D.C. Circuit Court Decision Refuses to Allow Advance Notice Before a Guantanamo Detainee is Transferred

Decision Would Increase the Risk of Illegal Transfers to Torture

Washington, DC. - Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its opinion in Kiyemba v. Obama. The Court vacated the District Court decision, which had required the government to give thirty days advance notice before an individual is transferred from Guantánamo. The Court held that it could not test the Executive’s promise not to transfer someone to a country where he could be tortured.

In response, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Emi MacLean issued the following statement:

"For the past four and a half years, approximately sixty men imprisoned in Guantánamo have relied upon the U.S. federal courts to protect them from the military transferring them to a country where they are likely to be tortured. Today, the court has abdicated its role in safeguarding individuals in U.S. custody from transfers to torture.

"Egregiously, the court has done so based upon nothing more than the Executive’s promise not to send an individual to a place where he will be tortured. In the long ugly history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo, the Executive has made repeated hollow promises that 'we do not torture.' 'Trust the President' is not enough in 2009 to prevent U.S. complicity in torture and to protect an individual’s rights.

"CCR’s client Abdul Ra’ouf Qassim was told he could leave Guantánamo years ago. Yet he is Libyan and had nowhere safe to go. The U.S. government twice tried to transfer him to Libya where he would have disappeared into a Libyan jail and been subjected to torture. It was only the court’s intervention which prevented Abdul Ra’ouf’s disappearance.

Like many other Guantánamo detainees, Abdul Ra’ouf has made the difficult 'choice' to remain imprisoned in Guantánamo rather than face persecution or torture in his home country because his fear was so strong. He has reached out to the Swiss government to come to his aid and allow him to restart his life.

"Today’s decision creates a crisis for the sixty men in Guantánamo who cannot return to their home countries and seek humanitarian protection. It is urgent that countries intervene to provide safe haven for these men. Guantánamo can no longer be seen as purely a U.S. problem. It is an international dilemma demanding an international solution. Closing Guantánamo cannot result in disappearing people into countries where they fear torture or persecution. Guantánamo detainees seeking safe haven are from Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Libya, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan

"The past Administration created a lawless zone that damaged our Nation’s reputation and harmed countless lives, and the new Administration promised to return the United States to the rule of law. If President Obama intends to close Guantanamo legally and humanely, he must commit to not transfer people to torture — as a matter of law, not hollow promises"


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

June 9, 2009