[JURIST] Four Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detention facility have been released from US custody Thursday and transferred to Bermuda [DOJ press release]. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] reported that the four detainees had been cleared for release by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force and were transferred pursuant to an agreement with the government of Bermuda. Lawyers for the detainees, who had been held at Guantanamo for seven years, welcomed their transfer [press release]. Bingham McCutchen partner Susan Baker Manning said, "These men should never have been at Guantanamo. They were picked up by mistake. And when the U.S. government realized its mistake, it continued to imprison them merely because they are refugees."
Thirteen Uighurs still remain in US custody at Guantanamo. The Uighurs' release was ordered [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] by a US district court in October, but that decision was overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in February by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website]. They have appealed [JURIST report] to the US Supreme Court [official website]. If the remaining Uighurs are transferred before the Court decides to hear their case, it will likely be dismissed as moot. On Wednesday, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said that his government had reached an agreement with the US to accept [JURIST report] all 17 Uighur detainees. US officials said later that no final agreement had been reached. On Thursday, Torigiong said that the offer was motivated by human rights concerns [JURIST report] and not by the Chinese government's reaction. Also Thursday, the Chinese government again demanded the repatriation of the Uighurs. The Chinese maintain that the Uighurs are members of 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. The US has previously rejected China's calls to repatriate [JURIST report] the Uighurs, citing fear of torture upon their return.
5:15 PM ET – The DOJ has announced the transfer [press release] of an Iraqi national and a Chadian national back to their home countries.