On September 11, 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenged the orders staying the cases of a dozen Guantánamo detainees in the D.C. Circuit Court. All of the men-10 ethnic Uighurs, a refugee arrested in Afghanistan, and an Egyptian man who fled persecution in Egypt-have been held for more than four years without charge. Although the District Court previously ruled that the government must notify the court and detainees' counsel 30 days before a detainee is moved - to allow enough time to determine whether the detainee would be at risk of being tortured in the new location - the government has appealed that order.
In the oral argument this morning, the judges challenged Robert Loeb, the Department of Justice attorney, when he claimed that a detainee would have "no legal recourse" to challenge his transfer even if he were not an enemy combatant and it was known that he was going to be subjected to torture at his final destination. Loeb characterized the challenge of their transfer to a place where they might be tortured, killed, or arbitrarily detained as an attempt to "micromanage" government actions when the government is providing detainees "what they want." According to detainees' counsel, the men do not wish to stay at Guantánamo, but want the opportunity to express any concerns they have about any pending transfer to a country where they might face torture.
"Given the transfer of five Uighur detainees to Albania without prior notice on the eve of their day in court, it is crucial that the court allow these cases to go forward. After four years of persecution at the hands of the U.S. government, we cannot risk shipping them off for further mistreatment abroad," stated CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez.
In its 2004 decision in CCR's landmark case, Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court recognized the right of the detainees to challenge their detention in a court of law. Nine days later the Department of Defense created the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) which presumed the guilt of detainees, denied them access to attorneys, and permitted evidence they were barred from reviewing, precisely the issues ruled on in the 2006 decision in Hamdan addressing the military commissions. Despite these conditions, two of the petitioners-Zakirjan Hassam and Ala Abdel Maqsud Muhammad Salim-were classified by the CSRT's as 'not enemy combatants' and entitled to be released.
Mr. Hassam is a refugee who had settled in Afghanistan. Without explanation Afghan soldiers threw him into the back of a truck one day and sold him to U.S. forces for $5,000. Mr. Salim, an Egyptian, fled Egypt in 1989 after his arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture by the Mubarak government. While living in Pakistan, he was arrested by Pakistani authorities and eventually turned over to the U.S. military. Both men were recognized as 'not enemy combatants' more than a year ago, yet they continue to be held at Guantánamo.
The Uighurs all individually fled religious and ethnic persecution in China. After arriving in Afghanistan, they were forced to flee again when the U.S. began military operations in October 2001, and the area in which they had settled was bombed. The government sent five to Albania but continues to detain the rest.
CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman stated: "That this is a policy of arbitrary detention could not be any clearer. Men who have been wrongly held for four years must be granted their day in court and must not be exposed to further risk of torture."
CCR Cooperating Counsel today includes Chris Moore, of the law firm Cleary Gottlieb, and Sabin Willett of Bingham McCutchen.
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.