Barhoumi v. Obama

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

July 28, 2005

Current Status 

The Periodic Review Board approved Barhoumi for transfer August 9, 2016. He filed an emergency motion for an order that would permit his transfer before President Obama's term expires, but the Obama administration decided to oppose it, and the court denied the motion as a result. 

Client(s) 

Case Description 

Barhoumi v. Obama is a habeas corpus petition on behalf of Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian man in his early 40s who has been detained at Guantánamo since 2002. Barhoumi was born and raised in Algiers. As a young man he lived in various countries in Europe – Spain, France and England – as a farm worker and then a street merchant for about four years.

Barhoumi was charged by military commission three times, but each time the charges were dropped. In May 2016, his status was reviewed by President Obama's Periodic Review Board (PRB), which is tasked with determining whether detainees may be approved for transfer. On August 9, 2016, the Board approved Barhoumi for transfer.

All parties expected Barhoumi to be sent home to Algeria after his clearance, but unexplained problems with the transfer have led to him being one of the five or so cleared men expected to be stranded at Guantanamo when Trump takes office. On January 13, 2017, CCR filed an emergency motion seeking to have the judge in his case issue and order that would have the effect of exempting him from Congressional restrictions on transfers that require the Defense Secretary to certify that it is safe to transfer the detainee to his home country and to give Congress 30 days advance notice of the transfer. Since there were less than 30 days left in Obama's term, and Trump had stated that no one should be released from Guantanamo, such an order from the court -- or agreement by the government that such an order should be issued -- was the only way Barhoumi might be sent home in the foreseeable future. Judge Collyer issued an order demanding that the government show cause why the order we requested should not issue, and ordering the government to make preparations for his transfer in the name of fairness in case she did issue such an order. The government responded by opposing our motion on a variety of technical grounds on January 17, and we filed a reply brief later that day. Among other things, the government's brief notes that the failure to send Barhoumi home was owing to factors "not related to petitioner himself," and that the government would not make preparations for his transfer despite the district court's order. Unfortunately, as a result of the government's opposiotion to transfer, the court declined to step in.

Barhoumi believes his chance connection to a man named Abu Zubaydah is the reason he has been the subject of so much interest from the military and its prosecutors. Barhoumi was arrested on March 28, 2002, in a raid on a large house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. That raid led to the capture of Zubaydah, who was mistakenly regarded by the Bush administration as a senior figure in al-Qaeda and was the first victim of the torture program for so-called "high-value detainees". However, as a former Justice Department official told The Washington Post, he "was not ... an official member of al-Qaeda," and was, instead, "a "kind of travel agent" for would-be jihadists. Dan Coleman, head of the FBI's al-Qaeda group, described him as a "safehouse keeper" with severe mental problems and a proclivity for speaking on the phone that caused the actual al-Qaeda members to keep him at arm's length: "They all knew he was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone. You think they're going to tell him anything?"

During Zubaydah's time in CIA detention he was water-boarded 83 times and subjected to numerous other torture techniques, including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, and being sealed into small boxes. He lost his left eye during that time, adding to a litany of preexisting problems resulting from a head injury that left shrapnel in his brain, rendered him unable to speak for more than a year, and caused other brain damage including massive memory loss. Under torture Zubaydah falsely stated that dozens of other men held by the United States were involved in terrorism.

Case Timeline

January 18, 2017
Court declines to grant relief
January 18, 2017
Court declines to grant relief
Because the government indicated that it would not transfer petitioner, even if the court lifted the advance-notice requirement in the transfer restrictions, the court declined to issue relief.
January 17, 2017
Barhoumi files reply brief in support of emergency motion
January 17, 2017
Barhoumi files reply brief in support of emergency motion
Barhoumi files a reply brief, seven hours after the filing of the government's opposition.
January 17, 2017
Government files opposition to Barhoumi's emergency motion
January 17, 2017
Government files opposition to Barhoumi's emergency motion
The government opposes issuance of relief, claiming it decided (on January 12) not to transfer Barhoumi because of issues unrelated to himself, i.e., because the government is somehow unwilling to certify a transfer to Algeria, which has safely received 15 detainees previously and has been a major intelligence partner of the United States since 9/11.
January 13, 2017
Judge issues order to show cause why emergency relief should not be granted
January 13, 2017
Judge issues order to show cause why emergency relief should not be granted
Judge Collyer orders the government to explain why she should not issue an order allowing Barhoumi to be transferred under a statutory exemption to the Congressional transfer restrictions.
January 13, 2017
Barhoumi files emergency motion for order effectuating release
January 13, 2017
Barhoumi files emergency motion for order effectuating release
August 9, 2016
PRB approves Barhoumi for transfer
August 9, 2016
PRB approves Barhoumi for transfer
May 26, 2016
Periodic Review Board (PRB) holds hearing to review Barhoumi's status
May 26, 2016
Periodic Review Board (PRB) holds hearing to review Barhoumi's status
May 5, 2013
District ourt denies Barhoumi’s motion for relief
May 5, 2013
District ourt denies Barhoumi’s motion for relief
August 10, 2010
Barhoumi files motion for relief under seal in habeas case
August 10, 2010
Barhoumi files motion for relief under seal in habeas case
June 25, 2008

Barhoumi files motion for reconsideration following Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush

June 25, 2008

Barhoumi files motion for reconsideration following Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush

October 5, 2007
Court denies motion for reconsideration
October 5, 2007
Court denies motion for reconsideration
Barhoumi then files an appeal with the D.C. Circuit.
September 13, 2007
Barhoumi files a motion for reconsideration with district court
September 13, 2007
Barhoumi files a motion for reconsideration with district court

Barhoumi files this motion in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to grant certiorari in Boumediene v. Bush.

June 13, 2007
Barhoumi files a notice of appeal with the D.C. Circuit
June 13, 2007
Barhoumi files a notice of appeal with the D.C. Circuit
May 15, 2007
Court dismisses habeas case
May 15, 2007
Court dismisses habeas case
July 28, 2005

Barhoumi files a habeas corpus petition, Shafiiq v. Bush (since renamed Barhoumi v. Obama) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

July 28, 2005

Barhoumi files a habeas corpus petition, Shafiiq v. Bush (since renamed Barhoumi v. Obama) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.