United States of America v Morales

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Date30 January 1979
United States District Court, Eastern District, New York

(Nickerson, District Judge)

United States

War and armed conflict Prisoners of war Entitlement to prisoner of war status Application of laws of armed conflict Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 1949 Whether applicable to situations arising within a State First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 Wars of national liberation Puerto Rico Whether Protocol I applicable Protocol I not binding on the United States Defendant not asserting membership of liberation movement

Relationship between international law and municipal law Treaties United States Constitution, Ninth Amendment Whether incorporating international laws of war into United States law Whether including rules contained in treaty to which the United States not a party First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 The law of the United States

Summary: The facts:The United States Government alleged that the trial of the defendant by the United States District Court should be deferred pending the outcome of proceedings in a State court arising out of the same incident. The defendant opposed this motion. He claimed, inter alia, that by virtue of his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico and his treatment by the United States authorities he was entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 1949, and the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, 1977.

Held:The defendant was not entitled to prisoner of war status. The Geneva Convention applied only to armed conflicts between two or more High Contracting Parties. The Additional Protocol had not been ratified by the United States and could not be regarded as forming part of United States law. Even if the Protocol had been in force for the United States, the defendant had not claimed to be a member of a liberation movement and his affirmation of a commitment to independence for Puerto Rico would not be sufficient to entitle him to treatment as a prisoner of war. Since, however, the defendant had indicated that he would change his plea if his claim to prisoner of war status was rejected, it was unnecessary to consider the Government's motion for deferral.

The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court. District Judge Nickerson set out the procedural background to the case and continued:

In addition, defendant has...

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