Innocent Uighurs Still Detained at Guantánamo after Being Cleared for Release Since As Long Ago As 2003 Ask Supreme Court to Set

December 4, 2009, New York – Today, attorneys asked the Supreme Court to allow seven men who remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay despite being cleared for release to be released into the United States when there is no other remedy available. The men, Uighurs from the East Turkestan region of China, are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Bingham McCutchen LLP,  Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, Miller & Chevalier, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Reprieve and Elizabeth Gilson.

This will be the first time the Court hears a Guantánamo case since it decided the landmark cases brought by CCR and co-counsel, Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, and the first time the Obama administration will defend a Guantánamo case before the high court.

Said Sabin Willett, of Bingham McCutchen, lead attorney for the Uighur detainees,

"Today we have asked the Supreme Court to free Uighur clients who now pass their eighth year in the Guantanamo prison.  The courts and the Defense Department have said they are neither enemies nor criminals.  They fled from communism, and were taken in error.  Companions live in Europe and Bermuda, and yet we imprison them still.  These men are a living rebuke to America’s boast to be a freedom-loving people.
"To the founders of this republic, freedom was a national conviction.  Today neither the President nor the Congress has the courage of that conviction.  We urge the Court to remind us all of our ancient trust, and at last set these men free." 

In October 2008, D.C. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the U.S. government to release 17 wrongly-imprisoned Guantánamo detainees into the United States. The men had been imprisoned without charge for over seven years. Four of the men have since been resettled in Bermuda and, more recently, another six were temporarily resettled in Palau. The U.S. government has acknowledged it neither had the authority to detain them nor could it release them to China because of a risk of torture. However, on February 18, 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and held that the indefinite detention of the men could continue. The men asked for the Supreme Court to review the case and find, as the District Court did, that their “release into the continental United States is the only possible effective remedy.”

In the wake of Boumediene, 31 of the 39 Guantanamo habeas cases heard by the lower courts have resulted in a finding that the detainee was unlawfully held, but, since the Court of Appeals decision in the Uighur cases, the trial courts have felt that they lacked the power to do anything more than order the government to make diplomatic efforts to release the men. As a result, 12 of the 31 detainees found to be wrongly detained by the courts in the last year remain in detention.

Said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren, “The world community is waiting to see if the Court will put the President and Congress on the right track. If we expect our allies to continue to help us close down Guantánamo and put an end to this symbol of U.S. lawlessness in the world, we have to start by taking some responsibility ourselves and help these innocent men rebuild their lives here.”

For more information and documents, visit CCR’s 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” there. 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. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

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 

January 19, 2010