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Media Alerts - Nezirovic v. Holt -- Fourth Circuit
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April 8, 2015
  Nezirovic v. Holt -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: War Refugee Can't Escape International Prosecution Through Habeas Corpus

Area of Law: International Law, Habeas Corpus, Extradition

Issue Presented: Is Nezirovic's extradition time-barred or precluded by the political offense exception under the Treaty for the Mutual Extradition of Fugitives from Justice?

Brief Summary: Almaz Nezirovic came to the United States in 1997 as a war refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2012, Bosnian authorities requested his extradition to answer allegations of inhumane treatment and torture against civilians during the Bosnian War. A magistrate judge conducted an extradition proceeding and found there was sufficient evidence a crime had been committed and therefore Nezirovic should be extradited under the Treaty between the United States and Serbia for the Mutual Extradition of Fugitives from Justice ("the Treaty"). Nezirovic's petition for a writ of habeas corpus was denied and he appealed two issues to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

First, Nezirovic argued the Treaty prohibits extradition for offenses that would be time-barred by the statute of limitations applied to the equivalent U.S. law. Nezirovic argued that since the alleged crimes were committed two years before the Torture Act was enacted, the most analogous U.S. law would be assault. Since the statute of limitations for assault is only five years, Nezirovic argued that his extradition was time-barred. The court rejected his claim, finding that the law applied is the most analogous law at the time the extradition claim is made, not the law in effect at the time the offense occurred. The court also stated Ex Post Facto principles were not violated because U.S. constitutional protections do not apply to international prosecutions. The Torture Act has an indefinite limitation and thus the extradition was proper.

Nezirovic next argued that his actions were "political offenses" that are exempt from extradition under the Treaty. The Fourth Circuit considered whether Nezirovic's actions were "relative" political offenses incidental to or in furtherance of a violent uprising. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Fourth Circuit found that Nezirovic's actions were not political offenses because his alleged victims were civilians.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to deny Nezirovic's extradition challenge.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: Before TRAXLER, Chief Judge, and KEENAN and THACKER, Circuit Judges.

Argument Date: December 10, 2014

Date of Issued Opinion: February 25, 2015

Docket Number: No. 14-6468

Decided: Affirmed by published opinion.

Case Alert Author: Michele Hayes, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Andrew Wagner Childress, PAFFORD, LAWRENCE & CHILDRESS, PLLC, Lynchburg, Virginia, for Appellant. Elizabeth G. Wright, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Harrisonburg, Virginia, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: Timothy J. Heaphy, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellees

Author of Opinion: Judge Keenan

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/08/2015 07:39 PM     4th Circuit  

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