July 11, 2016, New York – Today, the Department of Defense announced the transfer of Guantánamo detainee and Center for Constitutional Rights client Muhammadi Davliatov to Serbia. A native of Tajikistan who had become stateless, Davliatov was held without charge at Guantánamo for more than 14 years, during half of which he was approved for release unanimously by all relevant U.S. agencies.
A decade ago, Davliatov filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the legality of his initial capture and detention, which was never resolved on the merits. During the time that litigation was pending, the Bush and then the Obama administrations attempted to transfer Davliatov to Tajikistan, where he faced a severe risk of torture, unjust imprisonment, and possibly death. Davliatov was able to obtain a court injunction against his transfer to Tajikistan. Then, more than six years ago, the government deemed his detention no longer necessary and stated that it would release him. In 2009, over his objections, the Obama administration obtained a stay of his legal case based on repeated representations to the court that his detention was no longer at issue and he would be released expeditiously. But it did not transfer him.
Abducted and rendered to Guantánamo in 2002, and cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, Davliatov was left to rot at Guantánamo. His attorneys further charge that, having hindered his original legal challenge, the Obama administration made no meaningful efforts to transfer him for several years. As a result, in November 2015, the Center for Constitutional Rights, together with Davliatov’s lead counsel at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and Reed Smith LLP – who have represented Davliatov since 2007 – filed a new habeas corpus challenge to his ongoing indefinite detention. Davliatov asked the court to order his release on the ground that his continuing detention was arbitrary and no longer served any ostensible purpose. CCR had filed a similar challenge on behalf of Algerian detainee Djamel Ameziane in 2013. As in Ameziane’s case, renewed litigation finally prompted the administration to act, albeit, according to his counsel, not out of compassion for Davliatov but, once again, to avoid an adverse court ruling in his case.
“We are happy that Mr. Davliatov’s Guantánamo nightmare is finally over, and we wish him well as he begins the slow process of rebuilding his life,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney J. Wells Dixon. “But the lengths to which the Obama administration went to avoid a court ruling in this case are shameful. Davliatov never should have been brought to Guantánamo, and by the government’s own admission he should have been released six years ago. The administration’s actions are inconsistent with its stated desire to close Guantánamo.”
“This case represents one of the rare instances in which the United States was not able to return a Guantánamo prisoner to his native country over his objection when he feared for his life there,” said Matthew J. O’Hara, a partner in Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Chicago. “A preliminary injunction prevented Muhammadi’s involuntary return to Tajikistan in the fall of 2008. By the time the D.C. Circuit later vacated that injunction, Tajikistan was no longer willing to accept Muhammadi. It is a testament to Muhammadi’s strength and determination not to be involuntarily repatriated to Tajikistan that today he is being resettled in Europe as a free man.”
“I am elated that Muhammadi will finally be allowed the opportunities he has been arbitrarily denied by our nation since 2002,” said Reed Smith LLP partner J. Andrew Moss. “Like each of the men imprisoned at Guantanamo who have been released, Muhammadi faces formidable personal challenges in rebuilding his life after 14 years as a prisoner without charge, hope, or human dignity. I am grateful to the Serbian people for offering Muhammadi asylum, and I hope everyone will remain patient with and supportive of Muhammadi as he builds a new life for himself and recovers from his long, brutal, and unlawful imprisonment. Knowing him, I believe he will eventually succeed.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for more than 14 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. CCR is responsible for many Guantánamo cases in many venues, representing men in their habeas cases in federal court and before the military commissions and Periodic Review Boards, the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking accountability in international courts.