[JURIST] The Obama administration urged the US Supreme Court [official website] Friday to reject a petition for certiorari [text, PDF; JURIST report] filed by 14 Chinese Uighur Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] seeking their release. Taking the same stance as the Bush administration, the Obama administration argued in its reply brief [text, PDF] that although the Court has the power to order the release of detainees, it cannot order them released into the US. The Uighurs are no longer imprisoned, but they cannot leave Guantanamo Bay until the government finds a country willing to accept them. The government argues:
Petitioners’ continued presence at Guantanamo Bay is not unlawful detention, but rather the consequence of their lawful exclusion from the United States, under the constitutional exercise of authority by the political Branches, coupled with the unavailability of another country willing to accept them.
The Uighurs fear persecution if they return to China and have asked the Supreme Court to allow them into the US temporarily while the government finds a country that will accept them. In February the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the government did not violate the Constitution by refusing to release the Uighurs into the US. It is unclear when the court will decide whether to hear the case.
Earlier this month, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives [official website] proposed a bill [JURIST report] that, if passed, might block a proposed plan to accept up to seven Uighur detainees [JURIST report] into the US. In March, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced that the US would consider accepting all 17 detainees. February's decision by the DC Circuit overruled an October district court order [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] supporting the release of the Uighurs into the US. The US government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants [10 USC § 948a text; JURIST news archive], but have been linked with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002.