Thursday, February 09, 2006

Court Blocks Detainee Transfer

A US District Court in Washington, DC blocked the transfer of Shawqi Omar, a Jordanian with US Citizenship, to Iraq. Omar was detained in Iraq and is accused of harboring foreign terrorists in Baghdad and planning kidnappings in Iraq. He is also believed to have served as the personal emissary of Abu Musab Zarqawi. (Washington Post: U.S. Detainee's Transfer Blocked).

Omar was allowing five men, all confessed terrorists, to live in his house while conducting surveillance on potential kidnapping targets. Further, the four Jordanians in the group admitted that Omar was coordinating the activities. The case against Omar certainly appears strong enough for any court.

That the US District Court blocked his transfer is the correct decision, although they did it for the wrong reason. His attorney had requested the blockage out of fear that he would be tortured in an Iraqi prison. For me, that's irrelevant. I really don't care if terrorists are tortured or not. At issue for me, however, is why we would want to transfer him to an Iraqi court in the first place. Iraq is doing such a wonderful job already with the Hussein trial and that of his cohorts.

Omar is a US citizen. He is bound by the US Constitution, which he swore to "defend, honor, and protect" when he was naturalized. That same Constitution clearly defines Omar's actions as treasonous. If nothing else, he should be tried on those grounds. Short of that, he clearly falls into the category of Unlawful Combatant as defined by the Geneva Convention. If his trial is not before the US Supreme Court on a charge of treason, then it must be before a military tribunal as an unlawful combatant. The Iraqi court system has no jurisdiction in this matter. Omar is at war with the United States and must pay the penalty for it.

What must also be answered is how the US District Court in Washington established jurisdiction over this case in the first place. They have none. If he is charged with treason, then only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction. If he is not charged with treason, then no court in the US has jurisdiction and his fate is in the hands of the US military. For any court in the nation to issue a ruling on his status, they must first establish jurisdiction, and the US District Court in Washington has no grounds to do that.

When will we learn the lessons taught both in Iraq and Afghanistan? We cannot delegate justice to other nations. The travesty of the Hussein trial should teach us that. The prison break in Yemen of top al Qaeda operatives should teach us that. The escape of bin Laden from Tora Bora with the assistance of those sent to capture him should teach us that. Once we have our hands on scum like Omar, we must not turn that scum over to any other nation. We have both the ability and the right to bring them to justice and we are obligated to enforce that right. Turning Omar over to Iraq would be a huge mistake. Sometimes the courts do stumble on the right answer for all the wrong reasons. Here's one case where that happened.


No comments :