International Decision: Munaf v. Geren

UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-011; American Journal of International Law (forthcoming)


This International Decision case comment, the final version of which will be published in Volume 102, No. 4, of the American Journal of International Law (forthcoming), examines the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Munaf v. Geren, a case arising out of U.S. operations in Iraq and allegations of potential torture in Iraqi custody. In that decision, a unanimous Supreme Court held that the federal courts have jurisdiction under the habeas corpus statute to hear claims brought by American citizens held overseas by American forces "operating subject to an American chain of command, even when those forces are acting as a part of multilateral coalition." In a defeat for the petitioners, however, the Court held that where petitioners are being held in another sovereign's territory for crimes allegedly committed in that territory, federal courts should not interfere by enjoining their transfer to that sovereign. The Court further held that concerns of torture after transfer did not change the result and that such concerns are best assessed and handled by the political branches. This case comment discusses the Court's decision and analyzes its potential impact.