Senators’ letter to French government

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Following is the text of a letter from Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urging the extradition of Hans Peterson in the 2006 murder of David Cornbleet:

August 24, 2007

The Honorable M. Bernard Kouchner
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F - 75351 PARIS

Dear Mr. Minister:

Congratulations on your appointment as Foreign Minister. You have had an impressive career pre-dating this assignment, and your strong efforts have continued in your first months in this new position.

We are writing in relation to an issue of great importance to Americans in my state of Illinois and of intense personal interest to us: the criminal investigation into the murder of Dr. David Cornbleet. Dr. Cornbleet, an American citizen in Chicago, Illinois, was brutally stabbed to death on October 24, 2006. It is our understanding that Mr. Hans Peterson, also an American citizen, has confessed to the murder of Dr. Cornbleet, and is currently in the custody of French authorities in Guadeloupe. The United States Department of Justice Office of International Affairs has issued a formal request to the Government of France for the extradition of Hans Peterson to face criminal prosecution for Dr. Cornbleet’s murder.

We wrote earlier this week to the French Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, François Rivasseau, underscoring our strong support for this extradition request. However, we learned from a letter from the Ministry of Justice to the U.S. Department of Justice on August 22, as well as from a response to our letter that we received today from Chargé d’Affaires Rivasseau, that the Ministry of Justice considers the American-born, U.S. citizen Peterson to also be a French national and that the extradition request has been denied. These communications — which cite Article 3 of the Extradition Treaty between the United States and France as the primary basis for the decision not to extradite — are a blow to the Cornbleet family and to all Illinoisans.

Article 3 of the Extradition Treaty between the United States and France provides in pertinent part that “There is no obligation upon the Requested State to grant the extradition of a person who is a national of the Requested State”. While this Article does not require the extradition of a national to a requesting state, it also does not appear to preclude extradition. To the extent there is discretion available in such extradition decisions, we urge the French government to exercise that discretion in favor of extradition.

We believe the specific facts of this case justify Mr. Peterson’s extradition. As you may know, after Dr. Cornbleet’s death, Mr. Peterson traveled to St. Martin in the French West Indies. In May 2007, Mr. Peterson sought and obtained a French passport after Mr. Peterson’s American former roommates contacted the Chicago Police Department to report their suspicions that Peterson was involved in Dr. Cornbleet’s murder. In June 2007, the State’s Attorney’s Office in Cook County, Illinois, confirmed that Mr. Peterson’s DNA was found at the crime scene and issued a warrant for Mr. Peterson’s arrest. In August 2007, Mr. Peterson turned himself in to French authorities in St. Martin and allegedly confessed to murdering Dr. Cornbleet.

After apparently living his entire life in the United States and under the protection of U.S. laws, it appears that Mr. Peterson committed a heinous crime, fled the United States for French territory, and then asserted a claim to French citizenship in an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution in the United States. Dr. Cornbleet’s family, the people of Illinois, and the United States criminal justice system have a strong and compelling interest in seeing Mr. Peterson face trial in the United States. We strongly urge the Government of France to reconsider its decision to deny the extradition request for Mr. Peterson and to allow him to face charges in the nation where the crime he confessed to was committed.

We ask you for the favor of a swift response.


Barack Obama
U.S. Senator

Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator