Federal court dismisses lawsuit over US Libya involvement

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit [opinion, PDF] brought by group of 10 congressmen alleging that US President Barack Obama [official websites] violated Article I Section 8 [Cornell LII backgrounder] and the 1973 War Powers Resolution [50 USC § 1541 et seq] by authorizing increased military strikes in Libya without Congressional approval. The complaint [text, PDF] filed by the congressmen [JURIST report] in June, stated that "[t]he Libyan operations ordered by President Obama constitute "war" for the purpose of Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution. President Obama prosecuted the war without a declaration of Congress with the use of funds never approved for such a war." Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the legislators lacked standing to challenge the military action because they have an adequate remedy available to them through legislative means. Walton stated that because the legislators have had the opportunity to vote on ending the Libyan action, "[t]hey have not demonstrated that they are without a legislative remedy." Walton also chided the legislators for seeking a remedy through the courts:

While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law. The Court does not mean to imply that the judiciary should be anything but open and accommodating to all members of society, but is simply expressing its dismay that the plaintiffs are seemingly using the limited resources of this Court to achieve what appear to be purely political ends, when it should be clear to them that this Court is powerless to depart from clearly established precedent of the Supreme Court and the District of Columbia Circuit.
Walton specifically noted that Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) [official website] was involved in a similar lawsuit filed against former president George W. Bush in 2002, following Bush's withdrawal form the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. That suit was also dismissed for lack of standing.

The court's ruling came as Obama was announcing the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Gaddafi was captured and killed [JURIST report] on Thursday after military forces loyal to the newly formed government, the National Transitional Council (NTC) [website], took control of Sirte [Al Jazeera report]. Gaddafi's death marks the latest milestone in the Libya conflict [JURIST feature], which began in February [JURIST report] as part of a wider protest movement that had spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Gaddafi and his supporters have been on the run since August, when rebel forces supported by the NTC captured the capital city of Tripoli. Earlier in the summer, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] had issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Gaddafi for crimes against humanity, although some commentators suggested that Gaddafi should face trial in Libya [JURIST op-ed]. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] published a 92-page report saying that Libyan authorities committed crimes against humanity [JURIST report] under Gaddafi's direct orders during the conflict, including acts constituting murder, imprisonment, and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances, and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack." Gaddafi ruled Libya as a dictator for 42 years after taking power in a coup, and was known for his eccentricity and for the tight control he kept over the country.

 

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