19 August 2013

Liberia: Can a Dual Citizenship Holder Be Extradited Under 1937 U.S-Liberia Treaty?


The court of public opinion appears to be divided over the Corruption Scandal at the Airport. One opinion wants the accused to face justice, while the other opinion blames the scandal on the dual citizenship status of the accused, and calls on lawmakers to oppose the dual citizenship bill submitted to the legislature. This article seeks to address the opinion on dual citizenship.

Definitions of Bilateral Extradition Treaty and Dual Citizenship

The term "bilateral extradition treaty" refers to an agreement signed by two states for the surrender of a person, who commits a punishable crime in any of the signatory states. For a treaty to become an enforceable, it must be ratified by the two states. On the other hand, the term "dual citizenship" is the simultaneous possession of two-state citizenships by one person.

Can a dual citizenship holder be extradited under the 1937 U.S. Liberia Treaty?

Can a dual citizenship holder be extradited under the 1937 U.S.-Liberia Bilateral Extradition Treaty? Yes, he can. But in order to better understand the process, the following critical terms and issues need to be clarified.

First, the term "U.S-Liberia Bilateral Extradition Treaty as used herein refers to the Extradition Treaty signed on November 1, 1937 by the United States and Liberia, which came into force on November 21, 1939. On November 1939, Liberia ratified the treaty, whereas on August 30, 1939, United States ratified the treaty. On November 30, 1939, the U. S. President proclaimed the treaty into law.

Second, the recent official position statements by Liberia and the United States confirmed that the 1937 extradition treaty is still in force. In the 2005 extradition case in Liberia, Ohio State vs. Melee & Bailey, the Supreme Court of Liberia, ruled that the 1937 Bilateral Extraction Treaty was still in force. On January 1, 2012, the United States also published an official list of current treaties in force with other states, including Liberia. In other words, as of January 1, 2012, the 1937 extradition treaty is still in force under U. S and Liberian Laws.

Third, the term "dual citizenship holder" as used herein refers to a person holding a Liberian citizenship (by birth or naturalization) and also holding a U. S. citizenship (by birth or naturalization). However, under the current treaty, there is no such term as "dual citizenship holder". Instead, the Treaty refers to such person as a "fugitive from justice" subject to be surrendered to the signatory state where the crime was committed (emphasis added).

However, in order to address the specific question on whether a U. S citizen (by birth or naturalization) can be extradited under the 1937 U.S-Liberia Extradition Treaty, we extended our fact-finding research into the current U. S. Laws and here are the credible, material facts that we uncovered.

We found that prior to 1990, U.S Laws strictly prohibited the extradition of its own citizens to a foreign country. This U.S citizen exclusion policy began with the 1908 Treaty with Portugal and officially confirmed in the 1936 case, Valentine vs. United States. However, under Section 11 of the International Narcotics Act signed into law on November 21, 1990, the United States abandoned this exclusion policy and inserted a clause in the 1990 Act for the extradition of its own citizens to any foreign country (including Liberia) with or without a treaty.

The 1990 Act was codified at Title 18 USC, Section 3196, which, as of January 4, 2012 remains the basic source of law in regulating U. S. extradition Treaties with over 100 countries. Section 3196, Chapter 209, provides that:

" If the applicable treaty or convention does not obligate the United States to extradite its citizens to a foreign country, the Secretary of State, may, nevertheless order the surrender to that country of a United States citizen whose extradition has been requested by that country, if the other requirements of that treaty or convention are met."

On November 21, 2011, a California Court used Title 18 USC, Sec. 3196 Law to extradite two U. S. citizens to Mexico in order to face murder trial.

Requirements for U. S citizens Extradition to a foreign Country

Under the current U. S. extradition practice, the basic requirements, inter alia, that a foreign country must meet in order to receive an accused U. S. citizen for prosecution are as follows.

First, the alleged crime committed by the U. S. citizen must be listed under the extraditable crimes stipulated in the bilateral treaty. Second, the requesting state must provide credible evidence to indicate that the statute of limitation for the alleged crime has not expired. Third, the requesting state must also provide credible evidence that the allegation is not politically motivated to punish the accused person. And fourth, the United States is a state party to the UN Convention against human torture and cruelty.

As such, the requesting state must have excellent or good human rights record in order to convince the United States that the accused U. S. citizen will be guaranteed his fundamental due process rights not only to be represented by an attorney of his choice but also to be given a fair hearing without torture.

Controversy over Ellen Corkrum's Extradition to Liberia

We understand Ellen Corkrum, one of the accused in the Airport corruption scandal, is a dual citizenship holder and it is claimed she is a Major in the U.S Armed Forces. However, the following information is missing from her profile.

First, we do not know whether she was on active duty at the time she was in Liberia. Second, we equally do not know whether she was on an authorized long-term leave of absence or separation without pay while she was a Managing Director in Liberia?

We are asking these questions because under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), it is a conflict of interest to be in active service as a Major (getting active duty pay) and at the same time works in a civilian capacity overseas occupying a civilian job in a foreign government for so long a period. In the military society, it is only possible to do so by means of separation or authorized leave without pay. It is also possible if a service member retires from active duty and enrolls in the reserve to be recalled in the event of crisis.

However, whatever may be Ellen's military status while in Liberia, it is necessary to clarify that on August 14, 1984, as well as on January 22, 1985 and on June 18, 2007, the U. S. Department of Defense and the U. S. Department of Justice signed a Memorandum of Understanding, granting authority to the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute punishable crimes committed outside the military installations by active and former U. S service members. The crimes listed in this MOU include but not limited to bribery and conflict of interest allegations grouped under the term "corruption offenses."

The MOU also contains a provision that if a punishable crime is committed on a military installation by an active duty-service member, that person is to be tried under the relevant provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Therefore, if Ellen was not in active service (but a former service member) at the time she was a Managing Director, and if the alleged crime was committed in a foreign country way outside a U. S. military installation, then her alleged crime case falls within the civilian jurisdiction of the Department of Justice responsible (in collaboration with the U. S. Department of State) to conduct extradition hearing for U. S citizens and other foreign nationals. However, if Ellen was on active duty while in Liberia, the Department of Justice will determine the appropriate course of actions following the extradition hearing.

On this final note, we hope we have provided sufficient information and clarifications required for our readers and lawmakers in Liberia to conclude that dual citizenship plays no role in the current corruption scandal at the Liberian Airport. The Airport scandal is part and parcel of the age-old blue-collar crime of opportunity. We also hope we have provided the appropriate answer to the question on whether or not a dual citizenship holder or a U. S citizen can be extradited under the 1937 Extradition Treaty.

(Arthur B. Dennis lives in New Jersey where he can be reached at 609-328-5260 or at

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