Overshadowed by the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Boumediene was the Court's unanimous opinion in Munaf v. Geren, another habeas case arising out of the war on terror. In Munaf, the Court considered whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of U.S. citizens challenging their detention in Iraq by the U.S. military and, if so, whether a U.S. district court may issue an injunction prohibiting the military from transferring such individuals to Iraqi authorities.
In an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court first concluded that U.S. courts may entertain habeas petitions brought by U.S. citizens in military custody overseas. The Court rested its decision on 28 U.S.C. 2241(c), which explicitly extends such jurisdiction to habeas petitions brought by individuals held "in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States," or "in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." The government had sought to argue that this provision does not apply here because U.S. forces in Iraq are participating in a multi-national force, but the Court readily dispatched this argument noting that the petitioners "are American citizens held overseas in the immediate 'physical custody' of American soldiers who answer only to an American chain of command."
While the Court upheld federal jurisdiction, it nonetheless rejected the petitioners' ultimate claims, concluding that district courts could not issue the injunctions sought. The traditional remedy for a habeas violation is release. Yet that would not do the petitioners much good here, as to be released by U.S. troops would place the petitioners in danger of being apprehended by Iraqi authorities, producing the precise result they sought to avoid -- potential detention and trial by the Iraqi government. As Roberts concluded, "Habeas corpus does not require the United States to shelter such fugitives from the criminal justice of the sovereign with authority to prosecute them." That the petitioners alleged they could be subject to torture or other inhumane treatment may make them more sympathetic, but the Court rejected any suggestion such fears strengthened their legal claim. Thus, in the end, the Court concluded that the petitioners "state no claim in their habeas petitions for which relief can be granted," and ordered their petitions dismissed.