Federal court denies transfer for Uighur Gitmo detainees

Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Mike Rosen-Molina at 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] last week denied [opinion, PDF] a request made by six ethnic Uighur Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainees to be transferred to less restrictive facilities within the base. The petitioners argued that their solitary confinement in a higher security section of the base caused them mental suffering, but the court ruled that the detainees did not sufficiently demonstrate that they would suffer irreparable harm if they were not moved. Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled:

What is clear is that no court has ever ruled that detainees, designated as enemy combatants, have a right to challenge the conditions of their confinement pursuant to the constitutional writ of habeas corpus. Furthermore, courts are reluctant to second-guess day-to-day operations of domestic prison facilities, especially when doing so intrudes upon the military and national security affairs. This deference combined with the paucity of evidence of irreparable injury and the petitioners' failure to articulate a specific constitutional right and standard from which to analyze the facts of this case presses the court to deny the petitioners' motion for a TRO and a preliminary injunction.

Guantanamo Bay currently houses 17 other Uighur enemy combatants who have been cleared for transfer out of the facility.

In 2006, lawyers for several Chinese detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in US federal court seeking their release due to alleged flaws in the process by which they were deemed enemy combatants. The group of seven ethnic Uighurs were deemed enemy combatants by Guantanamo's Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) [DOD materials], while five other Uighurs were cleared and subsequently released [JURIST report] from Guantanamo Bay. The new lawsuit alleged that the CSRTs relied on essentially the same evidence that was used to clear the five, and asserts that the detainees continued to be held as the result of a political agreement between China and the US.