People’s Moujahedin Organization of Iran v United States Department of State 613 F 3d 220 (D C Cir 2010)



Case Brief May 12, People’s Moujahedin Organization of Iran v. United s Department of 613 F.3d 220, and (D.C. Cir. 2010). Parties People Moujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the petitioner in this case, is a political group in Iran while the Respondent was the United States Department of State. Facts Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council in the late 1990s authorized sanctions on certain terrorist organizations and entities. However, it left the modalities to its member states to operationalise national listing of individual organizations and persons and to implement the sanctions. In the United States, such organizations were listed as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). AEDPA gave the secretary of state powers to designate an organization as FTO for a period of two years. The effects of such listing are dire. For instance, the secretary of the treasury department can freeze all the assets of such an organization. Members of an FTO are prohibited from entering into the United States and any person who provides material support to such an organization risks a fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years (Nizkor, 2012). After the lapse of the two years, the secretary of state was required to either renew the designation or not, and if s/he did not, the designation would be allowed to lapse. However, this requirement was amended to the effect that such designation did not lapse but after every two years organization listed as such could file a petition for delisting. The Act requires that the Secretary of State shall Act on such a petition within 180 days. The Secretary is required to revoke the listing if s/he finds that either the circumstances that led to such listing have ceased or if the national security required so. In doing so, the secretary could rely on classified and/or unclassified information. If the secretary refuses the revocation, the organization can seek review within 30 days of such a decision. PMOI was first listed as PMOI in 1997, and the designation subsequently renewed to 2003. On July 15 2008, PMOI filed such a petition, listing several grounds among them that it had renounced terror, had been sharing intelligence with the government regarding Iran Nuclear program and that indeed its members had received protection under the Geneva convention. On January 7 2009, the secretary denied the petition based on several grounds. Prior proceeding Consequently, PMOI applied for courts review on the grounds that the secretary’s finding lacked substantial support and that the secretary failed to accord it due process (In Re: People’s Moujahedin Organization of Iran, Petitioner,2012). The court ruled in its favor and ordered the secretary to avail the unclassified information she had relied on, and instructed her to indicate which sources she found to be sufficient to maintain the designation. The court also made several orders, but which the secretary was slow in complying with. However, the unclassified material was later on availed to PMOI on October 18 2010 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) acting on behalf of the Secretary. It required PMOI to make submissions on the same which it duly did. However, since then, no action had been taken despite numerous correspondences between the two. Therefore on 27th February 2012, PMOI applied for an order of mandamus. Issues Did the secretary’s delay in making a decision on PMOI’s petition entitle them to a judicial review order? Arguments The petitioner argued that it had denounced terrorism, which was evidenced by the fact that, following 2001, no act of violence had taken place, that was attributed to it. Moreover, its members had been classified as combatants under the Geneva Convention after thorough vetting by US forces, which had established no element of criminality. To add, it argued that failure to delist was merely political, to avoid sparking a reaction from Iran. The petitioners argued that it was a clear intention of congress to provide for judicial review for such listing, since congress had refused to insulate FTO designation from courts. The statutory time limit of 180 had passed and the secretary’s actions were to merely frustrate any review. In addition, the petitioner argued that continued listing predisposed its members to violence, such as a recent attack on its camp Ashraf by Iraq forces based on FTO listing. Ruling The court held that the secretary’s delay on acting on the PMOI’s petition was ‘egregious’. The court also held that failure by the secretary to act on its orders, effectively nullified a remand mandate it had issued in 2010. The court refused to immediately issue an order of mandamus, because the matter touched on national security and foreign policy. Instead, the court ordered the secretary to either allow or reject the petition within four months, failure of which the court would issue an order of mandamus. Rationale The failure by the secretary to make a decision was putting the petitioner in an administrative limbo, by maintaining PMOI’s listing and denying the petitioner opportunity to seek review. Thus the failure to act insulated her decision from the courts review. In addition, the secretary’s failure to act within the statutory limit of 180 days balanced in favor of granting the order of mandamus, since such a timeline manifests the intention that the secretary must act promptly. In addition, unlike other instances of national security where the court exercises judicial restraint, in this scenario the congress had empowered the court to review the decision of the secretary. Works Cited Nizkor, Equipo. (2012). U.S. Court Issues Writ of Mandamus, Effectively Removing Organization from Terror List: In Re People’s Moujahedin Organization of Iran. Retrieved from People’s Moujahedin Organization of Iran v. United States Department of State, 613 F.3d 220, (D.C. Cir. 2010).