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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Justices Consider Fate of US Citizens Held in Iraq

Can American citizens have their cases heard by an American court? You'd think the answer would be a no-brainer: Of course! Not according to the Bush administration. In oral arguments before the Supreme Court yesterday in Geren v. Omar and Munaf v. Geren (cases argued jointly), the administration argued that a federal court doesn't have the jurisdiction to consider the habeas petitions of two naturalized US citizens.

The Bush administration, keen to keep terrorism cases out of American courts, appealed a
decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals holding that federal courts do in fact have jurisdiction over American citizens. The administration however, claimed that because these men are being held in Iraq for alleged activities that occurred in Iraq, US courts have no jurisdiction -- even if they involve American citizens held by American forces.

Arguments yesterday centered around two main questions – whether US citizenship automatically affords someone who is being detained by US forces access to US courts and whether the two men are actually being held by American forces or, as the Bush administration contends, by “Coalition forces.”

The lawyer representing Omar and Munaf argued that the security forces holding his clients are an extension of the American military and as such the American government. Therefore, US courts should have every right to consider the habeas petitions of the two men. But Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, arguing the administration’s position, claimed that the men are being held for violations of Iraqi law by a multi-national force whose authority extends from the United Nations. As such, the government contended that the United States has no authority in the matter.

Alliance for Justice has consistently argued for the restoration of habeas corpus. The Bush administration has used the “War on Terror” to hold accused “combatants” indefinitely and in many cases without filing formal charges. The judiciary has a responsibility to review these practices and ensure that the administration does not operate outside of its constitutional authority. We sincerely hope that the Court upholds one of the bedrock principles of our legal system and allows American citizens held by American forces the ability to have their habeas petitions reviewed by an American court.

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