For Immediate Release
Monday, June 26, 2006
Aziz Huq, 212 992–8632
Kafayat Alli-Balogun, 212 998–6735
Brennan Center Files Brief Rebuffing Claim to Unilateral Detention Authority
NEW YORK, NY– The U.S. Government has made the unprecedented claim that it can hold a U.S. citizen virtually incommunicado and then hand him over to potential torture. A brief filed last Friday by lawyers for a U.S. citizen detained in Iraq for more than nineteen months decisively responds to this extraordinary claim of unchecked executive power.
The brief was filed by Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, with co-counsel Burke Pyle LLC and the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, in the federal court of appeals in Washington, D.C., in a case called Omar v. Harvey. The Brennan Center and co-counsel represent a U.S. citizen, Mr. Shawqi Omar, who has been detained indefinitely and threatened with transfer to torture. The government has taken the position that courts have no power to assess the detentions legality when the U.S. claims to act under a United Nations banner.
This is a case about the rule of law, and the courts ability to ensure that the government remains within the rule of law when it acts against the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, explained Aziz Huq, a lawyer at the Brennan Center.
In October, 2004, American forces raided Mr. Shawqi Omars house in Baghdad. Soldiers beat Mr. Omar in front of his ten year old son before taking him into custody. Since then, Mr. Omar has been held in a series of American military detention centers in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib prison. The Government has not charged Mr. Omar with any crime or given him lawful process.
On December 12, 2005, the Brennan Center and co-counsel filed a habeas corpus petition in the D.C. District Court, demanding that the government to provide legal justification for Mr. Omars year-plus detention.
In February, 2006, the Brennan Center learned from the Department of Justice that the government was considering handing Mr. Omar over to Iraqi authorities, and sought a temporary injunction to prevent what would almost certainly be a transfer to torture. After extensive briefing, the District Court granted a preliminary injunction preventing any hand-over. This is the order the government now appeals.
The reply brief filed today replies to the arguments made by the government for resisting judicial review specifically that federal officials do not have to respect constitutional rights if they act under U.N. colors. The Brennan Center points to a long history of Supreme Court cases in which courts have done exactly that. These cases show that international entanglements provide no back door to Constitution.