The Supreme Court will no longer hear the case of 17 Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo even though a judge had ruled their freedom. The decision came after the Obama Adminsitration tle the high court that all these Uighurs have been offered to leave for countries outside the United States. While 12 of them have left Guantanamo, the remaining five Uighurs have rejected the deal and stayed in the US prison. The court said since the remaining Uighurs are not held in prison against their will, the court will drop the case.
Human rights activists have urged the Swiss government to give shelter on humanitarian grounds to two ethnic Uighurs held in the United States’ military prison of Guantánamo.
“The two brothers are the unluckiest of the unlucky,” said Elizabeth Gilson, an American lawyer who represents them. She said even the US government admitted that the members of the Muslim community in northwestern China were not terrorists but refugees. “There is no evidence to believe that they are dangerous,” Gilson told journalists on Thursday. She is visiting Switzerland for talks with government officials.
The two brothers are part of a group of more than 20 Uighurs, arrested in Afghanistan and Pakistan, suspected of links to militant Muslim organisations following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US.
Six Uighurs formerly detained in America’s Guantanamo Bay have been resettled to the small Pacific nation of Palau upon the request of the US.
“They are happy to enjoy the beautiful environment of Palau,” Mampimin Ala, an Australian flown to Palau to act as a translator for the freed Uighurs, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
However, they arrive just as 200-300 Bangladeshi Muslims’ work visas expire, forcing them to face possible deportation. Any further immigration from the country was banned just last month.
Palau’s Muslim community of about 500 consists mostly of Bangladeshi migrant workers, and the shrinkage in that community could make the Uighurs’ transition hard.
“They need a community of Muslims,” Mujahid Hussain, the only Pakistani in Palau, said of the Uighurs.
“They need to sit together and pray together. So if they send home a lot of the Bangladeshis, that’s going to be a problem,” Hussain, 36, told The Associated Press on Monday.
Nonetheless, they will enjoy sea-views and a five-minute walk to one of Palau’s two mosques. Their lawyer Eric Tirschwell stated: “These men want nothing more than to live peaceful, productive lives in a free, democratic nation safe from oppression by the Chinese…thanks to Palau, which has graciously offered them a temporary home, they now have that chance. We hope that another country will soon step forward to provide them permanent sanctuary.”
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of 13 Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo Bay naval base who are cleared for release yet are still being held.
The justices rejected the Obama administration’s plea that they stay out of the case. Since 2004, the court has issued decisions ensuring that judges play a strong role in protecting prisoner rights at the U.S.-run naval base in Cuba.
The Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority originally living in western China, had fled to Afghanistan. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, they were among hundreds of men transferred to U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo.
They initially were held as “enemy combatants,” but that status was lifted. They would be free to return to China if they did not fear persecution there. This summer, ethnic rioting in Western China led to a crackdown on Uighurs.
A district court judge last year ordered the Uighurs brought to the U.S. and freed, but an appeals court reversed.
Administration lawyers argue in a brief that judges lack the power to order the release into the U.S. “outside of the framework of the immigration laws.” Lawyers for the Uighurs counter that judges may intervene when the government has “brought the prisoners to our threshold, imprisons them … without legal justification, and — as seven years have so poignantly proved — there is nowhere else to go.”
The case will test the strength of a 2008 Supreme Court decision giving Guantanamo detainees a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment.
Obama has set to close Guantanamo by January 22 of next year. The administration has been working on developing resettlement options for the Uighurs but has had little success.
The fatal stabbing of an Egyptian Muslim woman in a German courtroom two weeks ago sparked anger across the Muslim world and fueled demands for a formal apology from Germany. But while the region rages about the story of the “headscarf martyr,” holding her up as a symbol of persecution, the plight of China’s Muslim population has provoked a more muted response. On July 5 police cracked down on a demonstration by minority Muslim Uighurs in the city of Urumqi, capital of China’s western Xinjiang region. Hundreds of Uighur young men rioted, attacking majority Han Chinese civilians with knives, clubs and bricks. In the end authorities say 137 Hans, 46 Uighurs and one member of the Chinese Muslim Hui ethnic group were killed. But, says Diaa Rashwan, a political analyst at the government-backed Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, “there is not a lot of interest or attention paid to these events in the Arab and Muslim world.” ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER REPORTS.
Britain was left scrambling to assert the vestiges of its colonial authority yesterday after Bermuda welcomed in four former Guantánamo detainees under a secret deal with the United States. British officials knew nothing of the arrangement until the men, all ethnic Uighurs from western China, were already airborne en route from Guantánamo to the British island territory, better known as a haven for tourists and tax exiles than former terrorist suspects.
Alarm bells sounded in London when Ewart Brown, the Bermudian Premier, welcomed the men as “landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalised citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere”.
The men are in the country as “guest workers”. Under the British Overseas Territory Act of 2002, citizens of Bermuda were restored with the full rights of British citizenship, including the right of abode in the United Kingdom. Bermuda has control over internal affairs, including immigration, but not over foreign affairs, defence or security matters, under which, London made clear, the case of the Uighurs falls. Ewart Brown said “I can say on behalf of the government, we are confident this decision is the right one from a humanitarian perspective.”
Several Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay prison have appealed to the German government for asylum. A remote Pacific island has agreed to accept them but only on a temporary basis. Seema Saifee, a lawyer for the Uighur detainees, told Spiegel Online that their case had been put to the German government. “Our clients implore the federal government to open the door of Germany for them and to persuade other European nations to give protection to many other stateless Guantanamo prisoners,” Saifee said. Germany’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble made it clear last week that a decision could not be made because Germany regarded the information provided by the US State Department on the Uighurs as insufficient. The interior ministry has refused other applications from former Guantanamo inmates on national security grounds. Saifee said the men had been “upset and disappointed” by the critical attitude of Germany’s interior minister. “The Uighurs see Germany with the largest Uighur community in Europe as the best way to end their imprisonment for nearly a decade at Guantanmo Bay,” she said.
Closing down the American prison at Guantánamo Bay is proving more difficult than initially anticipated, but so far the success has been mixed for the Obama Administration, with both disappointments and victories for the plan in the past week alone. The latest of blows to the White House’s efforts to move detainees from Guantánamo came this week when the Canadian government flatly rejected calls to take 17 Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, cleared for release from the prison. Kory Teneycke, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told the Associated Free Press that “Canada is not looking to take any detainees from Guantánamo…In the case of the Uighurs and other Guantanamo Bay detainees Canada has no interest.” The lack of interest in taking in detainees has proven troublesome for the Obama Administration. The Uighur case is widely considered a mess inherited by the new President but with seemingly few prospects for a quick solution. Indeed, American lawmakers have likely made a solution seem even farther away. Mark Kersten reports.
Canada has refused a request from the Obama administration to take 17 Chinese Muslims called Uighurs cleared for release from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper says they have no connection to Canada and there are security concerns. Authorities claim that Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Uighurs fear persecution if they are sent back to China. Their quest to settle in Canada is complicated by the case of Omar Khadr, a 22-year-old Canadian who has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 on accusations of lobbing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a battle between al-Qaeda fighters and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
German interior officials said that the inmates from the Guantánamo Bay detention center whom the United States wants Germany to accept could pose a major security risk because they had spent time in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The United States has asked Germany to take 12 Chinese Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority located mostly in western China. The Uighurs have been persecuted by the Chinese authorities, according to human rights organizations, and American officials say they cannot be returned to China because they might be mistreated. But Uwe Schünemann, the conservative interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, who along with the other 15 regional interior ministers must respond to the U.S. request, said that accepting the detainees was “not without danger.”
“The information we have is that the Uighurs we are being asked to accept were in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and then they were sent to Guantánamo Bay,” Mr. Schünemann said. “We need much more information from the U.S. about these detainees before we are prepared to make any decision.” The regional interior ministers, as well as the federal interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, are scheduled to meet in a closed session Thursday in the north German city of Bremenhaven to discuss the issue. President Barack Obama will visit Germany on Friday. Germany’s reluctance reflects a general lack of enthusiasm across the European Union to accept detainees, even though its members have repeatedly called for Guantánamo to be closed. Mr. Obama, who has vowed to close the prison camp, has struggled to get help from his European allies and has met resistance at home as well. Congressional members of both parties have resisted his plan to relocate detainees to the United States, and Congress recently denied him the funds to shut down Guantánamo. Judy Dempsey reports.