Bilal Abdul Kareem, a United States citizen who believes he has been targeted for assassination by his own Government, has won the right to challenge his presumed inclusion on the Kill List in court.
“Due process is not merely an old and dusty procedural obligation,” wrote U.S. District Judge, Rosemary Collyer, in her ruling partially denying the Government’s motion to dismiss the case. “Instead, it is a living, breathing concept that protects US persons from over-reaching government action even, perhaps, on an occasion of war.”
Bilal is a American journalist, who has been reporting on the conflict in Syria since it began. In 2016, he narrowly escaped being killed on five separate occasions, including two strikes on cars he was traveling in and a further two strikes on the headquarters of his news agency, On The Ground News, while he was present. He believes the US Government has mistakenly identified him as a terrorist, for interviewing rebel fighters and other groups in Syria – a vital part of his journalistic work.
Under the Presidential Policy Guidance, issued in 2013 under President Obama, only people who pose a “continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons” may be targeted outside conventional war zones – a definition that clearly excludes Bilal. Today’s ruling is a major victory, which recognizes that the courts have a role to play where due process rights are at stake, even where those claims challenge military decisions.
“Mr. Kareem does not seek a ruling that a strike by the U.S. military was mistaken or improper. He seeks his birthright instead: a timely assertion of his due process rights under the Constitution to be heard before he might be included on the Kill List and his First Amendment rights to free speech before he might be targeted for lethal action due to his profession,” wrote Judge Collyer.
Jennifer Gibson, who leads Reprieve’s assassinations project and is co-counsel for Bilal, said: “Today was a huge win, not just for Bilal Abdul Kareem, but for all those who believe we must protect that most cherished of American values – due process. For too long, the US Government has sentenced people to death in secret, including American citizens, denying them their constitutionally-guaranteed right to walk through the courthouse doors and defend themselves. Today’s ruling reminds everyone that we cannot just ignore the Constitution in the name of national security.”