The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

Rights Group Applauds Decision to Release 17 Chinese Uighers Held at Guantanamo Bay


Human Rights First applauds U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina's
decision today to order the release of 17 Chinese Uighers who have been
detained at Guantanamo Bay for nearly seven years.

"Today's ruling takes yet another step toward dismantling the flawed
legal framework underlying the detentions at Guantanamo and toward
repairing our reputation as a nation committed to human rights and the
rule of law," said Human Rights First Senior Associate Deborah Colson.
"Judge Urbina correctly found that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the
indefinite detention of innocent men and without legal cause."

The men were cleared for release in 2004, and last week the U.S.
government finally conceded that the Uighers would no longer be treated
as "enemy combatants." Nonetheless, the U.S. government has rightfully
not returned the men to China because it fears that they will be abused
upon their return. No third country has agreed to accept the Uighers, a
fact that is not surprising given the Bush Administration's
pronouncements that all Guantanamo prisoners were dangerous terrorists.

Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has used the state
secrets privilege and other flawed legal justifications to undermine
the ability of individuals to seek remedies for human rights violations
resulting from alleged government misconduct. "Judge Urbina's decision
reaffirms the role of the judiciary in resolving cases and granting
remedies," said Colson.

Resettling the Uighers in the United States is also an important
step towards closing Guantanamo, a major endeavor that will require the
commitment and cooperation of third countries, including our European
allies, as is described a recently-issued Human Right First blueprint
for closing the detention facility. (See

"The failure of the United States to resettle any Guantanamo
prisoners here has only compounded the reluctance of other countries to
accept third-party nationals," said Devon Chaffee, Advocacy Counsel for
Human Rights First, who attended today's hearing. "Judge Urbina's
decision today will send an important message to third countries and
should increase their willingness to accept some Guantanamo prisoners

The government likely will appeal today's ruling. But Judge Urbina
has refused to grant the government a stay of the proceedings and has
scheduled a hearing later this week for the Uighers and their attorneys
to present testimony on how they could be monitored following their

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.