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Double Shot of Kafka...

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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April 30, 2007

The Post had a front-page, below the fold exposé Sunday on the 82 detainees at Gitmo who have been formally cleared by military review panels, but may remain locked up indefinitely because the US can’t find a country to take them.The stories in the piece are generally old ones—hapless, innocent peasants and farmers given over to the Americans by bounty hunters, allied local fighters or other assorted thugs; held at Gitmo for five years; cleared; and stuck in wiremesh purgatory because Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia and other similar countries won’t repatriate them. A group of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists is illustrative:

Seventeen other Uighurs who were caught in similar circumstances have been cleared for release but remain in Guantanamo because the State Department has been unable to find a home for them. Human rights groups have pressed the U.S. government to offer the men asylum, to no avail.A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the Bush administration had considered granting the Uighurs asylum but that the idea was nixed by the Department of Homeland Security. The Uighurs would be rejected under U.S. immigration law, the official said, because they once trained in armed camps and because their separatist front, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2002.Attorneys for the Uighurs said their predicament has been compounded by the Pentagon’s unwillingness to say they don’t pose a national security risk to the U.S. government or its allies. In announcing that the Uighurs had been approved to leave Guantanamo, military officials made a point of noting that they had not been exonerated and were still classified as enemy combatants.”It’s not a distinction that makes sense at all,” said Michael J. Sternhell, a New York lawyer whose firm represents four of the Uighurs. “It’s a caveat that the Defense Department is offering to cover itself.”

Some great quotes in the story from Ben Wizner at the ACLU. Check it:

This is a problem of our own creation, and yet we expect other countries to shoulder the entire burden of a solution. There needs to be a worldwide solution here. The U.S. has to bear some of the burden. It can’t simply expect its partners and allies to absorb all its detainees.