Friday, April 22, 2011

Justice Delayed

The Los Angeles Times editorial board got this one right: the US should release the five Uighurs still being held at Guantanamo Bay into the country. By all accounts, the Uighurs were never enemy combatants and should never have been detained by the US, much less slammed into the prison gulag located so conveniently near to the US, but outside its borders. The government even admits that is the case.

Here's a nice summary of what happened.

The Uighurs' story is a poignant one: They had traveled to Afghanistan, where they joined training camps run by a Uighur separatist group. After the United States launched a military offensive in Afghanistan, they fled to Pakistan, where they were swept up by Pakistani and other coalition forces and brought to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nine years later, they continue to languish in prison, although they were eventually cleared of being enemy combatants and were approved for resettlement. They sued the United States in hopes of being admitted to this country, where there is a vibrant Uighur community.

The Uighurs won at the trial level, lost at the appellate level on the grounds that the issue was properly that of the legislative and/or executive branches, and lost again at the Supreme Court which refused to hear the case. That means the Uighurs have to rely on either Congress or the President to rectify this horrible mistake.

The editorial accurately notes that it is unlikely that President Obama will issue an executive order releasing the men to the Uighur community in the US which has indicated both a willingness and a desire to take this men in. China, the behemoth which owns so much US debt, wants the men returned to China to stand trial. It's an election year. He'll look weak on security. No Drama Obama is not about to raise any such ripples.

That leaves the Congress, which previously passed a bill forbidding the release of any Guantanamo Bay detainees into the US, as the last hope for the captive Uighurs. Since the government has already admitted that the detention was a gross mistake caused by the Uighurs being in the wrong place at the wrong time, there is no reason to view the men as anti-American terrorists bent on our destruction. And there is at least one very good reason for Congress to rectify this screw-up:

The United States has a moral obligation to accommodate the Uighurs, whom the government acknowledges are victims of mistaken identity. ...

Maybe with a few more editorials and some calls from constituents, Congress could be moved to do the right thing, even if it is election season.

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