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Rep. Delahunt Holds Field Briefing in Boston on Guantánamo’s Refugees

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Attorneys Say U.S. Government Must Find Safe Havens for Detainees Who Fear Torture If Sent to Home Countries

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Jen Nessel, press@ccrjustice.org

March 26, 2008, Boston, MA – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other Guantánamo attorneys testified during a Congressional field briefing on Guantánamo’s refugees for the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. Dozens of men at Guantánamo cannot return to their native countries for fear of torture, and CCR called on the U.S. government to do more to find safe havens for all of them.

The formal field briefing, held by Representative William D. Delahunt, was titled “City on the Hill or Prison on the Bay? The Mistakes of Guantánamo and the Decline of America’s Image.”

As efforts gear up to close the Guantánamo detention facility, an estimated 50 detainees cannot return home for fear of torture. At least two of those men had been designated refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees before they arrived at Guantánamo. So far, neither the United States nor European countries, where some detainees have relatives, have been willing to give them safe haven. In fact, the U.S. has already sent almost 40 detainees back to countries that are known for human rights abuses, including Uzbekistan, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt.

“Guantánamo’s refugees are faced with an impossible choice: to be detained at the prison camp indefinitely or to be repatriated to countries where they face certain torture or persecution,” said CCR Staff Attorney Emi MacLean, who testified today before Rep. Delahunt. “These men, who have never been charged with a crime, must be given the opportunity to live freely and peacefully. The U.S. government has a moral obligation to find a safe haven for these men, either within the U.S. or in another country.”

Sabin P. Willett, of Bingham McCutchen, LLP, represents a number of ethnic Uighurs who fled western China. During today’s hearing, he spoke of the plight of one of his clients, Huzaifa Parhat, whose case will be argued shortly before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “A sign at Guantánamo says ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom,’ but it would take a better advocate than me to persuade Huizafa that we Americans are serious about freedom. Evidently, everyone wants to close Guantánamo. But talk is cheap, and Huizafa and the other Uighurs remain,” said Willett.

Michael E. Mone, Jr., of Esdaile, Barrett, and Esdaile, represents an Uzbek detainee – Oybek Jamaldinivich Kabbarov – who fears repatriation. “My client fits the very profile of someone who will face persecution, arrest, imprisonment, and torture at the hands of Uzbek authorities. While Oybek would like to practice Islam freely, even the most basic acts of wearing a prayer cap, keeping a beard, and going to mosque in the Ferghana valley, where he is from, are viewed with grave suspicion by the Uzbek security services,” said Mone during his testimony today. “Even worse, the stigma attached to his prolonged detention in Guantánamo will follow him home with dire consequences. Yet, despite the grave and obvious danger facing him, the U.S. government refuses to rule out repatriating Oybek to his native Uzbekistan.”

Wednesday’s briefing also included testimony from the Honorable Mark L. Wolf, Chief Judge, United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, who spoke about the implications of Guantánamo for our respect of international law and the loss of U.S. prestige overseas.

For a full report and refugee profiles, go to: http://www.ccrjustice.org/refugees.

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.