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Sufyian Barhoumi v. Barack Obama et al.

Court United States District Court for the District of Columbia, United States
Case number Civil Action No. 05-1506 (RMC)
Decision title Order
Decision date 3 September 2009
  • Sufyian Barhoumi
  • Barack Obama
Other names
  • Abu Obaida, Ubaydah al Jaza’iri, Shafiq
Categories Conspiracy, Material support to terrorism
Keywords Al Qaeda, Authorization for Use of Military Force, conspiracy, Habeas corpus, Pakistan, War on terrorism
Other countries involved
  • Algeria
  • Pakistan
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Sufyian Barhoumi is an Algerian nation who was allegedly providing assistance to al-Qaeda through buying certain electronic components needed for the building of remote-controlled explosive devices and through providing training to build such bombs. In July 2005, Barhoumi filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus (a legal action allowing a detained person to challenge the legality of his/her detention).

The District Court’s opinion remained confidential but in the subsequent judgment of the Court of Appeals, its findings and reasoning has been summarized. The District Court denied Barhoumi’s petition on the grounds that he was properly detained under the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001.

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Procedural history

On 28 March 2002, Barhoumi and others were captured in a safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

The initial charges were filed in 2005 and related to conspiracy (press release here).

Following the US Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the charges were dropped. The charges were re-filed on 28 May 2008 under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 for conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.

On 21 October, 2008, the Defense Department announced that Judge Susan Crawford of the Office of Military Commissions Convening Authority, had dismissed without prejudice the charges against, among others, Sufyian Barhoumi. (Dismissed without prejudice means that charges can be raised again at a later time.) No reasons were provided for this decision, and the individuals remained in detention. See also, Jane Sutton, U.S. Drops Charges Against 5 Guantanamo Captives, Reuters, 21 October 2008.

Back in July 2005, Barhoumi filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Related developments

On 11 June 2010, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s denial of Barhoumi’s petition for habeas corpus.

On 28 January 2013, the Convening Authority for Military Commissions dismissed the Sworn Charges (conspiracy and provision of material support for terrorism) against, inter alia, Sufyian Barhoumi. See also Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald, 'Direction of the Convening Authority', 28 January 2013.

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Legally relevant facts

On 28 March 2002, Barhoumi, together with others, was captured at the Faisalabad safe house in Pakistan, and transferred to the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) on 5 August 2002. He was charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to commit various crimes and terrorism. …” (Charges I and II of the 2008 Sworn Charges).

It was alleged that Barhoumi provided assistance in the purchase of electronic components needed for the building of remote-detonation explosive devices. Further, it was alleged that Barhoumi provided training on how to build such devices. Specifically, Barhoumi “did, at various locations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, between about January 1999 and March 2002, in the context of or associated with an armed conflict, intentionally provide material support to al Qaeda … knowing that such organization has engaged or engages in terrorism…” (Charge II of the 2008 Sworn Charges).

In July 2005, Barhoumi filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Core legal questions

  • Can the District Court grant the petition for a writ of habeas corpus?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Para. 2(a) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

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Court's holding and analysis

The Memorandum Opinion rendered by the District Court remained confidential and only the order issued was made public. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals, in the ambit of its judgment, summarised the findings and arguments of the District Court in the following manner. 

“Ruling from the bench, the district judge hearing Barhoumi’s petition explained that the AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force 2001] authorized the President ‘to detain persons who were part of [,] or substantially supported, Taliban or al Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of such enemy armed forces’…Applying this standard, the court concluded that Barhoumi was properly detained and therefore denied his habeas petition. In reaching this conclusion, the district court relied on Barhoumi’s own testimony in the CSRT [Combatant Status Review Tribunal] and ARB [Administrative Review Board] proceedings, as well as on two diaries …” (pp. 5-6 of the 2010 Judgment of the Court of Appeals).

On this basis, the District Court “ordered that Petitioner’s habeas corpus petition is denied” (p. 1 of the Order).

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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Additional materials

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