Chinese Uighurs' Bid for Guantanamo Release Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from five Guantanamo Bay inmates seeking to revive a court order that they be released into the U.S.

The justices today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that said the five men, Chinese Uighurs held without charges since 2002, don’t have any right to be resettled on American soil. A trial judge had ordered their release.

The appeal sought to reinforce a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that said judges must have the power to order the release of Guantanamo prisoners. The appeals court said that ruling didn’t give judges power to order the Uighurs released into the U.S., concluding it was enough that the president’s aides were trying to find another country that would accept the prisoners.

The Obama administration urged the court not to hear the case, arguing that all five men had rejected offers to be transferred to Palau or another unspecified country. Four justices -- Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor -- pointed to those offers in a statement explaining their reasons for not taking up the appeal.

“These offers, the lack of any meaningful challenge as to their appropriateness, and the government’s uncontested commitment to continue to work to resettle petitioners transform petitioners’ claim,” Breyer wrote for the group. “Under present circumstances, I see no government-imposed obstacle to petitioners’ timely release and appropriate resettlement.”

Breyer said the Uighurs could raise the issue again should their circumstances change.

Justice Elena Kagan didn’t take part in today’s action. She had worked on the case as President Barack Obama’s top Supreme Court advocate.

Federal officials have said the men don’t pose a threat to the U.S. and that returning them to China would subject them to torture or death.

At one point the government was holding 22 Uighurs at Guantanamo, the U.S. military base in Cuba. The other 17 have been resettled to Albania, Palau, Switzerland and Bermuda.

The case is Kiyemba v. Obama, 10-775.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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