The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court May 29 to reject a petition filed by 14 Chinese Uighurs held at Guantánamo Bay seeking their release. Taking the same stance as the Bush administration, the Obama White House argued in its reply brief that although the Court has the power to order the release of detainees, it cannot order them released into the US. The Uighurs are no longer officially imprisoned, but they cannot leave Guantánamo until the government finds a country willing to accept them.
The government argues:
Petitioners’ continued presence at Guantánamo Bay is not unlawful detention, but rather the consequence of their lawful exclusion from the United States, under the constitutional exercise of authority by the political Branches, coupled with the unavailability of another country willing to accept them.
The Uighurs fear persecution if they return to China and have asked the Supreme Court to allow them into the US temporarily while the government finds a country that will accept them. In February the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the government did not violate the Constitution by refusing to release the Uighurs into the US.
Earlier this month, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives proposed a bill that could block a proposed plan to accept up to seven Uighur detainees into the US. In March, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the US would consider accepting all 17 detainees. February’s decision by the DC Circuit overruled an October district court order supporting the release of the Uighurs into the US. 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 of the Uighur homeland from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. (Jurist, May 30)