U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court Accepts African Prison Guard’s Asylum Appeal
Posted Mar 17, 2008 12:11 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A former prison camp guard who says he was forced to persecute others in Africa will get a chance to press his case for asylum with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Daniel Girmai Negusie was denied asylum because he helped operate a prison camp in Eritrea during a war with Ethiopia, SCOTUSblog reports. Federal law bars asylum for those who participate or assist in the persecution of others. But Negusie claims in his cert petition (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog) that the law doesn’t apply to him because he was forced persecute others under threats of torture or death.
Negusie served two years as a guard until he was able to escape by hiding in a shipping container.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that coercion is irrelevant. Its decision conflicts with the law in at least one other circuit, the cert petition says.
“In a world where the number of civil wars is increasing, and both sides often coerce individuals into military service, this issue is arising with increasing frequency—as demonstrated by the significant number of judicial decisions addressing it,” the petition says. “Capricious variation in the application of this nation’s asylum laws with respect to a frequently recurring issue cannot be tolerated.”