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Abdah v. Bush

March 29, 2005

MAHMOAD ABDAH, ET AL., PETITIONERS,
v.
GEORGE W. BUSH, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioners are aliens who are being held by the United States military at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and who have petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus. While the merits of their individual claims have not yet been adjudicated, this court (Green, J.) has determined that some of the causes of action set forth in their habeas petition survive Respondents' motion to dismiss. This ruling is currently on appeal. Presently before the court is Petitioners' motion for a preliminary injunction. Asserting that Respondents have contemplated or are contemplating transferring them to the custody of foreign nations to be further detained and possibly tortured, Petitioners seek an order from this court that would require Respondents to provide their counsel and this court with 30 days' advance notice of any Petitioner's removal from Guantánamo. Upon consideration of the briefing of the parties, the submissions that accompany the briefing, and the arguments of counsel at a hearing, the court concludes that Petitioners' motion should be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioners are thirteen Yemeni nationals who each allegedly traveled to Pakistan*fn1 for reasons "unrelated to any activities of al Qaeda or the Taliban," Pet. ¶ 19,*fn2 such as pursuing religious studies, id. ¶¶ 26, 40, 43, 45, 47; obtaining medical care, id. ¶ 33; and seeking better employment, id. ¶ 36. All were "arrested by Pakistani police as part of a dragnet seizure of Yemeni citizens." Id. ¶ 19. Details of their capture and subsequent movements are hazy, but Petitioners allege that they were seized in 2001 or 2002, id. ¶ 20, "far from the battlefield." Id. ¶ 61. All were then transferred to United States military custody and transported to the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba ("Guantánamo"), where they have since been held, "virtually incommunicado," id. ¶ 63, as "enemy combatants." All Petitioners deny that they are enemy combatants or that they have otherwise been "part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States." Id. ¶ 15.

On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court determined that "the federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive's potentially indefinite detention of [the detainees at Guantánamo Bay] who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing." Rasul v. Bush, __ U.S. __, 124 S.Ct. 2686, 2699 (2004). Shortly thereafter, the Department of Defense issued an order creating the Combatant Status Review Tribunal ("CSRT") to evaluate the status of each detainee at Guantánamo. In re Gunatanamo Detainee Cases, 355 F. Supp. 2d 443, 450 (D.D.C. 2005), appeal docketed, No. 05-8003 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 21, 2005). On July 27, 2004, Petitioners filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, seeking to obtain "a judicial determination of whether there is a factual basis for Respondent's determination that they are 'enemy combatants,'" Pet. ¶ 14, and asserting that the government has "advanced no justification" for their "arrest, transportation and continued incarceration." Id. ¶ 16. Their petition was coordinated with ten other habeas cases filed by other Guantánamo detainees to allow Judge Joyce Hens Green, the designated judge, to resolve common issues of law and fact.

On January 31, 2005, Judge Green issued a memorandum opinion and order granting in part and denying in part Respondents' motion to dismiss, finding that the detainees "have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment," In re Gunatanamo Detainee Cases, 355 F. Supp. 2d at 463, and that the CSRT proceedings failed to protect those due process rights. Id. at 468.

Subsequently, Judge Green issued an order certifying her opinion for interlocutory appeal and staying the proceedings in the eleven cases pending resolution of Respondents' appeal. Petitioners now contend that "Respondents have contemplated or are contemplating removal of some or all Petitioners from Guantánamo to foreign territories for torture or indefinite imprisonment without due process of law." Pet'rs' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. ("Pet'rs' Mot.") at 1. Fearing that any such transfer would "also circumvent[] Petitioners' right to adjudicate the legality of their detention," id. at 6, Petitioners seek a preliminary injunction requiring Respondents to provide Petitioners' counsel with 30 days' advance notice of "any intended removal of Petitioners from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base," id. at 1, to enable counsel to contest the removal if they deem it advisable to do so.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Stay of February 3, 2005

Respondents first argue that the stay order Judge Green issued in the eleven coordinated cases prevents this court from considering the merits of the present motion. This argument is unavailing.

On February 3, 2005, Judge Green issued an order in the eleven habeas cases that "stayed [the cases] for all purposes pending resolution of all appeals in this matter." In re Guantanamo Detainee Cases, No. 04-1254 (D.D.C. Feb. 3, 2005) (order). Courts have consistently recognized that a stay may be necessary preserve the status quo among the parties pending appeal. See, e.g., Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1310 (1974); United Mun. Distrib. Group v. FERC, 732 F.2d 202, 205 (D.C. Cir. 1984); NLRB v. Sav-on Drugs, Inc., 704 F.2d 1147, 1149 (9th Cir. 1983); Metzler v. United States, 832 F. Supp. 204, 208 (E.D. Mich. 1993). Here, Petitioners are not asking the court to bypass the stay and resume adjudication of their underlying claims. Rather, they seek to prevent Respondents from unilaterally and silently taking actions that may render their claims moot; thus the injunctive relief Petitioners seek would ensure the very same result that the stay itself was entered to secure. See Dist. 50, United Mine Workers of Am. v. Int'l Union, United Mine Workers of Am., 412 F.2d 165, 169 (D.C. Cir. 1969). The stay order simply cannot be construed to prevent emergency relief consistent with maintenance of the status quo. See Summit Med. Assocs., P.C. v. James, 998 F. Supp. 1339, 1351 (M.D. Ala. 1998); Universal Marine Ins., Ltd. v. Beacon Ins. Co., 577 F. Supp. 829, 832 (W.D.N.C. 1984). The court therefore proceeds to consider the merits of Petitioners' request.

B. Legal Standard

A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary remedy" that should only issue "when the party seeking the relief, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion." Cobell v. Norton, 391 F.3d 251, 258 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997)). A court considering a preliminary injunction request must examine four factors, namely whether: (1) Petitioners will be "irreparably harmed if an injunction is not granted"; (2) there is a "substantial likelihood" Petitioners will succeed on the merits; (3) an injunction will "substantially injure" Respondents; and (4) the public interest will be furthered by the injunction. Serono Labs., Inc., v. Shalala, 158 F.3d 1313, 1317-18 (D.C. Cir. 1998). These four factors "interrelate on a sliding scale" and must be considered in relation to one another, for "'if the arguments for one ...


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