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13 Innocent Uighurs Still Detained at Guantánamo After Being Cleared for Release Since 2004 Get Their Day in Court

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Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

October 20, 2009, New York – Today, the Supreme Court announced it will hear the case of 13 men who remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay despite being cleared for release since 2004 and will address the issue of whether a court can order them released into the United States when there is no other remedy. The men, Uighurs from China, are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Bingham McCutchen LLP,  Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, Miller & Chevalier, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Reprieve, and Elizabeth Gilson.

This will be the first time the Court hears a Guantánamo case since it decided the landmark case brought by CCR and co-counsel, Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, and the first time the Obama administration will argue a Guantánamo case before the high court..

“We are gratified that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. We hope this will result in a ruling that confirms that the writ of habeas corpus guarantees to the innocent not just a judge's learned essay but something meaningful –  his release,” said Sabin Willett, of Bingham McCutchen, lead attorney for the Uighur detainees.

In October 2008, D.C. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the U.S. government to release 17 wrongly-imprisoned Guantánamo detainees into the United States. The men had been imprisoned without charge for over seven years. Four of the men have since been resettled in Bermuda. The U.S. government has acknowledged it neither had the authority to detain them nor could it release them to China because of a risk of torture. However, on February 18, 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and held that the indefinite detention of the men could continue. The men have asked for the Supreme Court to review the case and find, as the District Court did, that their “release into the continental United States is the only possible effective remedy.”  

In the wake of Boumediene, 30 of the 38 Guantanamo habeas cases heard by the lower courts have resulted in a finding that the detainee was unlawfully held, but, since the Court of Appeals decision in the Uighur cases, the trial courts have felt that they lacked the power to do anything more than order the government to make diplomatic efforts to release the men. As a result, 18 of the 30 detainees found to be wrongly detained by the courts in the last year remain in detention.

"If President Obama is truly committed to closing Guantánamo, he should help these men restart their lives here in the U.S.,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. “They got the wrong men, and have kept them imprisoned for nearly eight years because there was nowhere safe to send them. If we expect the rest of the world to help us end this mess, we have to start by taking some responsibility for cleaning it up ourselves.”

For more information, visit our Kiyemba v. Obama Case Page.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.