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.
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.
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
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.