For Immediate Release
June 14, 2007
Susan Lehman, 212–998–6318
Jonathan Hafetz, 212–998–6289
Aziz Huq, 212–992–8632
Brennan Center Seeks Supreme Court Review of Unchecked Detention of an American Citizen
NEW YORK, NY—Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision dismissing the habeas corpus action of Mohammad Munaf, an American citizen facing execution in Iraq. The Brennan Center’s petition argues that the lower court’s decision in Munaf v. Geren creates a dangerous precedent because it allows American citizens to be detained and delivered to another country for execution without judicial review by a U.S. court.
Mr. Munaf was arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq more than two years ago while he was working as a translator for Romanian journalists. In October 2006, he was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi court under dubious circumstances. As an American citizen, Mr. Munaf has a constitutional right to habeas corpus review of his detention and threatened transfer to Iraq.
But in a divided decision, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled it did not have the power to hear his case. The court pointed to the facts that Mr. Munaf has been convicted by a foreign tribunal and that the U.S. is acting as part of an international coalition in Iraq to justify its decision. But the appeals court emphasized that Mr. Munaf’s case raised pressing questions of national importance requiring the Supreme Court’s intervention.
“It has long been settled precedent that American citizens are entitled to habeas corpus when detained by his own government,” said Jonathan Hafetz, who directs litigation for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Project. “The appeals court decision throws that venerable precedent into doubt. The Supreme Court should review its decision and restore the rights of American citizens.”
The Brennan Center is seeking Supreme Court review to vindicate the fundamental right of all American citizens to judicial review, due process, and the rule of law. Earlier this week, the Brennan Center won a landmark ruling in al-Marri v. Wright that held that a legal resident alien in the U.S. was entitled to habeas rights and could not be detained indefinitely, without charge.
In February 2007, the Brennan Center won a landmark victory in Omar v. Harvey, a related case involving another American citizen detained by the United States in Iraq. There, a different panel of the D.C. court of appeals ruled that the petitioner’s detention was subject to judicial review by habeas corpus.
“The Circuit Court’s ruling is dangerous because it allows the government to circumvent the rule of law,” said Aziz Huq who directs the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Project, “And the Supreme Court needs to step in to make clear that there are no ‘black holes’ as far as citizens’ rights are concerned.”
Joseph Margulies of the MacArthur Justice Center, Eric M. Freedman of Hofstra Law School, Susan L. Burke and Katherine Hawkins of Burke, O’Neil, LLC, and Vincent Moccio and Amy Magid of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., are co-counsel with the Brennan Center on the case. Mr. Margulies argued the Munaf case in the court of appeals and is counsel of record before the Supreme Court.
The Brennan Center’s petition to the Supreme Court is available here.
The Liberty and National Security Project of the Brennan Center works to ensure accountability, transparency, and checks and balances in the formulation and implementation of national security policy. It is founded on the belief that these are vital for individual liberties and an effective and sustainable counter-terrorism strategy.