The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

Constitution Project Welcomes Supreme Court Order Vacating Decision of Appeals Court in Uighurs Case

Yet disappointed that the Court will not consider the question of court authority to order release in detention cases


The Constitution Project welcomes today's order by
the U.S. Supreme Court vacating (voiding) the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit's decision in February 2009, which had
held that federal courts lack the power to order release of the Uighur
detainees in the United States. The Project is disappointed, however,
that the Court has dismissed this case and will not consider this
important legal question on the power of courts to order appropriate
remedies in detention cases.

"We welcome today's Supreme Court order vacating
the D.C. Circuit's decision that held that courts lack the power to
order release of wrongfully detained individuals," said Sharon Bradford
Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project. "We had hoped
that the Supreme Court would have taken this opportunity to reaffirm
that courts must have the power to order release where a detainee is
being held illegally, to ensure that habeas rights are
meaningful. However, we are pleased that the D.C. Circuit's decision
will not stand as precedent for future detention cases, and that the
Uighurs still have the opportunity to explore appropriate relief
through the courts."

The Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, who are still held
at Guantanamo despite recognition that they are not enemy combatants,
had appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Court was scheduled
to hear oral argument in the case on March 23rd. The Constitution
Project, along with several other NGOs, had filed an amicus brief in support of the Uighurs, arguing that the courts do have the power to order release as a remedy in a habeas case, and that failure to grant this power would undermine the Supreme Court's Boumediene
decision, which recognized the rights of the Guantanamo detainees to
challenge their detentions in federal court. This is particularly
critical in the case of the Uighur detainees, who have continued to be
held at Guantanamo despite longstanding recognition by the military and
the courts that they are not enemy combatants.

However, as of last month, all of the seven
Uighurs remaining at Guantanamo had received an offer of resettlement
in another country. Five of them had rejected these offers of
resettlement, and the terms of the rejected offers are not entirely
clear from public accounts. Today's order by the Supreme Court
instructs the D.C. Circuit to determine, in light of recent
developments, what further proceedings in the D.C. Circuit or the
district court are appropriate.

To view the amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, go to:

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