Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Let My People Go

Yesterday, perhaps the most stunning news to come out came from the federal judiciary (I'm beginning to see a pattern). The judge of the first habeas corpus hearing for Guantanamo Bay detainees ordered the 17 prisoners involved released immediately. Judge Ricardo M. Urbino did his job, according to an article in today's NY Times, and he made clear his reasons for doing so:

“I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention,” Judge Urbina said. ...

Judge Urbina, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, underscored the significance of his ruling with repeated references to the constitutional separation of powers and the judiciary’s role.

He rejected Justice Department arguments as assertions of executive power to detain people indefinitely without court review. He said that “is not in keeping with our system of government.”

The Bush administration, however, is not giving up: after failing to get Judge Urbina to stay his order while they appealed, Justice Department lawyers filed an emergency appeal to get the release stayed while they prepare a formal appeal based on the theory that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over the release of the Uighurs into the United States because that is an immigration issue, which is reserved to the Executive Branch.

But that's not all that the Justice Department is doing: they're threatening to have the Uighurs busted if they ever are released in Washington, DC as ordered by the judge:

The ruling set the stage for a confrontation between the courts and the administration. John C. O’Quinn, a deputy assistant attorney general, suggested that immigration or Department of Homeland Security officials might detain the men when they were taken to the Washington area.

Nice, eh?

What is so horrific about the government's behavior in this matter is that the administration has already admitted that the Uighurs were really not enemy combatants after all, just some Chinese dissidents who fled their homeland. When they landed in Pakistan, bounty hunters rounded them up and sold them to the US.

The new and improved reason for keeping them in detention is that they "admitted" to having received "weapons training" while in Afghanistan. Not much is known about the interrogations which elicited those admissions, but it doesn't take that much of an imagination to assume that the process was akin to those other "intensive interrogation" sessions the government has relied on to justify keeping 255 men in isolation from the rest of the world.

The next round will be in the District Court of Appeals, and then we'll move up to the Supreme Court. If the first level does stay Judge Urbina's release order, it'll be another year in custody for these men. Their nightmare will continue, as will ours.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

This highlights something that many Americans either do not know or do not care about: there are people held at Guantanamo who didn't do anything.

That's unfair, unjust, and un-American. Words that also succinctly describe the Bush administration in general.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Nora said...

This is so wrong. There is no justification in the world for a democratic republic (small d, small r) to hold people in custody who not only have done nothing wrong, but who have already been acknowledged to have done nothing wrong.

This is the stuff of dictatorships. And the way our executive branch openly declares that it will act in a dictatorial fashion is a scary thing; they know that nobody will call them on it, nobody will do anything about it.

5:25 PM  

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