Constitution Project and Prominent Conservatives Call for Release of Uighurs From Guantanamo

Justice Department expected to respond to Supreme Court today on whether previous court-ordered release of Uighurs was legitimate

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – Recent news accounts indicate that the United States is facing resistance from foreign allies in granting asylum to detainees slated for release from Guantanamo, obstructing the Obama administration’s plan to close the detention facility. The reluctance is centered on the U.S.’s refusal thus far to admit any detainees itself. Following these signals, the Constitution Project and nine prominent conservatives released a statement today calling on the federal government to end the unlawful detention of the seventeen Chinese Muslims—known as Uighurs—currently being detained and recognize its responsibility in resettling some of those being held.

The statement reads in part:

“The courts, the United States military, and the former administration under President Bush have long recognized that these men are not “enemy combatants,” and do not pose a threat to the United States. After nearly seven years, there are no legal or moral grounds for holding these men one day longer. We call upon the U.S. government to end the unlawful detention of these men, release them into the United States, and recognize the United States’ obligations to resettle some Guantanamo detainees in our country in order to encourage other nations to share in this responsibility.”

Later today, the Obama administration is expected to file with the U.S. Supreme Court its response to a petition from the Uighurs asking the Court to accept review of their case seeking release from Guantanamo now that they have been recognized not to be enemy combatants. The Court is weighing whether to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the courts lack the authority to order the release of the Uighurs. Last fall, District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered their release from Guantanamo into the United States.

“If left in force, the D.C. Circuit’s decision would completely undermine the habeas rights recognized by the Supreme Court last year,” added Sharon Bradford Franklin, Constitution Project Senior Counsel. “The trial court and the prior Bush administration both recognized that the Uighurs are not enemy combatants and therefore the executive branch lacks the authority to continue to detain them at Guantanamo. But the Obama administration has the authority to end this legal proceeding immediately, while at the same time acknowledging U.S. responsibility in closing Guantanamo responsibly, by granting refuge to the Uighurs in the United States.”

Click here to see a copy of the statement, signed onto by Stephen E. Abraham, Mickey Edwards, Richard A. Epstein, Thomas B. Evans, Jr., David Keene, William H. Taft, IV, Don Wallace Jr., John W. Whitehead, and Lawrence B. Wilkerson.

The Constitution Project, along with the Brennan Center for Justice, the Rutherford Institute, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the City of New York Bar Association, filed a friend of the court brief in the Supreme Court on May 7, urging the Court to accept review of the Uighur’s case seeking release from Guantanamo now that they have been recognized not to be enemy combatants. Click here to view the brief, go to:

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