, Pierre Vimont, and the French Chargé d'Affaires, François Rivasseau, to urge France to reconsider its decision not to extradite Hans Peterson. On August 27, Durbin and Senator Obama sent a letter to the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, urging France to reconsider its decision.
On August 20, Durbin and Obama sent a letter to Chargé d'Affaires Rivasseau at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, urging the Government of France to agree to the United States' request for Peterson's extradition to face criminal prosecution for Dr. Cornbleet's murder. The Illinois Senators also sent a letter on August 20 to Secretary of State Rice, requesting that she immediately urge her French counterparts to examine the extradition request and to advise the U.S. Embassy in Paris of the importance of this case.
Text of the letter is below and attached:
September 11, 2007
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
We write to seek your urgent assistance with regard to the pending extradition request in the case of murdered Illinois doctor David Cornbleet. This letter follows up on our letter to you of August 20, to which we have not yet received a response. In light of the time- sensitive nature of this matter, we request that you respond to this letter as soon as possible and no later than one week from today.
Dr. Cornbleet, a respected and beloved doctor from Chicago, was brutally stabbed to death on October 24, 2006. In August 2007, Hans Peterson, an American citizen with dual French nationality, turned himself in to French authorities in the French West Indies and confessed to Dr. Cornbleet's murder. Peterson is currently in French custody in Guadeloupe. The United States Department of Justice Office of International Affairs has issued a formal request to the Government of France for the extradition of Peterson to face criminal prosecution for Dr. Cornbleet's murder, and we have contacted you and the French government to express our strong support for that request. However, the French government has said that France will not extradite Peterson, and that Peterson will be tried under the French justice system.
We note that the State Department has publicly expressed support for France's request for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to be extradited from the United States to France to face money laundering charges. While there are certainly compelling reasons for Noriega to face justice in France, there are also compelling reasons for Hans Peterson to face justice in the United States. We therefore ask that the State Department immediately make a direct appeal to the Government of France to extradite Hans Peterson to face charges in Cook County, Illinois for the murder of Dr. Cornbleet.
We believe the specific facts of this case justify Peterson's extradition to the United States. Dr. Cornbleet's murder was unspeakable in its brutality, and Dr. Cornbleet's family, the people of Illinois, and the United States criminal justice system have a strong and compelling interest in seeing Dr. Cornbleet's confessed murderer face trial in the United States. Hans Peterson was born in Oregon in 1978, and for the first 28 years of his life he lived in the United States and availed himself of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship. Only after allegedly committing a heinous crime did Peterson flee the United States for French territory and seek the rights and privileges of French nationality in an attempt to escape criminal prosecution in the United States. There is legitimate concern that Peterson, if found guilty of murder in France, would serve a lesser sentence than he might be expected to serve if tried and convicted in the United States.
The French ambassador has verbally indicated to us that Peterson cannot be extradited because French law prohibits the extradition of its nationals. However, Article 3 of the recent Extradition Treaty between the United States and France does not preclude France from extraditing one of its nationals to the United States. Moreover, the Extradition Treaty between the United States and France states that it was concluded in order "to provide for more effective cooperation between the two States in the suppression of crime and to facilitate relations between the two States in the area of extradition ". That cooperation appears imminent in the case of Manuel Noriega, and would also be appropriate in the case of Hans Peterson. We have asked the Government of France to provide us with a written analysis reconciling its legal position with the plain language of the Extradition Treaty. To date, we have not received that written analysis.
To the extent the Government of France has any discretion available under French law and international treaties to extradite Hans Peterson to the United States, we ask that the Government of the United States, through the State Department, urge the French government to exercise that discretion in favor of extradition.
We thank you in advance for the consideration of this request, and we again request that you reply to this letter as soon as possible, and in no case later than September 18.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
United States Senator