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United States v. Alvarez-Machain


    Citation. United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655, 112 S. Ct. 2188, 119 L. Ed. 2d 441, 1992 U.S. LEXIS 3679, 60 U.S.L.W. 4523, 92 Cal. Daily Op. Service 5002, 92 Daily Journal DAR 7984, 6 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 390 (U.S. June 15, 1992)

    Brief Fact Summary. Alvarez-Machain (D) abducted from Mexico for trial in the U.S. (P) by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents, contended that his abduction was illegal because of an extradition treaty between the United States (P) and Mexico.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The presence of an extradition treaty between the United States and another country does not necessarily preclude obtaining a citizen of that nation through abduction.

    Facts. Agents of the DEA abducted Alvarez-Machain (D) from his office in Mexico because he was wanted in the U.S. (P) for alleged complicity in the torture-murder of a DEA agent. But by contending that his abduction violated a U.S.-Mexico extradition treaty, Alvarez (D) sought to dismiss the indictment. His prayer was granted by the district court and the indictment was dismissed. The court of appeals affirmed while the U.S. Supreme Court granted review.

    Issue. Does the presence of an extradition treaty between the United States and another country does not necessarily preclude obtaining a citizen of that nation through abduction?

    Held. (Rehnquist, C.J.) No. The presence of an extradition treaty between the United States and another country does not necessarily preclude obtaining a citizen of that nation through abduction. It has been established that abduction, in and of itself, does not invalidate prosecution against a foreign national. The only question to be answered is whether the abduction violates any extradition treaty that may be in effect between the U.S. (P) and the nation in which the abductee was to be found. The international law applies only to situations where no extradition treaty exists, so it is irrelevant here. Since the extradition treaty does not prohibit an abduction as it occurred in this case, then it is not illegal. Reversed.

    Dissent. (Stevens, J.). the majority opinion fails to distinguish between acts of private citizens, which do not violate any treaty obligations and conduct expressly authorized by the executive branch, which undoubtedly constitutes a fragrant violation of international law and a breach of the U.S. (P) treaty obligations.

    Discussion. Alvarez (D) lost this battle but won the war. In 1993, he was tried in Los Angeles. The trial judge Edward Rafeedie dismissed the case for lack of evidence at the close of the prosecution case. The judge used some harsh language in his order, apparently believing the case should never have been brought.


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