Innocent Detainees Need a Home

One of the most pressing issues the Obama
administration will face when it closes the Guantanamo detention center
is what to do with the 63 detainees cleared for release or transfer who
cannot return home.

stay at Guantanamo - justified or not - can mean brutal treatment upon
return. Under the Convention Against Torture, the United States can not
repatriate detainees to countries where they will be tortured. As a
result, many men remain at Guantanamo until the US government can find
them a safe home. To resettle these men will require assistance from
friendly democracies. Undoubtedly, a number of foreign nations will
demand that some of these innocent detainees be resettled in the United
States before they act similarly.

Uighurs are entering their eighth year of imprisonment at Guantanamo.
The Uighurs are from China's far-western province of Xinjiang, which
lies along the ancient Silk Road. A largely Muslim population whose
ancestors migrated from the west, the Uighurs' language and culture
have Turkic roots. Uighurs have suffered severe political and religious
persecution by the Chinese government, which the United States has long
condemned. To escape political, religious, and economic oppression, the
Uighurs fled China, making their way to a Uighur village in
Afghanistan. The refugees often took shelter in the relative
statelessness of pre-war Afghanistan while they tried to obtain
documents to enter other countries.

the Afghanistan War began in October 2001, the Uighurs fled the US
bombing campaign, crossing into Pakistan. At the time, the United
States was offering substantial sums of cash to Pakistani villagers who
turned over "terrorists." Many were quick to oblige. In late 2001,
Pakistani villagers lured the Uighurs to a mosque, where they were
surrounded and arrested by Pakistani security forces. The Pakistanis
turned over the current Uighur detainees to the United States for the
bounty price of $5,000 apiece. In May 2002, the US government
transported the Uighurs to Guantanamo Bay. Our government quickly
learned it had been sold the Uighur detainees by mistake and told the
Uighurs they would soon be released.

the Uighurs' innocence, they have remained in custody. The Uighurs will
face almost certain torture if they are returned to China. While
Albania previously resettled five men, as many as 100 countries have
refused to accept the remaining Uighur detainees in the face of Chinese

Last year the
Uighurs' fortunes appeared to have changed. In October a federal
district court judge ordered the Uighurs be released into the United
States. Judge Ricardo Urbina concluded that the "unilateral carte
blanche authority the political branches purportedly wield over the
Uighurs is not in keeping with our system of governance."

agree. We have continually advocated that these men be brought to the
United States and have worked with the Uighur-American community to
promote their cause. The small Uighur-American community has pledged to
aid the detainees with jobs and housing.

Urbina's opinion was overturned by an appellate court that ruled the
Obama administration - not the courts - must decide the Uighurs' fate.
Until a decision is made, the Uighurs literally have no place to go.

only realistic option is for the Uighurs to be resettled in the United
States. There is no evidence the Uighurs plotted against the United
States or were our enemies. The Uighur detainees have endured enough.
It is time to make the situation right.

solution, which has garnered bipartisan support, would represent a
clear break from the past. We should seize this moment to lead by
example once again by assisting current resettlement efforts. Many
allies face publics that are skeptical of accepting those who were
unfairly labeled as terrorists by our government. Let's face it - if we
are unable to even accept and find a home for 17 innocent Uighurs, how
can we expect other nations to take any of the Guantanamo detainees
cleared for release?

As the
United States continues on the difficult path to resettlement, it
should bear in mind that sometimes the best way to lead is by setting
an example for the world to follow. We feel confident that once the
United States has opened its doors to the Uighurs, other members of the
world community will join in the effort to resettle the numerous men at
Guantanamo who still need a new country to call home.

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