DC Circuit rules courts cannot prevent transfer of Uighur Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that US courts cannot prevent the government from transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] to foreign countries on the grounds that detainees may face prosecution or torture in the foreign country. The three-judge panel found it had jurisdiction to hear the habeas corpus claims brought by nine Uighur [JURIST news archive] Muslim detainees under Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. Relying heavily on the US Supreme Court opinion Munaf v. Geren [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], the court then overturned a DC District Court decision [JURIST report] that would have required the government to give a 30-day notice before sending detainees to foreign nations, ruling that the executive branch has broad authority to order transfers. The court noted that the US government has in place policies against sending detainees to countries that may torture them and concluded "the district court may not question the Government’s determination that a potential recipient country is not likely to torture a detainee."

On Monday seventeen Uighur detainees filed a petition for certiorari [JURIST report] with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to grant their release. US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in March that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] would consider accepting [JURIST report] in the US the 17 Uighur detainees who have been cleared for release. The DOJ has declined to repatriate the Uighurs despite Chinese demands [JURIST report] because they could face torture upon their return. In March, Holder and other top officials from the Obama administration met with leaders [JURIST report] from the European Union (EU) [official website] to discuss plans to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The US government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants [10 USC § 948a text; JURIST news archive], but have been linked with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002.

 

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