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Karake v. United States Dep't of Homeland Security

December 7, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No. 2




This matter comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs are three Rwandan nationals currently detained in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS" or "the defendant"), Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division ("ICE"). The plaintiffs, who are facing removal back to Rwanda, challenge the constitutionality of the process implemented by ICE to effectuate their deportation. Because the plaintiffs' due process claim is not ripe for judicial review, the court denies their motion for a preliminary injunction.*fn1


The plaintiffs are citizens of Rwanda and ethnic Hutus.*fn2 Pls.' Mot. at 3. They allege that they were persecuted by the Rwandan Patriotic Army ("RPA") and, as a result, resorted to joining the Liberation Army of Rwanda ("ALIR"), a group opposed to the RPA. Id. In 1999, as members of the ALIR, the plaintiffs participated in a mission to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, during which some members of the ALIR company allegedly killed eight western tourists -- two of whom were Americans -- and one Ugandan park ranger. Id. at 4; Def.'s Opp'n at 2.

The RPA captured the plaintiffs in 2001 and held them for two years at Kami camp, which the plaintiffs describe as an "unofficial detention center to which only the RPA had access." Pls.' Mot. at 4. According to the plaintiffs, while held at Kami, they were subjected to "brutal physical and psychological torture." Id. Eventually, each plaintiff confessed to some level of involvement in the killings. Id. at 4-6; Def.'s Opp'n at 2.

In March 2003, the plaintiffs were extradited to the United States to stand trial for the killings. Pls.' Mot. at 6; Def.'s Opp'n at 2. Judge Huvelle granted the plaintiffs' motion to suppress their confessions as coerced and products of torture, United States v. Karake, 443 F. Supp. 2d 8, 85-86 (D.D.C. 2006), and granted the government's resulting motion to dismiss the indictment, United States v. Karake, No. 02-0256, slip op. (D.D.C. Feb. 7, 2007).

Following the dismissal of the criminal case in February 2007, the plaintiffs faced removal back to Rwanda. Pls.' Mot. at 8; Def.'s Opp'n at 3. During the removal proceedings, each plaintiff applied for asylum pursuant to §208(a) the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a), withholding of removal pursuant to § 241(b)(3) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3), withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT") pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16 and deferral of removal under the CAT pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17. Pls.' Mot. at 8, Exs. A-C. The immigration court ordered that the plaintiffs be removed to Rwanda, but granted their applications for deferral of removal under the CAT. Id. The immigration court denied the plaintiffs' other requests, id., and the plaintiffs have been detained in ICE detention facilities since at least late 2007, Pls.' Mot. at 9.*fn3

On August 25, 2009, ICE notified the plaintiffs that it was considering terminating their deferrals of removal based on diplomatic assurances the Department of State had received from Rwanda's Chief Prosecutor and the Rwandan Minister of Justice that none of the plaintiffs would be tortured if removed to Rwanda.*fn4 Id., Exs. F-G; Def.'s Opp'n at 4. ICE gave the plaintiffs until November 6, 2009, to submit written evidence demonstrating why the diplomatic assurances should not be credited. Pls.' Mot. at 9; Def.'s Opp'n at 4. On November 5, 2009, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in this court and moved for the entry of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. See generally Compl.; Pls.' Mot. On November 6, 2009, the plaintiffs filed their written response to the August 25, 2009 notice from ICE. Def.'s Opp'n at 4. The court set an expedited briefing schedule, see Minute Order (Nov. 9, 2009), and the defendant stipulated that the plaintiffs would not be removed before December 8, 2009, see Def.'s Stipulation. The defendant has not reached a final decision regarding whether to terminate the plaintiffs' deferrals of removal.


A. Legal Standard for Ripeness

Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases or controversies. U.S. CONST. ART. III, § 2, cl. 1.The case-or-controversy requirement reflects the "common understanding of what it takes to make a justiciable case." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998). Among the various doctrines developed by the courts to test the fitness of controversies for judicial ...

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