Uyghur Guantanamo Detainees' Future Uncertain

For Immediate Release
December 22, 2005, 10:15 EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association, +1 202 349 1496

(WASHINGTON, DC December 21, 2005) The US Senate yesterday approved final versions of the Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills, both containing measures meant to clarify the procedures for reviewing the status of Guantanamo detainees. However, the wording of the bills is so ambiguous that the fate of the Uyghur detainees and their future legal reviews remain uncertain.

“I am very concerned as to how these new measures could affect the Uyghurs in Guantanamo Bay. It is only through the habeas corpus cases that we have learned any information about the Uyghur detainees. If detainees are unable to access the federal courts, we may never hear the stories of the other Uyghur detainees and the injustice of their detention will continue, argued Nury Turkel, President of the Uyghur American Association (UAA).

The UAA is particularly concerned because the Uyghur cases currently in process demonstrate very unique circumstances and numerous inconsistencies that should be reviewed by courts of law. For instance, the Defense Department Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) have conceded that Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdul Al Hakim are not enemy combatants, yet they remain in detention. Qassim and Hakim’s case is currently before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (See: Legal Bid in Washington DC to Release Two Guantanamo Uyghurs, August 1, 2005, www.uhrp.org/headlines/legal_bid_to_release_two_guantanamo_uyghurs)

The US government has already ruled out returning them to China, citing fears of torture and even execution. However, to date, no country has agreed to accept the Uyghurs for resettlement. Reportedly there are 15 Uyghurs in Guantanamo Bay who the US government is prepared to release, but the lack of a third country for resettlement has kept them in detention in Guantanamo going on four years.

In addition to Qassim and Hakim, UAA has learned that Ayoub Haji Mamet, Ahmad (Doe) (aka Adil) and Aktar (Doe) have all been found not to be enemy combatants by the CSRT. Other Uyghurs including, Bahtiyar Mahnut, Arkina Amahmud, Abdur Razakah and another Ahmad (Doe) have also been recommended for release by the US government because they were found not to be a threat to US interests. “Having now determined that these men are no threat, the US government needs to find a solution to end their continued detention as soon as possible, urged Turkel.

In documents filed in the habeas corpus case of Bahtiyar Mahnut, the transcripts of the CSRT reveal irregular procedures, which were questioned by Mahnut’s Personal Representative. The Personal Representative, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve, believed Mahnut was denied due process.

UAA is also concerned that the unclassified transcripts of the CSRTs reveal that Mahnut’s circumstances and those of Qassim and Hakim are identical, yet Mahnut was found to be an “enemy combatant while the other two were not. In the transcript Mahnut asks the Tribunal President if he wants to avoid going back to China “does he have to make (him)self guilty? The Tribunal President’s response did not reflect the already stated US government position that the Uyghurs would not be returned to China. Instead he replied, “It is my understanding that if we determine you are not properly classified as an enemy combatant, you will be released to your home country .

The UAA believes these transcripts clearly demonstrate that the Uyghurs were not only caught in a conflict they had no part of, but were also caught up in a procedure they did not understand. The Uyghurs were very clear in their CSRTs that they feared they would be tortured and killed if returned to China.

The transcripts also reveal that the Uyghurs had never even heard of Al Qaeda until they reached Guantanamo Bay and frequently show the Uyghurs referring to the United States as a model of democracy and freedom, and an ally in their struggle for human rights.

In addition to those mentioned above, the other Uyghurs detained in Guantanamo are identified as Edham Mamet, Abdul Nasser, Abdul Sabour, Abdul Somad, Hammad, Hudhafia, Jalal Jalaldin, Kahlid, Sabir, Saddiq Ahamd Turkistani, Ali, Thabid, Abdul Ghaffar and Adel.

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