Sunday, March 22, 2009

Uighurs File for Contempt

Huzaifa Parhat and the Chinese Muslims (the Uighurs) detained at Guantanamo Bay filed a motionFriday in the D.C. Circuit to hold Secretary of Defense Gates in contempt for failing to comply with that court's June 20, 2008, order to "release Parhat, to transfer him, or to expeditiously convene a new Combatant Status Review Tribunal to consider evidence submitted in a manner consistent with the court's opinion."  Many thanks to Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog for breaking the story and posting the motion.

Lawyers for Parhat argued in their motion that the administration failed to release him, failed to transfer him, and failed to convene a new CSRT.  The problem, as I've noted in previous posts on a related case, is that the administration no longer considers Parhat and similarly situated Uighurs "enemy combatants" (or otherwise detainable under President Obama's new definition of detainble individuals), and therefore the administration won't convene a new CSRT.  But it won't release them, either: No other country will take them, and they've been considered too dangerous to be released into the U.S.  (The Bush administration argued that they were too dangerous to release into the U.S.  The Obama administration hasn't to my knowledge made this same argument, but (quite obviously) hasn't yet worked out what to do with them, either.)  It seems highly unlikely that they mightbe transfered to the regular federal criminal system--nobody's accused them of any crime, and both Bush's and Obama's Justice Departments have had plenty of time to consider charges.

In short, they're stuck in legal limbo at Guantanamo. 

This new motion puts new pressure on the administration to do something with them.  And it seems the only thing that the administration could reasonably do is to release them into the U.S.  This may be politically unpalatable, and it may be dangerous.  (The Bush administration argued that the Uighurs posed a threat to the U.S. because they were angry that we illegally detained them so long.  This seems plausible, even if the argument is perverse.)

(Note that this contempt motion is based upon the D.C. Circuit's June 2008 order, which gave the administration three options, one of which was "release."  Compare D.C. District Judge Urbina's order from last fall, which required the administration to release the Uighurs into the United States.  The D.C. Circuit overturned Judge Urbina's order on separation-of-powers grounds just last month.  More on that here.)


Executive Authority, Recent Cases, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink

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