Constitution Project Welcomes Supreme Court Order Vacating Decision of Appeals Court in Uighurs Case

Yet disappointed that the Court will not consider the question of court authority to order release in detention cases

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

WASHINGTON – The Constitution Project welcomes today’s order by the U.S. Supreme Court vacating (voiding) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision in February 2009, which had held that federal courts lack the power to order release of the Uighur detainees in the United States. The Project is disappointed, however, that the Court has dismissed this case and will not consider this important legal question on the power of courts to order appropriate remedies in detention cases.

“We welcome today’s Supreme Court order vacating the D.C. Circuit’s decision that held that courts lack the power to order release of wrongfully detained individuals,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project. “We had hoped that the Supreme Court would have taken this opportunity to reaffirm that courts must have the power to order release where a detainee is being held illegally, to ensure that habeas rights are meaningful. However, we are pleased that the D.C. Circuit’s decision will not stand as precedent for future detention cases, and that the Uighurs still have the opportunity to explore appropriate relief through the courts.”

The Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, who are still held at Guantanamo despite recognition that they are not enemy combatants, had appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Court was scheduled to hear oral argument in the case on March 23rd. The Constitution Project, along with several other NGOs, had filed an amicus brief in support of the Uighurs, arguing that the courts do have the power to order release as a remedy in a habeas case, and that failure to grant this power would undermine the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, which recognized the rights of the Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detentions in federal court. This is particularly critical in the case of the Uighur detainees, who have continued to be held at Guantanamo despite longstanding recognition by the military and the courts that they are not enemy combatants.

However, as of last month, all of the seven Uighurs remaining at Guantanamo had received an offer of resettlement in another country. Five of them had rejected these offers of resettlement, and the terms of the rejected offers are not entirely clear from public accounts. Today’s order by the Supreme Court instructs the D.C. Circuit to determine, in light of recent developments, what further proceedings in the D.C. Circuit or the district court are appropriate.

Click here to view the amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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