Jun 24, 2008

East Turkestan: Court Overrules Guantanamo Hearing

Sample ImageThe US federal appeals court has overturned the Pentagon tribunal’s decision to continue the detention of ethnic Uyghur Huzaifa Parhat on the basis of his status as an “enemy combatant”.

Below is an article published by the New York Times:

After the first court review of the basis for holding a Guantánamo detainee, the federal appeals court in Washington has overturned the Pentagon’s decision and ordered that the man be released or given a new military hearing.

The ruling involved a detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, one of 17 Guantánamo detainees who are ethnic Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in western China. The imprisonment of the Uighur detainees has drawn wide attention, largely because of their lawyers’ claim that they were never enemies of the United States and were mistakenly swept into Guantánamo.

Detainees’ lawyers portrayed the ruling as the latest important court rebuke to the Bush administration over its detention policies. They suggested that the ruling concluded that the procedures used by the Pentagon in its hearings at Guantánamo were deeply flawed.

“This raises enormous questions about just who they are holding at Guantánamo,” said the lead lawyer for Mr. Parhat, P. Sabin Willett.

But the court did not immediately release the ruling from a unanimous three-judge panel of the Untied States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In a terse one-paragraph summary, the court clerk stated simply that, “the court directed the government to release or to transfer Parhat, or to expeditiously hold a new tribunal consistent with the court’s opinion.”

The statement of the clerk, Mark J. Langer, said that the court’s opinion issued on Friday [20 June 2008] was under seal because it contained classified information. It added that a decision was being prepared for public release.

The ruling came in the first case to receive a full court review of the Pentagon hearings that determine whether a detainee is properly held as an enemy combatant. At those hearings detainees are not permitted to have lawyers, cannot see all of the evidence against them and face many hurdles in trying to present their own evidence.

The adequacy of the hearings was an issue in the Supreme Court’s decision on June 12 [2008] about Guantánamo that decided the related question of whether detainees have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal court.

The decision in Mr. Parhat’s case came in a challenge under the much more limited procedures Congress provided for contesting the findings of the military hearings, known as combatant status review tribunals. In a 2005 law, the Detainee Treatment Act, Congress limited those challenges, requiring detainees to show that the Pentagon had not followed its own procedures.

Detainees’ lawyers said Monday [23 June 2008] that successfully challenging a finding that a detainee was an enemy combatant under those limitations showed the extent of the difficulties with the hearing system.

Department of Justice spokesmen did not immediately comment on the ruling.