Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Supreme Court to Make Key Guantanamo Decision

The Uighurs are one of the saddest examples of Bush/GOP injustice in the GOP Gulag at Guantanamo.  Because of this, their fate may be the worst test case that could come before the Supreme Court.

Uighur Woman The Supreme Court set the stage Tuesday for another clash with the president -- this time Barack Obama instead of George W. Bush -- over detainees in the war on terrorism and whether a judge can order the immediate release of those wrongly held in the United States.

Apparently frustrated with the slow pace of freeing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the justices voted to hear a new appeal from a group that says it is in limbo. The 14 detainees, Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs, have persuaded judges that they are being wrongly held as enemy combatants, but they remain in custody.

By taking up the appeal, the Supreme Court puts itself in position to make a far-reaching decision on whether the executive branch can keep holding a prisoner in the war on terrorism even if the courts have found him to be no threat.

"I never thought we would be arguing in court whether the government can lawfully imprison someone who was found to be innocent. And I never thought we would be arguing against the Obama administration," said Susan Baker Manning, a Washington lawyer for the Uighurs.

On his first day in office, Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo prison within one year, but recently administration officials have hedged on whether they can achieve that goal. Government lawyers say they have spent months sifting through files to decide which of the more than 200 detainees pose a true danger and must be held indefinitely and which can be safely sent home.

Another lawyer for the Uighurs was buoyed by the court's action.

"We hope this will result in a ruling that confirms that the writ of habeas corpus guarantees to the innocent not just a judge's learned essay, but something meaningful -- his release," said Sabin Willett, a Boston lawyer who has been working for seven years to free the Uighurs, who were picked up in Afghanistan.

Five years ago, the Pentagon conceded that these Uighurs were not enemy combatants. But the Bush administration blocked a judge's order to release them into the United States.

In 2004 and again in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Guantanamo prisoners had a right to seek their freedom before a judge. But Bush, and now Obama, resisted freeing those who had won their claims in court.

This impasse obviously caught the attention of the justices.

The most recent decision came in June 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution gives all prisoners, including Guantanamo detainees, a right to file a writ of habeas corpus to seek a review of the evidence against them.

Habeas corpus allows prisoners to petition a judge for their freedom. The Bush administration had placed the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base because it is in Cuba, contending that if they were not on U.S. soil they could not invoke the right of habeas corpus.

The 2008 ruling rejected President Bush's contention that the commander in chief has full control over military prisoners. It also struck down a law, passed after the 2004 court decision by the then-Republican-controlled Congress, that stripped the Guantanamo detainees of the right to habeas corpus. But the justices stopped short of saying that a judge had the full power to order the release of a wrongly held prisoner.

Since then, judges here in Washington have reviewed the cases of 38 Guantanamo prisoners. In 30 of them, judges ruled that the government did not have reasonable grounds for holding the detainees as enemy combatants. But 18 of those 30 detainees remain at Guantanamo, according to lawyers for the Uighurs.

The Obama administration took a middle-of-the-road position. It pledged to work through diplomatic channels to find countries that could take these prisoners once they were freed. The Uighurs say they cannot return to China because they will be persecuted there -- and China considers them hostile separatists. But releasing the Uighurs into the United States stirs bipartisan opposition.

Faced with this quandary, the administration's lawyers maintained that these detainees had no legal right to be released, despite their victory before a trial judge. In February, the administration won a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals here that immigration laws forbid the release of ex-Guantanamo prisoners on American soil.

U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan urged the high court to steer clear of this controversy.

The power to allow foreigners to enter the country "rests exclusively in the political branches," not the courts, Kagan told the justices in a brief filed in May. The Uighurs' "continued presence at Guantanamo Bay is not an unlawful detention, but rather the consequence of their lawful exclusion from the United States," she added.

In several follow-up letters, she said the administration had apparently found foreign homes for all but one of the Uighurs who remain at the prison. Other Uighurs have already moved to Bermuda and Palau.

Kagan told the court in her brief that the Uighurs "are free to leave Guantanamo Bay to go to any country that is willing to accept them."... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <LA Times>

The Uighurs have a right to be free.  They never had anything to do with terrorism.  These individuals were only in Afghanistan seeking refuge from prosecution in China.  They should never have been kidnapped by the Bush regime and placed in the GOP Gulag.  Despite their ill treatment, they appear to bear no ill will toward the US, and in my opinion, they could be safely released within the US.  Therein lies the problem.  If SCOTUS does what is right and finds in the Uighurs favor, they will set a precedent in so doing.  Once that precedent is set, lower courts will be free to release Guantanamo prisoners in the US.  Most judges, I trust, would make correct determinations on who can be safely released and who can’t.  Nevertheless, mistakes are possible.  No doubt many innocent prisoners in the GOP Gulag have come to hate the US for years of false imprisonment, deprivation and torture.  Beyond the possibility of mistakes, there is another problem.  The lower courts are overflowing with extremist GOP ideologues, one of whom could intentionally release authentic terrorists, hoping they will commit a high profile, act for which the GOP can blame Obama and the Democrats.

I don’t know what the best solution is here.  I only wish that Bush and the GOP had considered the consequences before kidnapping innocent people, importing them to US territory, and torturing them.  They left Obama a situation in which all the options available are bad ones.


the walking man said...

If they in fact are no threat to the security of the United States compensate them and offer them political sanctuary from a Chinese government that will kill them.

I would not do this through the courts though but through the INS dept of Homeland security.

If the administration moved before the case was heard by the court the court would have no case to hear.

Brother Tim said...

America, under Obama, continues to show the world it's arrogance and lack of common decency.

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"
~Peter Townsend

TomCat said...

Guys, you're right, but I'm more inclined to give him a break on this one. Don't you remember the NIMBY resolution in the Senate where all the Senators except for 16 Dems voted against moving GOP Gulag inmates to US prisons, let alone releasing them here altogether? He has no support.

Kevin Kelley said...

I would agree that Obama is acting too slow on the freeing of detainees, or even the transfer onto American soil, but I also agree that he has no support, and unfortunately he is submitting to popular opinion on this matter (which makes this one of the times I wish Obama had George Bush's balls and just did it anyway).

It would obviously be fire for the far rights fuel, only further supporting their anti-American arguments, but at least it would distract them long enough to get some real progress done...

TomCat said...

Welcome Kevin. Interesting thought. Did Bush have real balls or was he the wind up puppet for Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney, at least during his first term?