Government Contests Order to Release Innocent Uighurs from Guantánamo

Washington, D.C. – A panel of judges in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the government’s appeal of District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina’s order issued six weeks ago that 17 innocent Uighur men be released from Guantánamo Bay into the United States in Washington Monday.

When asked point blank by Judge A. Raymond Randolph, Solicitor General and Bush administration representative Gregory Garre was not able to answer that the government believes the Uighurs to be “terrorists.” Instead, Garre’s parry with the three judge panel focused on immigration law and the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to grant the Uighurs asylum in the U.S. – and not the fundamental question of whether they have the right to be freed or how to do so in a proper way.  Garre was also unwilling to say that the government would deem the Uighurs ineligible for asylum.

“It is clear the government is clutching at strings to justify the imprisonment of these innocent men,” said CCR attorney Wells Dixon. “These men are guilty of no crime and pose no threat to the U.S. as it has been demonstrated time and time again. Their release is a critical step towards cleaning up the mess we made in Guantánamo. This is a shameless attempt to perpetuate the Bush administration’s policy of arbitrary and unconstitutional detention when the next administration has made closing Guantánamo a priority.”

The argument of P. Sabin Willett, attorney for the Uighurs, focused on the U.S. government’s inability, due to international law, of repatriating the Uighurs to China and the absurdity that men cleared for released three years ago still remain in the prison.  He disputed the government’s claim that the Uighurs were given weapons training in a terrorist camp, saying that they were taught how to assemble and disassemble a gun (without ammunition) – the same activity “millions of Americans enjoy” every weekend.  Willett further criticized the government for issuing briefs claiming the Uighurs to be “dangerous,” saying that such an unfounded claim was hampering State Department efforts to resettle the Uighurs to a third country.

An outcome in this case will likely not be decided for weeks.

Uighur communities, refugee resettlement agencies and faith communities across the United States have come forward to offer the men housing, jobs and resettlement assistance.

For more information on the Uighurs’ case, see the 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.” 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 in 2007.

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


Last modified 

December 17, 2009