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Obama administration argues Uighur Guantanamo detainee appeal now moot

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday urged [brief, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] to dismiss as moot an appeal filed by Chinese Muslim Uighurs detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives]. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case, known as Kiyemba I [docket], in October to determine whether it is within the power of the judicial branch to order the release of detainees into the US. The Obama administration argues that the case is now moot after Switzerland agreed to accept [JURIST report] the remaining two Uighurs for whom "resettlement" arrangements had not been reached. The DOJ reasons that:

legal constraints prevent the courts from ordering that petitioners be brought to and released in the United States. ... As this Court has long affirmed, the power to admit or exclude aliens is a sovereign prerogative vested in the political Branches, and "it is not within the province of any court, unless expressly authorized by law, to review [that] determination..." Finally, even assuming arguendo that a judicial order compelling the Executive to bring an alien into the United States were justified in some circumstances, the government's sustained and successful efforts to resettle petitioners should preclude such an order in this case.
Of the 22 Uighurs originally detained at Guantanamo Bay, 15 have been relocated. Six Uighurs were transferred to Palau in October, four were sent to Bermuda last June, and five were received by Albania [JURIST reports] in 2006. Of the remaining seven Uighurs, Palau has expressed willingness to accept another five, and the Swiss Federal Council announced [press release] last week that it would accept the remaining two for humanitarian reasons and despite recent warnings [JURIST report] to the contrary by the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland [official website]. China has continued to call for repatriation [JURIST report] of the Uighur detainees that Chinese authorities consider to be part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and which has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The US has previously rejected China's calls to repatriate the Uighurs, citing fear of torture upon their return.

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