Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Military Law
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Sharifi alleges the U.S. Army took his land when it built Combat Outpost Millet in Afghanistan in 2010. The government asserted that Sharifi’s Fifth Amendment complaint was “vague and ambiguous” because it did not specifically identify the property interest that the government allegedly took, that Sharifi had not provided a legal description of the land, a deed, or other documents that would allow the government to identify the location. The Claims Court instructed Sharifi to file an amended complaint. Sharifi alleged that government records, verified by the District Governor of Arghandab, showed that his grandfather owned the land on which the Army built COP Millet: Ownership of the land passed to Sharifi and his siblings, who subdivided the land by a 2004 inheritance agreement. The government submitted six declarations, including several witness declarations and an expert declaration on Afghan law. The Claims Court dismissed Sharifi’s amended complaint for failure to show a cognizable property interest.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The government records attached to Sharifi’s amended complaint and the 2004 inheritance agreement do not constitute proof of land ownership under the laws of Afghanistan. Even accepting as true all factual allegations in Sharifi’s amended complaint, the amended complaint does not contain sufficient facts to state a plausible takings claim. View "Sharifi v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, U.S. Army Specialist Schaefer was killed by a roadside bomb while serving a tour of duty in Iraq. Those directly responsible for such attacks are often unidentifiable or beyond the reach of a court’s personal jurisdiction. Secondary actors, such as the organizations that fund the terrorists, are often amorphous. Despite Congress’s effort to make state sponsors of terrorism accountable in U.S. courts (28 U.S.C. 1605A) any resulting judgment may be uncollectible. Spc. Schaefer’s mother claimed that the bomb that killed her son was a signature Iranian weapon that traveled from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to Hezbollah to Iraqi militias, who then placed it in the ground and that Deutsche Bank, a German entity with U.S. affiliates, is responsible for her son’s death under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 18 U.S.C. 2333. She argued that the Bank joined an Iranian conspiracy to commit acts of terror when it instituted procedures to evade U.S. sanctions and facilitate Iranian banking transactions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of her suit, which “failed to plead facts that plausibly indicated that Deutsche Bank’s actions caused her son’s death.” The Bank’s conduct was not “violent” or “dangerous to human life” as the ATA requires, nor did it display the terroristic intent. To the extent Deutsche Bank joined any conspiracy, it joined only a conspiracy to avoid sanctions, distinct from any of Iran’s terrorism-related goals. View "Kemper v. Deutsche Bank AG" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment stating that their family members were killed in the course of a U.S. drone attack in violation of international law governing the use of force, the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The district court dismissed the claims primarily based on political question grounds. The DC Circuit affirmed and held that it was not the role of the Judiciary to second-guess the determination of the Executive, in coordination with the Legislature, that the interests of the U.S. called for a particular military action in the ongoing War on Terror. In this case, El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. v. United States, 607 F.3d 836 (D.C. Cir. 2010), controlled the court's analysis and compelled dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. View "Bin Ali Jaber v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, foreign nationals, alleged that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. CACI, a corporation domiciled in the United States, contracted with the United States to provide private interrogators to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs alleged that CACI employees instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated federal and international law. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. does not foreclose plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and that the district court erred in reaching a contrary conclusion. In light of Kiobel, the court held that plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. Because the court was unable to determine whether the claims presented nonjusticiable political questions, the court did not reach the additional issue of the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' common law claims. The court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to all plaintiffs' claims and remanded. View "Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a noncitizen "enemy combatant" undergoing proceedings before a military commission at Guatanamo Bay, sought a declaratory judgment that the commission lacked jurisdiction to hear the charges against him because the alleged acts occurred in Yemen, where he argued no war or hostilities existed in 2000 or 2002. The court held, pursuant to Hamad v. Gates, that Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act, 28 U.S.C. 2241(e), deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's suit. The court rejected plaintiff’s claims challenging the constitutionality of the Act. View "Al-Nashiri v. MacDonald" on Justia Law

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The FBI investigated Alwan, an Iraqi living in Bowling Green, after his fingerprints appeared on an improvised explosive device in Iraq, and introduced Alwan to a confidential source (CHS), who recorded their conversations. CHS convinced Alwan that he was part of a group supporting Jihad. Alwan assisted in sending what he believed to be money and weapons to the Mujahidin several times and eventually asked to lead the fictional terrorist cell. CHS instructed Alwan to recruit others. Hammadi agreed to join, stating that he had participated in IED attacks on American troops and had been arrested, but bribed his way free and fled to Syria. In Syria, he applied for refugee status to immigrate to the U.S. and answered “no” when asked if he had engaged in terrorist activity. Hammadi had moved to Bowling Green on the recommendation of Alwan, whose family he knew from Iraq and whom he had met in Syria. The two transported $100,000 from CHS to a truck, believing that it would find its way to Iraq, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A. They hid rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, plastic explosives, and sniper rifles in another truck, for transport to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A and 2339B. They loaded Stinger missiles into another truck and plotted to murder a U.S. Army Captain. Hammadi pleaded guilty to 10 terrorism and two immigration offenses. Rejecting claims of entrapment and sentencing manipulation, the district court imposed a life sentence. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Hammadi would not qualify for a departure under either theory.View "United States v. Hammadi" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a contract entered into by Iraq's Ministry of Defense (IMOD) and Wye Oak for the refurbishment and disposal of Iraqi military equipment. At issue was whether, for purposes of analyzing subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602-11, a foreign state and its armed forces were separate legal persons. The court concluded that, for jurisdictional purposes, they were not. Therefore, the court held that Wye Oak's claim against Iraq alleging breach of contract entered into by IMOD fell within the FSIA's commercial activities exception. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Iraq's motion to dismiss Wye Oak's claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Wye Oak Technology, Inc. v. Republic of Iraq" on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed their convictions for conspiring to kill U.S. officers, to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and to provide material support to a known terrorist organization. Two defendants were additionally convicted of money laundering and conspiring to kill U.S. citizens. The court held that the United States had federal subject-matter jurisdiction to prosecute defendants; the district court did not err in denying defendants' motion for a hearing on certain issues; because the court concluded that defendants' proffered evidence was inadmissible under Rule 404 and that the district court did not commit manifest error by excluding it under Rule 403, defendants' evidentiary challenge to the exclusion was rejected; defendants' remaining challenges were rejected and their convictions were affirmed under 18 U.S.C. 2332(g); the district court's jury instruction was correct and that 18 U.S.C. 2339B did not violate the Fifth Amendment, notwithstanding that no proof was required that a defendant intended his aid to support the terrorist activity of a terrorist group; and one defendant's insufficiency challenge was rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. al Kassar, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant was discharged from the U.S. Army due to a personality disorder. He was later charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, 18 U.S.C. 3261(a), and sentenced, by a federal district court, to life in prison for participating in a sexual assault and multiple murders while stationed in Iraq. Co-conspirators, still on active duty and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 802(a)(1), were tried by courts-martial and each sentenced to between 90 and 110 years imprisonment; they are eligible for parole in ten years. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first noting that Iraq could not prosecute the defendant and that prosecution in the U.S. did not violate international law. The Army completed a valid discharge of defendant, so that he was no longer subject to courts-martial. His trial under MEJA did not violate the separation-of-powers principle or his due process or equal protection rights. Defendant was no longer similarly situated with his co-conspirators when charges were filed. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law