Munaf v. Geren & Geren v. Omar (consolidated)

Munaf sought a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Munaf, an American citizen, traveled to Iraq in 2005 and was later convicted on kidnapping charges and sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI). In Iraq, he is being held by the United States military personnel serving as part of a multi-national force. The district court held that it lacked jurisdiction over the case. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Hirota v. MacArthur, United States courts have “no power or authority to review, to affirm, set aside or annul the judgments and sentences imposed” by a foreign court. Since the CCCI is not a United States court, the district court lacked jurisdiction.

The wife and son of Omar sought a writ of habeas corpus in the district court on Omar’s behalf. Omar, also an American citizen, was captured in Iraq by United States forces and was held for two years allegedly without legal process and with no meaningful access to counsel. The United States decided to transfer Omar to the CCCI for a trial on terrorism charges, which the habeas petition seeks to prevent. The district court granted an injunction prohibiting Omar’s transfer until it could consider the habeas petition. If Omar were transferred to the CCCI, the United States would lose its jurisdiction over Omar’s case. This, the court held, amount to an illegal extradition. The government appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals, arguing that since Omar was in the custody of American officials acting as part of a multinational force, under Hirota, the court had no jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, holding that Hirota did not apply in the present case because Omar was never charged, tried, or convicted by a foreign court.

Questions Presented

Munaf v. Geren:

 1. When an American citizen is detained under the exclusive control of American military authorities abroad, is the jurisdiction of a federal court to entertain his petition for a writ of habeas corpus defeated by the fact that those American military authorities purport to act as a part of a multi-national force and that they propose — with no valid legal authority — to deliver the citizen to a foreign nation for execution of a death sentence imposed by a court of that nation?

2. Does the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that Hirota v. MacArthur deprives the federal courts of jurisdiction under these circumstances, extend the 1948 per curiam opinion in Hirota into conflict with this Court’s post-1948 jurisprudence culminating in Rasul v. Bush and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, and should that conflict be resolved either by restricting Hirota to its proper sphere or by overruling it?

3. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the jurisdiction of the federal courts over a habeas corpus petition filed by an American citizen detained under the exclusive control of American military authorities abroad turns on whether those authorities propose to deliver him to a foreign nation for prosecution in its courts (in which case the Court of Appeals has held that habeas jurisdiction exists) or for execution of sentence after conviction by the foreign court (in which case the Court of Appeals here holds that jurisdiction ceases to exist)? If this distinction is valid, can the military authorities defeat federal habeas corpus jurisdiction ex post by doing what they did in this case — arranging the conviction and sentencing of their detainee by a foreign court after his habeas petition has been filed?

 Geren v. Omar:

1. Whether the United States courts have jurisdiction to entertain a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of an individual such as respondent challenging his detention by the multinational force.

2. Whether, if such jurisdiction exists, the district court had the power to enjoin the multinational force from releasing respondent to Iraqi custody or allowing respondent to be tried before the Iraqi courts.

Decisions under Review:

Munaf v. Geren

Geren v. Omar

Supreme Court Opinion