NEW YORK - November 6 - Today, Lawyers at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the United States from transferring Mohammed Munaf to custody of the Iraqi government. An Iraqi Court sentenced Mr. Munaf to death on October 12. Unless the Supreme Court acts to prevent his transfer, Mr., Munaf will be put to death.
The case against Mr. Munaf tests the right of US citizens to due process and the rule of law when held by their government.
A 53-year old American citizen and the father of three children, all of whom are US citizens, Mr. Munaf has been held without charge by the United States at Camp Cropper in Baghdad for 16 months. During this time, Munaf’s lawyers say US officials subjected their client to torture and denied his requests for access to his American lawyers.
In their emergency appeal before the Court, lawyers for Mr. Munaf note that the Iraqi trial at which Mr. Munaf was sentenced to death lacked rudimentary due process. Mr. Munaf was not, for example, permitted to call witnesses or present evidence in his defense. Rather, Mr. Munaf was sentenced to death on the basis of what lawyers say was a coerced confession, Mr. Munaf made after American officials threatened him -- and his family -- with violence and sexual assault. The U.S. intervened in Mr. Munaf’s trial, claiming to represent the Romanian government; the Romanian government, however, denies that it ever authorized the United States to act on its behalf.
The circumstances leading to Mr. Munaf’s detention by US authorities began in March of 2005 when Mr. Munaf, acting as a translator and guide, accompanied three Romanian journalists to Iraq. On or about March 28, Mr. Munaf and the journalists were kidnapped. A group, identifying itself as “Muadh Ibn Jabal Brigade,” took credit for the abduction and held Mr. Munaf and the Romanian journalist’s captive for 55 days. On May 22, the Muadh Ibn Jabal Brigade released Mr. Munaf and the journalists to the custody of the Romanian Embassy in Iraq. Mr. Munaf was taken into US custody later that day and has remained in the custody of US military officials ever since.
Accepting U.S. claims that it is acting as a proxy for the United Nations in Iraq and is thus exempt from constitutional dictates and the rule of law, a Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled that Mr. Munaf is not entitled to invoke habeas corpus rights and Constitutional protections to question the lawfulness of his detention by US forces and the legality of his imminent transfer to Iraqi custody -- and probable death.
Lawyers for Mr. Munaf dismiss the United State’s claim that normal due process rules do not apply because of the US role as a proxy for the United Nations. The argument is a “preposterous legal fiction,” says attorney Jonathan Hafetz. “The case against Munaf is a stark instance of the Executive Branch’s use of national security as a cover for its usurpation of an American citizen’s constitutional rights and the rule of law.”
Joseph Margulies of the MacArthur Center for Justice at Northwestern Law School and Susan L. Burke of Burke, Pyle, and LLC are counsel, with Mr. Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, for Mr. Munaf.