[JURIST] An urgent effort by the Bush administration to transfer 17 Guantanamo detainees outside the US has stalled as a result of a bitter interagency dispute, according to a New York Times report on Wednesday. Last week, US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ordered [opinion, PDF] the 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs [backgrounder] held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be released in the United States. The judge found that after the government dropped its claim that the Uighurs were enemy combatants, there was no longer a legal basis for continuing their confinement at Guantanamo [JURIST news archive]. The decision marked the first instance a court had ordered that prisoners from Guantanamo be released onto US soil and provoked an immediate outcry from the Bush administration. The Justice Department [official website] responded by filing seven separate appeals on the release issue, and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit temporarily blocked [opinion, PDF] Urbinas action. Some critics have suggested that the Justice Departments filings, which describe the Uighurs as a danger to the public, have compromised diplomatic efforts undertaken by the State Department [official website] to resettle the detainees in other countries. The New York Times has more.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other advocacy organizations have urged the government not to drag its feet in freeing the detainees [AI press release]. The Bush administration continues to resist requests from the Chinese government to repatriate the Uighurs, fearing they would be tortured upon return to the remote northwestern province of Xinjiang. But since transferring five Uighur detainees to Albania in 2006, it had been unable to persuade governments to accept others.