Constitution Project Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Support of Uighurs’ Court-Ordered Release

Brief joined by group of six NGOs in Kiyemba v. Obama

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

WASHINGTON – Today, the Constitution Project, along with five other non-governmental organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Kiyemba v. Obama, in support of the seven Chinese Muslims or Uighurs still detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Constitution Project’s brief argues that the courts must have the power to order release as a remedy, given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene recognizing the Guantanamo detainees’ habeas rights.

The U.S. military and the courts have long recognized that the Uighur detainees do not pose a threat to the United States, therefore leaving no legal basis for their continued detention. In October 2008, the trial court ordered that the Uighurs, who are not enemy combatants, but cannot safely return to China, should be released in the United States. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed, stating that the courts lack the power to order the executive branch to release detainees.

“To serve as an effective check on executive discretion, the writ of habeas corpus must include the power for courts to order the release of people who have demonstrated that they are being detained unlawfully,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project. “We cannot leave the decision of whether and when to release detainees who are recognized not to pose a threat to the United States to the unfettered discretion of the executive branch.”

The amicus brief filed by the Constitution Project, along with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, People for the American Way, and The Rutherford Institute, makes two principal arguments. First, the groups contend that under our system of separation of powers, the habeas corpus rights previously recognized by the Supreme Court must include the remedy of release. Otherwise, the habeas rights would be ineffective. Second, the brief explains that, to the extent that recent appropriations bills enacted by Congress would prevent release of the Uighurs in the United States, this would violate the Suspension Clause of the Constitution.

The seven Uighurs still held at Guantanamo have been detained there for over seven years now. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have recognized that they are not “enemy combatants” and have tried to find countries willing to accept them for resettlement. Since the D.C. Circuit’s decision, four of the seventeen Uighurs were removed from detention and resettled in the nation of Bermuda; another six were resettled in Palau.

Click here to view the amicus brief filed by the Constitution Project and five other NGOs.

Earlier this year, 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 urging the Court to accept review of the Uighurs’ case seeking release from Guantanamo now that they have been recognized not to be enemy combatants. Click here to view the brief.

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