Habeas Corpus of Uighur Prisoners at Guantanamo

According to the New York Times, Federal Court Judge, Ricardo M. Urbina, has ordered the Bush administration to release 17 Uighur detainees from Guantanamo Bay on Friday.  While the U.S. conceded over a year ago, the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China, were not enemy combatants; the Bush administration still contends they should be held at Guantanamo, as they cannot be returned to China for fear of torture, and have found no other country to agree to take them.

“I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention,” Judge Urbina said.

Saying the men had never fought the United States and were not a security threat, he tersely rejected Bush administration claims that he lacked the power to order the men set free in the United States and government requests that he stay his order to permit an immediate appeal.

Judge Urbina is ordering the 17 detainees be brought to his court on October 10, according to Amnesty International

The Uighurs would then be released, with the assistance of members of the local Uighur community, religious groups and refugee settlement agencies who have offered their support to help the detainees adjust to their lives outside Guantánamo.

The Judge has also scheduled a hearing for them on October 16 and “ordered that an official from the US Department of Homeland Security be present at that hearing.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is filing an emergency motion for a stay, pending an appeal to the Court of Appeals and the case could go to the Supreme Court.

As the New York Times article noted, “Judge Urbina’s decision came in a habeas corpus lawsuit authorized by a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that gave detainees the right to have federal judges to review the reason for their detention.”

The centuries-old doctrine of habeas corpus permits a judge to demand production of a prisoner, a power Judge Urbina sought to exercise with his order that the men be brought to him.

“I want to see the individuals,” he said.

According to Amnesty International, the U.S. administration “has claimed authority to continue to detain those it no longer considers ‘enemy combatants’ under the executive’s ‘necessary power to wind up wartime detentions in an orderly fashion’.” 

So, not only is the U.S. saying it can hold people without charge indefinitely at Guantanamo; but even if the charges prove unfounded, they can still detain them. This does not seem very orderly to me; not in a democracy; not in the U.S.A..  This is not the America I Believe In.

Amnesty International is calling for the U.S. government to “comply with Judge Urbina’s order, drop it’s appeals, bring the Uighur detainees to the USA, and work to find lawful, safe and durable solutions in all their cases.”

Take action online on the “War on Terror” page:


Or from the main page, www.amnestyusa.org , left tab “Our Priorities”, top item on the pull down menu, “War on Terror”

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