Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal by Chinese Muslims Held at Guantanamo Bay


Native Chinese Muslims who had asked to be released from Guantanamo Bay into the United States will not get their wish, says the Supreme Court.

A string of appeals has made this case a tangled one. Then men, all of whom are Uyghurs—an ethnic minority from western China—have been cleared for release from the military detention center in Cuba. They will not be sent to their native land because of fears that they would be tortured by the Chinese government. In October 2008, a federal judge ordered that the prisoners be released in the United States, arguing that they could no longer be considered “enemy combatants.” Yet the Bush administration appealed this decision in its final days in office, and no action was taken. In February 2009, a federal appeals panel ruled that there was no constitutional or legal authority to release the men to the United States—despite the fact that they had been unlawfully detained and there was no where else, at the time, for them to go.

At that point, eight Uyghurs asked the Supreme Court to hear their case. Oral arguments had been scheduled for late March, but in the meantime several nations, including Palau and Bermuda, have stepped up and agreed to take the detainees. Yet five of them have refused to go, and remain imprisoned.

Now the Supreme Court justices have dissolved the case, at the urging of the Obama administration, canceled the oral arguments, and said that it is too soon for the appeal to be heard. Lower courts, instead, will make a determination as to whether the case should continue.

“No court has yet ruled in this case in light of the new facts, and we decline to be the first to do so,” the court wrote in an unsigned ruling.

The Uyghurs had been accused of receiving weapons and military training in Afghanistan. One of them, Hazaifa Parhat, is suspected to have attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan around the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks. China claims that, although the men are part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement—an organization officially designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group—they will not torture, imprison or otherwise mistreat the men if they are returned to China.

The Uyghers are not alone in fearing persecution, abuse or arrest if they are returned to their native countries. Approximately 185 prisoners remain in the facility at Guantanamo Bay, despite the January 2009 announcement by President Obama that the detention center would be closed down. Two-thirds of those being held at Gitmo have filed appeals, claiming that they are being unfairly imprisoned by the United States government.


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