DC Circuit rules courts cannot prevent transfer of Gitmo Uighurs

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled April 7 that US courts cannot prevent the government from transferring detainees held at Guantánamo Bay to foreign countries on the grounds that detainees may face prosecution or torture in the foreign country. The three-judge panel found it had jurisdiction to hear the habeas corpus claims brought by nine Uighur Muslim detainees under Boumediene v. Bush. Relying heavily on the US Supreme Court opinion Munaf v. Geren, the court then overturned a DC District Court decision that would have required the government to give a 30-day notice before sending detainees to foreign nations, ruling that the executive branch has broad authority to order transfers. The court noted that the US government has in place policies against sending detainees to countries that may torture them and concluded “the district court may not question the Government’s determination that a potential recipient country is not likely to torture a detainee.”

On April 6 seventeen Uighur detainees filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to grant their release. US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in March that the Department of Justice (DoJ) would consider accepting in the US the 17 Uighur detainees who have been cleared for release. The DoJ has declined to repatriate the Uighurs despite Chinese demands because they could face torture upon their return. In March, Holder and other top officials from the Obama administration met with leaders from the European Union (EU) to discuss plans to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The US government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants, but have been linked with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. (Jurist, April 8)

See our last posts on Gitmo and the Uighurs.