A ruling by U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina that 17 Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo Bay be released into the United States has the White House fuming. The U.S. administration says that the release is contrary to its immigration laws.
“Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful,” Urbina said, prompting cheers and applause from local Uighur residents and human rights activists who packed into the courtroom.
The ruling for the 17 detained Chinese prisoners came on Tuesday when a U.S. federal district court requested their release. The detainees have been at Guantanamo Bay for the past seven years. The Uighurs are not to be considered “enemy combatant’s” by the judges ruling.
The 17 would probably face torture if sent back to China because they are considered terrorists. The White House wants to keep them at Guantanamo Bay until another country is willing to take them on.
The detainees come from a region of China that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Because the ethnic Uighurs could be persecuted immigration laws forbid the United States from returning them to their homeland. They were cleared of their enemy combatant status in 2004, yet four years later they are still held at Gitmo.
China wants them to be returned. Human Events reports:
“China has urged the U.S. to repatriate these Chinese terrorist suspects to China on many occasions. We hope the U.S. will take our position seriously and repatriate these persons to China sooner rather than later,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
The issue the White House is dealing with is if a federal judge has the authority to release Guantanamo Bay prisoners into the U.S. if they can not be returned to their homeland. In 2006 Albania took five of the detainees but fear repercussions from China if they take the last 17.
While human rights groups are declaring the judge’s ruling a victory if the White House ignores it the point is moot.
“How many times does the Bush administration need to be told that detainees are entitled to essential rights? All the remaining detainees in Guantanamo Bay must be either charged and tried or released immediately,” said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.