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First Guantanamo Detainees Released Due to Court Order Land Safely in Sarajevo

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CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

December 16, 2008, New York –  In response to the safe return home from Guantanamo of three of the men who were at the center of this year’s Supreme Court case ruling in favor of the detainees at Guantánamo, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the following statement:

For the first time in nearly seven years; three Supreme Court decisions; two acts of Congress stripping habeas jurisdiction; five deaths of men detained at the base; innumerable hunger strikes; illegal interrogations; and untold abuse, men detained in Guantanamo landed safely in their home country as a result of an order for their release issued by a federal judge in a habeas case.

The three men, Mustafa Ait Idir, Hadj Boudella, and Mohamed Nechla, have finally returned to Bosnia after years of legal maneuvering by the current administration to prevent them from challenging their detention in a fair hearing before a real court.  Once they were able to get into court and a federal judge finally considered the government’s case against them, they were ordered released. After years of litigation, the courts are now taking significant first steps in unraveling the morass of illegal detention.

Historically, habeas is a swift remedy designed to ensure that the executive cannot imprison a person and throw away the key without giving grounds for the arrest and detention. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the first habeas petitions with co-counsel nearly seven years ago.  We celebrate today’s releases, but realize that each day of continued illegal detention of other men in Guantanamo threatens the very integrity of habeas relief and our nation’s adherence to the rule of law.

The next administration must unequivocally reject this fatally flawed system, and prioritize the swift return of the hundreds of other illegally imprisoned men at Guantanamo to their home countries or, for those needing resettlement or asylum, to a safe third country.

Since 2004, the three men released today have been heroically represented by the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.  Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon was the first judge to rule that the government had insufficient evidence to hold a Guantanamo detainee – and recognized that five Bosnians were improperly detained. The two other men ordered released, Saber Lahmar and Lakhdar Boumediene, remain at Guantanamo.

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.” 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. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007.

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.