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Geren v. Omar and Munaf v. Geren

The Brennan Center represents two United States citizens, Shawqi Omar and Mohammad Munaf, who have been detained by the United States in Iraq for more than two years, and whose cases were heard in the Supreme Court in March 2008. On June 12, 2008, the Supreme Court issued its decision in this case. We have filed a Petition for Rehearing with the Court, and are awaiting its decision.

Published: April 15, 2008

The Bren­nan Center repres­ents two United States citizens, Shawqi Omar and Mohammad Munaf, who have been detained by the United States in Iraq for more than three-plus and two-plus years respect­ively. The govern­ment refused to justify their deten­tions in federal court—and argued instead that it has unfettered power to hold them.


Ques­tion Posed – Can the govern­ment detain its own citizens and avoid all judi­cial review simply by donning a blue helmet?

Proced­ural History – On June 12, 2008, the Supreme Court issued its decision in this case, and on July 7, 2008, we filed a Peti­tion for Rehear­ing in the Supreme Court.  Oral argu­ments for both Mr. Omar and Mr. Munaf’s cases were argued before the Court on March 25, 2008.


Addi­tion Detail – Mr. Omar was seized in Octo­ber 2004 while living in Iraq, where he had moved to find work as a contract worker in construc­tion.  He has since been held in Abu Ghraib and other U.S. deten­tion facil­it­ies.  While he is still being held by Amer­ican milit­ary person­nel in Iraq, the U.S. govern­ment has said it wishes to trans­fer Mr. Omar over to Iraqi author­it­ies to be tried in the Cent­ral Crim­inal Court of Iraq (CCC-I). 

In mid-March 2005, Mr. Munaf was work­ing as a trans­lator for three Romanian journ­al­ists in Iraq.  During the trip, both Mr. Munaf and the three journ­al­ists were kidnapped by a group identi­fy­ing them­selves as the “Muadh Ibn Jabal Brigade.”  Imme­di­ately upon their release a few months later, Mr. Munaf was seized by U.S. milit­ary officers in Iraq and trans­ferred to Camp Crop­per, a U.S. prison in Bagh­dad, where he has since been held.  As the habeas peti­tion on his behalf was being filed, Mr. Munaf was brought by U.S. author­it­ies before an Iraqi court, where he was rapidly convicted and sentenced to death.    

The Bren­nan Center filed habeas corpus peti­tions on behalf of both Mr. Omar and Mr. Munaf in the District Court for the District of Columbia.  In response to the peti­tions, the govern­ment has taken the posi­tion that the U.S. govern­ment does not need to answer for its deten­tion of a U.S. citizen if it can point to a multina­tional actor – in this case, the Multina­tional Force in Iraq – for that deten­tion oper­a­tion. 

In Omar v. Harvey, the District Court and the Court of Appeals rejec­ted the Govern­ment’s argu­ment that there is a ‘blue helmet’ excep­tion to judi­cial review of a U.S. citizen’s exec­ut­ive deten­tion. The District Court gran­ted a prelim­in­ary injunc­tion barring Mr. Omar’s trans­fer to Iraqi author­it­ies in Febru­ary 2006, which was gran­ted and upheld by the Circuit Court. In the fall of 2007, the govern­ment filed a peti­tion for certi­or­ari in the Supreme Court, which was gran­ted in Decem­ber 2007.

In Munaf v. Geren, the District Court dismissed Mr. Munaf’s peti­tion on juris­dic­tional grounds, contend­ing that U.S. courts have no juris­dic­tion if a U.S. citizen has been convicted in a foreign court.  The Court of Appeals upheld this decision in April of 2007.  Coun­sel for Mr. Munaf filed for certi­or­ari review in the Supreme Court of the United States the follow­ing June, which was gran­ted in Decem­ber 2007 and consol­id­ated with Omar.

Oral argu­ments for both Mr. Omar and Mr. Munaf’s cases were argued in the Supreme Court on March 25, 2008. For a tran­script of the argu­ments, click here. On June 12, 2008, the Supreme Court issued its decision in this case.

Read the Center’s reac­tion to the Supreme Court’s opin­ion here.

Separ­ately, the Bren­nan Center is pursu­ing relief before United Nations forums.


Susan Burke and Kath­er­ine Hawkins at Burke O’Neill, LLC, Eric Freed­man, Joseph Margulies of the MacAr­thur Justice Center at North­west­ern Univer­sity School of Law, and Vincent Moccio and Amy Magid at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., are co-coun­sel in these cases.


Related Case Docu­ments

Supreme Court: Geren v. Omar and Munaf v. Geren 

Supreme Court: Geren v. Omar

Circuit Court: Omar v. Harvey

District Court: Omar v. Harvey

Supreme Court: Munaf v. Geren

Circuit Court: Munaf v. Harvey

Miscel­laneous

Munaf v. Harvey