Munaf v. Geren
128 S.Ct. 2207 (2008)

  • Munaf and Omar were US citizens who voluntarily traveled to Iraq to fight against the US army.
  • They were both captured by Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and given military hearings and held in custody in Iraq. The Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to refer the pair to the Iraqi court for criminal proceedings.
    • MNF-I was an international coalition force composed of 26 nations, including the United States. It operated in Iraq under the unified command of US military officers, at the Iraqi Government's request, and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
  • Omar and Munaf both sought an injunction in a US court to prevent their removal from US custody.
  • In Omar's case, the Trial Court granted the injunction. DOJ appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. DOJ appealed.
    • The Appellate Court distinguished Omar's case from that of Hirota v. MacArthur (338 U.S. 197 (1948)) because Omar had not been convicted by a foreign tribunal.
  • In Munaf's case, the Trial Court denied Munaf's petition for habeus corpus. Munaf appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that they did not have jurisdiction.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Munaf appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that in this case, Hirota controlled and required that the petition be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the American forces holding Munaf were operating as part of an international force-the MNF-I.
    • The Court distinguished Munaf from Omar on the grounds that Munaf had already been convicted by the Iraqi courts while Omar had not.
  • The US Supreme Court denied both requests for injunctions.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the Habeas Statute (28 U.S.C. 2241(c)(1)) did apply to US citizens held overseas by US forces.
      • The Court specifically rejected the government's position that MNF-I is not an US entity subject to habeas.
    • However, the Court found that US courts may not exercise their habeas jurisdiction to enjoin the United States from transferring individuals alleged to have committed crimes and detained within the territory of a foreign sovereign to that sovereign for criminal prosecution.
      • The Court found that Iraq has a sovereign right to punish offenses against its laws committed within it borders. Omar and Munaf were asking the courts to defeat Iraq's sovereign authority.
        • The Court noted that even if Iraqi law doesn't include the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, Iraq still has a right to enforce their laws.
      • The Court noted that habeus corpus was basically for unlawful detention, and the remedy was release, but Omar and Munaf didn't want to be released (because then the Iraqis would just arrest them), they actually wanted to be protected against release.
    • Munaf and Omar argued that the might be tortured in Iraqi custody, but the Court found that was a political question and not justicable.
      • Basically, the Court noted that the State Department had determined that Iraq met internationally accepted standards for basic prisoner needs. The Court was not going to second guess that determination.
    • Omar and Munaf argued that under Valentine v. United States ex rel. Neidecker (299 U.S. 5 (1936)) the Executive Branch lacks the discretion to transfer a citizen to foreign custody unless given so by Congress or a treaty. However, the Court distinguished Valentine by saying that was an extradition case and the prisoner was being held in the US. In this case Omar and Munaf were already in Iraq.