A May 26 Post editorial pointed out that at least $11 million of Manuel Noriega's frozen assets represent legitimate wages for his service to the United States and should, therefore, be available to pay his attorneys. I would go further and say that all of his funds should be available to him.
Manuel Noriega is a prisoner of war. Under the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949, the U.S. government is forbidden to take any personal property of a prisoner of war other than his horse, his weapons and his military papers. The government can hold cash in excess of the amounts a prisoner may have on his person, but Gen. Noriega does not want cash to carry on his person, he wants to pay his attorneys.
It is irrelevant that these funds may be the fruits of drug dealing. The authority to seize personal property is conferred by statute, but the prohibition is imposed by treaty, which is the supreme law of the land. These treaties contain no escape clause allowing seizure in certain cases; they simply forbid seizure. The continued freeze on Gen. Noriega's assets is an act of international churlishness with no basis in law.
I have no affection for Manuel Noriega, but the rights of prisoners of war were agreed upon to protect those for whom a detaining power may have no affection. I was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and was denied the protection of the Hague and the Geneva conventions. Lacking that protection, a number of my comrades died, and many more were crippled for life. I note with bitter irony that the country to which we remained loyal throughout this ordeal now shows contempt for the treaties whose protection we were denied. JAMES WARNER Silver Spring