[JURIST] A US House of Representatives [official webpage] subcommittee questioned why a group of Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs [JURIST news archive] is classified as a terrorist organization during a hearing [materials] Tuesday. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight [official website] heard testimony on why the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder] militant group, which has been blamed for 162 deaths, has been classified as a terrorist organization since 2002. Criticizing US authorities for overly relying on questionable Chinese intelligence in their classification, Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) [official website] accused China of "conflat[ing] peaceful, civil disobedience and dissent with violent terrorist activity" on behalf of the Uighurs. China maintains that the Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] belong to the ETIM, an accusation that is disputed by the Uighur detainees and US authorities. Delahunt maintained that returning the Uighurs to China would be a "one way ticket to the death penalty" and addressed China's classification of the group:
the communist Chinese government has used the war on terror as a means to avoid criticism as they broomly persecuted and repressed the Uighur minority.Delahunt referred to a House resolution [HR 497 text] from the 110th Congress that called for China to stop the religious suppression directed against the Uighur people, saying that China "manipulated the strategic objectives of the international war on terror to increase their culture, linguistic and religious suppression of the Muslim population residing in the Uighur autonomous region."
The charge that the Uighurs at Guantanamo were terrorists, were predicated on an unsubstantiated claim that they were somehow affiliated with this group.
Last week, four of the Uighurs being held at Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Bermuda [JURIST report]. Thirteen remain at the detention facility, although they have been cleared of wrongdoing. The Uighurs' release was ordered [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] by a US district court in October, but that decision was overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in February by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website]. They have appealed [JURIST report] to the US Supreme Court [official website]. If the remaining Uighurs are transferred before the Court decides to hear their case, it will likely be dismissed as moot. Last week, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said that his government had reached an agreement with the US [JURIST report] to accept all 17 Uighur detainees. US officials said later that no final agreement had been reached. Also last week, Torigiong said that the offer was motivated by human rights concerns [JURIST report] and not by the Chinese government's reaction. Although the Chinese government has demanded the repatriation of the Uighurs, the US has rejected such requests [JURIST report], citing fear of torture upon their return.