China Calls for Return of Guantanamo Bay Inmates: Appeals Court Overturns Order for Their Release

The Chinese government is again asking for the repatriation of Uighur detainees at the detention facility. From AP:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the men belong to a violent separatist group and would be dealt with according to Chinese law, which forbids torture.

Jiang’s remarks at a regular briefing came a day after a U.S. appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling by saying the Uighurs could not be immediately transferred to the United States. But the three-judge panel suggested they could seek entry by applying to the U.S. Homeland Security Department, which administers immigration laws.

The U.S. has no authority to hold the men at Guantanamo Bay because there is no evidence that they plotted or fought against the United States; but deciding what to do with them has been a diplomatic problem for years.

The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday overturned an order to release the men. An editorial in the Washington Post calls on the Obama administration, meanwhile, to release at least some of the detainees into the U.S.:

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled yesterday that a lower-court judge erred last year when he ordered 17 Chinese Uighurs held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, freed and released into the United States. The Uighurs are a Muslim minority of western China with no animus toward the United States; these 17 were picked up in Pakistan. There was no question that the Uighurs deserved their freedom; even the Bush administration, after a resounding rebuke by the D.C. federal appeals court, ultimately acknowledged that it lacked any legal basis for continuing to hold them as enemy combatants.

But the administration could not send the Uighurs back to China for fear that the men would be mistreated or even tortured there; no third country would accept them, and the Bush administration stubbornly refused to admit them. An understandably frustrated Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered in October that the detainees be brought to the United States and released here. This week, the appeals court concluded that the judge lacked the legal authority to do that. Quoting the late Justice Felix Frankfurter, the appeals panel said that the prerogative to allow individuals into the country rests solely with the political branches and is “wholly outside the concern and competence of the Judiciary.”

[…] Many U.S. allies balked at taking the Uighurs for fear of angering China, which made no secret of its displeasure that Uighur separatists it considers terrorists could find shelter in third countries. The Obama administration should repudiate the violent means favored by some affiliated with the separatist movement. But there is no evidence that any of the 17 in detention have had a hand in such violence. Also galling to allies was U.S. resistance to accepting one or more of the detainees into this country. The Bush administration was considering such a move before it left office but never took action. Mr. Obama should.


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