Ruling released on Uighur enemy combatant status at Guantanamo

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Monday released declassified portions of last month's decision [PDF text] that a US Combatant Status Review Tribunal [DOD materials] had improperly designated a Chinese Uighur Muslim [JURIST news archive] detained at Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant. In the opinion, Circuit Judge Merrick Garland dismissed government arguments that classified documents established Huzaifa Parhat's terror connections:

First, the government suggests that several of the assertions in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made in at least three different documents. We are not persuaded. ... In fact, we have no basis for concluding that there are independent sources for the documents' thrice-made assertions. To the contrary, as noted in Part III, many of those assertions are made in identical language, suggesting that later documents may merely be citing earlier ones, and hence that all may ultimately derive from a single source. And as we have also noted, Parhat has made a credible argument that - at least for some of the assertions - the common source is the Chinese government, which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs. Other assertions in the documents may ultimately rely on interview reports (not provided to the Tribunal) of Uighur detainees, who may have had no first-hand knowledge and whose speculations may have been transformed into certainties in the course of being repeated by report writers.
Last month, the court ordered [PDF text] the US government to release or transfer Parhat. Barring release or transfer, the order directed the US to "expeditiously hold a new Tribunal consistent with the court's opinion." Parhat can challenge his detention in federal court and seek immediate release through a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The New York Times has more.

In April, US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers defended Parhat's detention [JURIST report] in oral arguments before the court, claiming he is an "enemy combatant" due to his ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and was designated as a terrorist group by the US government in 2002. The DOJ acknowledged that Parhat did not fight against the US and that there is no evidence that he intended to do so, but said he can still be held under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act of 2001 [SJ Res 23 materials] because ETIM is affiliated with al Qaeda. In 2006, five Chinese Uighur detainees were released to Albania [JURIST report], where officials reviewed applications for asylum. The transfer, which was criticized by China, ended a court challenge against the detainees' indefinite detention [JURIST reports]. In December 2006, lawyers for seven Uighur detainees filed a lawsuit [JURIST report], arguing that the process by which they were determined to be enemy combatants was flawed.


 

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