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What About the Uighurs?

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April 7, 2009

Remember the Uighurs? They are a group of 17 Chinese Muslims from Northwestern China that have been have been detained at Guantánamo for over seven years without charge. Last fall, the Bush administration conceded that the men are not enemy combatants, but since that time, the group has continued to remain in legal limbo.

Yesterday, lawyers representing the Uighurs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order their release into the United States.

As an ethnic minority, the Uighurs have long been repressed in China, and if they return, they’ll likely be persecuted. Political pressure from China has dissuaded Albania, which accepted five Uighurs a few years ago, from accepting any more. In fact, the fear of diplomatic repercussions from China has scared the rest of the world from accepting them.

In October, a federal judge ruled that the men should be freed into the U.S. because the Pentagon no longer considered them enemy combatants and no other country would accept them. However, in February, a federal court of appeals ruled that Judge Ricardo Urbina had overstepped his power in ordering the men’s release, and that only the executive branch had the authority to release the men.

And that is exactly what the Uighurs are asking the Supreme Court to rule on — can a federal court order the release of the prisoners in the U.S.?

The Uighurs have been wrongly imprisoned without charge for over seven years. Releasing them is the only real remedy to this injustice, and bringing them to the United States would be an example to other countries to provide a safe haven for released detainees.

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