May 10, 2011

East Turkestan: Abandonment Of Guantánamo’s Uighurs

On April 18, the Supreme Court, which had ruled twice that the prisoners at Guantánamo had habeas corpus rights, refused to consider the case of five men abandoned in the prison, despite being innocent.


Below is an article published by: Eurasia Review.

Before WikiLeaks unleashed a trove of classified military assessments from Guantánamo, revealing — to discerning eyes — how the entire edifice was buit on the lies extracted through the torture, coercion or bribery of the prisoners, and before Osama bin Laden was conveniently killed a week later, perhaps to divert attention back to the torture on which modern-day America is built, and the lies and the arbitrary detention of Muslims, which, to some dark and powerful forces at work in the United States, must not apparently be questioned, the prison at Guantánamo — the most visible icon of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” inherited and maintained by Barack Obama, despite his early enthusiasm for closing it — marked a particularly dark day in its miserable history.

On April 18, the Supreme Court, which had ruled twice that the prisoners at Guantánamo had habeas corpus rights, refused to consider the case of five men abandoned in the prison, despite being innocent.

These men — five Uighurs — are known to people who have been paying attention to what has been done in their name at Guantánamo, but are unknown to many others, even though their plight is emblematic of how cruel and paranoid America is in the 21st century.

22 Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province, the Uighurs who ended up at Guantánamo had been living in a rundown settllement in Afghanistan’s mountains, either because they had been derailed en route to Europe and dreams of a new life, or because they nursed an impossible grudge against the Chinese government and wanted to undertake military training to fight back.

Bombed in their settlement after the US-led invasion in October 2001, the survivors fled to Pakistan, where they were taken in by villagers and then sold to US forces, and in Guantánamo, after they had been used as pawns in a diplomatic game with the Chinese government, the Bush administration began working out how to dispose of them without returning them to China, where they faced the very real risk of torture. In May 2006, the government of Albania was persuaded to accept five of the men, but the remaining 17 had to wait until June 2008 for any further progress.

One week after Boumediene v. Bush, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Guantánamo prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, one Uighur, Huzaifa Parhat, won a resounding victory in the D.C. Circuit Court. This led the government to abandon all its claims that any of the 17 were “enemy combatants,” and paved the way for the remaining Uighurs to win their habeas corpus petition in October 2008, when Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered their release into the United States, because no other home had been found for them, and because their continued detention in Guantánamo was unconstitutional.

Instead, however, the Bush administration appealed, the D.C. Circuit Court issued a stay, the Justice Department under Obama maintained the same point of view, the Circuit Court agreed, and the Uighurs were stranded at Guantánamo. That was in February 2009. Obama then quashed a brave and principled plan by White House Counsel Greg Craig to bring some of the Uighurs to live in the US, and, as the Uighurs ‘ lawyers began filing appeals, launched a desperate scramble to find new homes for the men. Four went to Bermuda in June 2009, six more to Palau in October 2009, and two others to Switzerland in March 2010.

For the five who remained, however, their attempt to be accepted in the US, because they feared release in other countries, was dealt a major blow last May, when, after the Supreme Court vacated the D.C. Circuit Court’s February 2009 ruling, the Circuit Court essentially reissued that opinion unchanged, ruling that the courts have no role to play in deciding whether any non-citizen will be allowed to enter the United States.

As so to April 18 this year, when the final door closed on the Uighurs on April 18, and when, spelling the end of their hopes — possibly, of ever being relased — the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, prompting one of their lawyers, Sabin Willett, to write the following eloquent and powerful requiem for habeas corpus for the Lawfare blog maintained, ironically, by supporters of indefinite detention.

Sabin also sent it to me to publish, but at the time I was in the Welsh hills, on vacation and recuperating from a serious illness, and when I came to address it I was suddenly overwhelmed by the release of the WikiLeaks documents mentioned in the opening paragraph.

It is now three weeks later, but Sabin’s requiem is, sadly, timeless — unless the President finds the ability to do what is right, rather than what is politically convenient. I hope to have explained much of the background that those unfamiliar with this depressing topic will need to understand it fully, and I also hope that all that remains is for me to mention that Kiyemba refers to the Uighurs’ various legal cases (there were three in total) and to point out that the baleful figure of Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the D.C. Circuit Court, who features promimently in Sabin’s requiem as the most prominent defender of Guantánamo, not only dealt the killer blows that deprived the Uighurs of their liberty in February 2009 and May 2010, but has also, almost singlehandedly, destroyed habeas corpus as a remedy for any of the Guantánamo prisoners.

His destructiveness — which, I maintain, is poltically motivated, and legally unjustifiable — is throughly documented in my articles, Habeas Hell: How the Great Writ Was Gutted at Guantánamo, Mocking the Law, Judges Rule that Evidence Is Not Necessary to Hold Insignificant Guantánamo Prisoners for the Rest of Their Lives and How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo, where his horrendous rulings in other cases mentioned by Sabin are explored. A final figure worth mentioning, Judge Silberman, is covered in my article, More Judicial Interference on Guantánamo.