[JURIST] Five Chinese Uighur men who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] despite a determination that they are not enemy combatants have been flown to Albania [press release], where government officials are reviewing their applications for asylum. According to a statement [text] from the US State Department late Friday:
the government of Albania accepted for resettlement as refugees five ethnic Uighurs, who are Chinese nationals, who had been detained by the U.S. Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Government of Albania's resettlement of these individuals is an important humanitarian gesture. The United States Government appreciates the assistance of the Government of Albania in this important matter.
A Guantanamo Combatant Status Review Tribunal [DOD materials] determined last March that the men were no longer deemed enemy combatants [CCR materials; JURIST report]. Efforts were made to improve conditions of their detention [JURIST report], but US officials were unwilling to return the men to China where they could face persecution due to their Muslim faith [HRW backgrounder], and authorities had until now been unsuccessful in finding a country willing to provide refuge to the men.
Albania's agreement to accept the men ends a pending court challenge filed by two of the Uighurs contesting their continued release, and federal prosecutors on Friday filed an emergency motion to dismiss as moot [PDF text]. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was scheduled to hear an appeal Monday of a district court decision [PDF text] allowing the detainees' indefinite detention [JURIST report]. US District Judge James Robertson ruled that the Uighurs' detention was unlawful, but said that the courts simply had no relief to offer the men. The ruling was appealed directly to the US Supreme Court [JURIST report], but the Court declined to hear the case [JURIST report] before the federal appeals court had an opportunity to rule. AP has more.