The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Daniel Schuman 202-580-6922

Constitution Project Urges DC Circuit to Uphold Release of Uighurs; Files Amicus Brief


In a friend of the court brief being filed today, the
Constitution Project, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Rutherford Institute,
and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers urge the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia to uphold District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina's
recent order to release 17 Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, who are currently
being detained at Guantanamo Bay. These four nonprofit public policy
organizations addressed the separation of powers issues raised in Kiyemba v. Bush.

Sharon Bradford Franklin, Senior Counsel with the
Constitution Project, said, "The Administration's position would unconstitutionally
deprive the courts of their authority under our system of separation of powers
and its tactics have undermined any hope for a political resolution. The
Administration's unfounded claim that the Uighurs constitute a danger to a
public, made for the first time in its appeal here and unsupported by the
record, has destroyed any chance of persuading another country to resettle the

Although the Administration admits that the Uighur detainees
are not enemy combatants, it cannot
repatriate them to China because of state sponsored persecution and it has not found another country
willing to accept them. The amicus brief
argues that overruling the District Court's order to release the Uighurs in
favor of the Executive would violate the Suspension Clause and Article III of
the Constitution, and would intrude upon the power of the judiciary to decide
cases. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court in Boumediene
concluded that courts have the ability to hear Guantanamo detainee habeas cases, and the Supreme Court noted that release is a
"constitutionally required remedy" in habeas

On October 8, 2008, Judge Urbina ruled that the Uighurs'
detention was unlawful because "the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention
without cause." Even so, the Administration continues to argue that only the
political branches have the authority to decide to release detainees. The amicus brief also counters the
Executive's assertion that it possesses "wind up" authority that would allow it
to decide whether and when to comply with a habeas
court's release order.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for
November 24, six weeks after the Uighurs were set to be released under Judge
Urbina's order and six years after they were first detained. The amicus brief will be made available at

To speak with an expert, please contact Daniel Schuman at 202-580-6922
or dschuman(at)

The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at