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AL-JOUDI v. BUSH

April 4, 2005.

MAJID ABDULLA AL-JOUDI, et al., Petitioners,
v.
GEORGE W. BUSH, et al., Respondents.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLADYS KESSLER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Petitioners, four Saudi Arabian nationals, bring this action against Defendants, seeking release from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station ("GTMO") in Cuba, where they are being detained.*fn1 This matter is before the Court on Petitioners' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Requiring Respondents to Provide Counsel for Petitioners and the Court with 30-Days' Advance Notice of Any Intended Removal from Guantanamo. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Petitioners' Motion is granted. I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

  Petitioners are being detained at GTMO and have been classified as enemy combatants.*fn2 On February 9, 2005, they filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court. They are among many GTMO detainees who have filed such petitions in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia since the Supreme Court held that "the federal courts have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive's potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing." Rasul v. Bush, 124 S. Ct. 2686, 2699 (2004).

  On January 19, 2005, Judge Richard Leon granted the Government's Motion to Dismiss the detainees' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in Khalid v. Bush, 355 F. Supp. 2d 311 (D.D.C. 2005). On January 31, 2005, Judge Green granted in part and denied in part the Government's Motion to Dismiss in eleven cases consolidated pursuant to the September 15, 2004, Resolution of the Executive Session. In re Guantanamo Cases, 355 F. Supp. 2d 443 (D.D.C. 2005).*fn3 The cases before Judges Leon and Green have been fully briefed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and are under submission.

  On February 3, 2005, Judge Green granted a stay in the eleven cases to which her January 31, 2005, Opinion and Order applied. A Motion to Stay the instant case until resolution of Khalid and In Re Guantanamo Cases is pending in this Court.

  B. Transfers from GTMO

  Approximately 540 foreign nationals currently are being held at GTMO. Decl. of Matthew C. Waxman ¶ 2 ("Waxman Declaration").*fn4 The Department of Defense ("DOD") states it is conducting a review of each detainee's case, at least annually, to determine whether continued detention is warranted. Id. at ¶ 3. Since the Government began detaining individuals at GTMO, the DOD has transferred 211 detainees to other countries. Id. at ¶ 4.

  Detainees are subject to two types of transfer: (1) transfer to the custody of another country, with the understanding that they will be released, Tr. at 22-23; and (2) transfer to the custody of another country with the understanding that the country's government has "an independent law enforcement interest" in them and that they likely will face continued detention and processing by that country's judicial system. Id. at 24. In each case, the United States loses all control of the detainees once they are transferred to another country. Waxman Decl. at ¶ 5. Of the 211 detainees who have been transferred, 146 have been transferred with the understanding that they would be released. Id. at ¶ 7. The Government represents that most of those individuals actually have been released, Tr. at 29, but it cannot provide precise numbers. Id.

  Sixty-five detainees have been transferred to the control of other countries for detention. Waxman Decl. at ¶ 7. Of that group, 29 were transferred to Pakistan; 9 to the United Kingdom; 7 to Russia; 5 to Morocco; 6 to France; 4 to Saudi Arabia; and 1 each to Australia, Denmark, Kuwait, Spain, and Sweden. Id..

  When transfers for detention are being considered, DOD coordinates with various other Government agencies, including the Department of State ("DOS"). Id. ¶ 6. The Government states that, as a matter of policy, it does not "repatriate or transfer individuals to other countries where it believes it is more likely than not that they will be tortured." Id..

  The Government claims that it ensures compliance with this policy by obtaining "assurances" from officials within the foreign government. The process for obtaining such assurances "involves a frank dialogue, discussion, [and] communication with officials of the other government." Tr. at 32. The Government evaluates the adequacy of the assurances by considering "the identity, position, or other information concerning the official relaying the assurances," Decl. of Pierre-Richard Prosper at ¶ 8 ("Prosper Declaration");*fn5 political or legal developments in the country that would provide context for the assurances, id.; and U.S. relations with the country. Id. Senior Government officials ultimately make the final decision on whether to transfer a detainee. Waxman Decl. at ¶ 7. The Government's papers do not indicate which DOD official has this responsibility.

  In recent months, a number of newspaper articles about the transfer and treatment of detainees have been published. Some, for example, quote former employees of the United States government who have been involved in transferring detainees to other countries, including countries that practice torture. See, e.g., Dana Priest, Jet Is an Open Secret in Terror War, Wash. Post, Dec. 27, 2004, at A1. In addition, some quote by name former Guantanamo detainees who allege that they have been moved by the United States government to countries where they have been tortured. See, e.g. Douglas Jehl and David Johnson, Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad, N.Y. Times, Mar. 6, 2005, at A1.

  On March 11, 2005, an article in The New York Times reported that DOD plans to transfer "hundreds of suspected terrorists to prisons in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Yemen." Douglas Jehl, Pentagon Seeks to Shift Inmates from Cuba Base, N.Y. Times, Mar. 11, 2005, at A1. In response to this article, several petitioners, including the Petitioners in the instant case, filed motions for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions. On March 12, 2005, Judge Rosemary Collyer granted a request for a temporary restraining order in Abdah v. Bush, No. 04-CV-1254 (D.D.C. March 12, 2005) (order granting temporary restraining order) and denied a similar request in John Does 1-570 v. ...


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