The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Daniel Schuman

Constitution Project Disappointed by D.C. Circuit Ruling in Uighurs Case

The President Should Act Now to Release the Uighurs


Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
released an opinion,
in Kiyemba v. Obama, overturning
District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina's order to release seventeen Chinese
Muslims, known as Uighurs, currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. The district
court had found that there is no legal basis for the executive branch to detain
the Uighurs and ordered that they be released into the United States, prompting a
government appeal.

The following may be attributed to Sharon
Bradford Franklin, Senior Policy Counsel at the Constitution

"We are disappointed by today's D.C. Circuit ruling that
denies freedom to the 17 men whom the government admits are not 'enemy
combatants' and yet continues to hold at Guantanamo for a seventh year.

President Obama should exercise his power to release the
Uighurs into the U.S.
The appellate court's ruling that the trial court lacked the power to compel the Executive branch to release
the Uighurs into the United
States in no way limits the ability of the Executive
branch to release the Uighurs on its own. We therefore call on President Obama
to choose the right course and evaluate the terms under which the Uighurs may
be released into the United

The writ of habeas
is a fundamental constitutional right. For habeas corpus to have meaning, it must permit a court to end
wrongful detentions. We regret that today's decision failed to recognize the
court's ability to check arbitrary detention, such as that suffered by the

Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Randolph and Circuit Judge
Karen Henderson found that a habeas
court cannot order an alien held by the U.S.
government at Guantanamo Bay be released into the U.S. without specific authorizing
legislation. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers disagreed, arguing that majority's
opinion would compromise the writ of habeas
role as a check on arbitrary detention, but concurred that the case
should be remanded for argument over whether the Executive branch has a valid
alternative basis for detention.

Lawyers for the government and the Uighurs agreed that they cannot
be returned to China
due to the risk that they would be tortured.

In November, the Constitution Project filed a friend-of-the-court
urging the D.C. Circuit to uphold the district court's release order,
along with the Brennan Center for Justice, the Rutherford Institute, and the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Also in November, in an effort coordinated by the
Constitution Project, ten prominent conservatives called upon the then-Bush Administration
to release the Uighurs

To speak with an expert, please contact Daniel Schuman, Director of Communications and
Counsel, the Constitution Project, at 202-580-6922.

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