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U.S. ex rel. Saroop v. Garcia

March 21, 1997

U.S.A. EX REL: LOLITA SAROOP

v.

JESUS A. GARCIA

LOLITA SAROOP,

APPELLANT



On Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands

Division of St. Croix (D.C. Civil Action No. 96-cv-00006)

Before: SCIRICA, NYGAARD and McKEE, Circuit Judges

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

Argued December 13, 1996

Filed March 21, 1997

OPINION OF THE COURT

The issue on appeal in this habeas corpus case is the validity of the extradition treaty between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago. The district court found there was a valid treaty permitting extradition. We will affirm.

I.

In 1991, Lolita Saroop, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, was indicted in the United States Virgin Islands for drug trafficking and conspiracy. *fn1 She was charged with supplying and packaging illegal drugs for a conspiracy based in St. Croix and profiting from their sale. *fn2

Citing a 1931 treaty between the United States and Great Britain, the United States sought her extradition. *fn3 Saroop claimed the 1931 United States-Great Britain treaty was never ratified by the independent nation of Trinidad and Tobago. An invalid treaty, she argued, could not support her extradition. But the Trinidad and Tobago courts found the treaty valid and refused to quash the extradition arrest warrant. In 1995, the government of Trinidad and Tobago surrendered Saroop to the United States Marshal for transfer to St. Croix.

While awaiting trial in the United States Virgin Islands, Saroop filed a petition in absentia with the Privy Council for leave to appeal from the judgment of the High Court of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago. The Privy Council is the court of last resort in the British Commonwealth of which Trinidad and Tobago is a participating member. This legal structure survived Trinidad and Tobago's independence from Great Britain. The Privy Council denied her petition without a hearing.

In 1996, Saroop filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. Section(s) 2255 in the District Court for the Virgin Islands raising the same argument rejected by Trinidad and Tobago -- that her extradition was unlawful because there was no valid extradition treaty. Finding a valid treaty between the two nations, the district court denied her petition. This appeal followed. *fn4

II.

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section(s) 1291. We review legal conclusions on a plenary basis and factual findings for clear error. Yohn v. Love, 76 F.3d 508, 515 (3d Cir. 1996); United States ex rel. Schiano v. Luther, 954 F.2d 910, 911 (3d Cir. 1992). Interpretations of foreign law are subject to plenary review and may be resolved by reference to any relevant information. Grupo Protexa S.A. v. All American Marine Slip, a Div. of Marine Office of America Corp., 20 F.3d 1224, 1239 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 481 (1994); Kilbarr Corp. v. Business Sys. Inc., B.V., 990 F.2d 83, 87-88 (3d Cir. 1993); Mobile Marine Sales, Ltd. v. M/V Prodromos, 776 F.2d 85, 89 (3d Cir. 1985); Fed. R. Civ. P. 44.1.

III.

Because treaties are agreements between nations, individuals ordinarily may not challenge treaty interpretations in the absence of an express provision within the treaty or an action brought by a signatory nation. Although the district court found Saroop had standing, the government contends only Trinidad and Tobago had standing to sue. *fn5 See United States v. Riviere, 924 F.2d 1289, 1298-1301 (3d Cir. 1991) ("Dominica has exercised its power to surrender Riviere as a matter of comity for charges not listed in the extradition order; Riviere has no basis for objection to its actions."); Matta-Ballesteros v. Henman, 896 F.2d 255, 259 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 878 (1990) ("Treaties are designed to protect the sovereign interest of nations, and it is up to the offended nations to determine whether a violation of sovereign interests has occurred and requires redress"); United States v. Diwan, 864 F.2d 715, 721 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 492 U.S. 921 (1989); United States v. Najohn, 785 F.2d 1420, 1422 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1009 (1986).

Had Saroop brought suit invoking the treaty or the Rule of Specialty, she would lack standing. *fn6 United States v. Riviere, 924 F.2d 1289, 1300-1301 (3d Cir. 1991); Matta-Ballesteros v. Henman, 896 F.2d 255, 259 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 878 (1990) ("It is well established that individuals have no standing to challenge violations of international treaties in the absence of a protest by the sovereigns involved."); United States v. Cordero, 668 F.2d 32, 37 (1st Cir. ...


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