How the Fate of the Uyghurs Affects Us All

Andy Worthington reports that “Washington D.C. Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the Uyghurs’ release into the United States, explaining, ‘Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful.’”

This was in 2008 and appeared to be a triumph for justice and for protections for all of us under the US Constitution.  The Bush regime challenged this court decision and the Obama regime continues that challenge.

The May 9, 2011 entry on his website gives Andy Worthington’s continuing narration of what happened as the result of those challenges.  He reports:

“the final door closed on the Uighurs on April 18, … when, spelling the end of their hopes — possibly, of ever being relased — the Supreme Court refused to hear their case, prompting one of their lawyers, Sabin Willett, to write the following eloquent and powerful requiem for habeas corpus for the Lawfare blog maintained, ironically, by supporters of indefinite detention.”

The Worthington site gives the entire statement by Sabin Willett, of which the following is the final segment:

“Can it really be that the frequenter-of-a-suspicious-guest-house is more fearsome than those POWs of yesterday [from WWII], whom we held in camps all across America? That the Uighur is? What shall we say when the Guantánamo prisoner’s fifteenth year comes? His twenty-fifth? When a prisoner dies of old age, as Awal Gul did last February? Sooner than you think, a new MP will arrive for duty at the base, to guard a man who has been at Guantánamo since before that MP was born. (That MP is in the Boy Scouts today, but he’ll be eighteen in a few years.) What possible national interest will be served by that ironic custody?

“While it was here, habeas might have helped us resolve these questions. Now that it is gone, only politics will. So I trudge the lane this gloomy April, of a melancholy disposition.

“In Dido’s cave, a stunned Aeneas comes upon a mural depicting his own ten-years’ war. ‘There is a heartbreak at the heart of things,’ is the only explanation Virgil can offer. He was right.

“Some of my colleagues are unbroken. Stout-hearted all, they still are in the fray. God bless them! Perhaps, undaunted, they will tease a distinction from a different set of facts, perhaps they will find that key to the D.C. Circuit that we briefly held in Parhat, and never touched again. Maybe someone can at least bring a case from which Justice Kagan is not recused. I hope they do.

“As for the Uighurs, I fear this will not end well. I used to say, half in jest, that a Uighur would turn out the lights at Guantánamo Bay. How will Guantánamo end? Not with Eliot’s bang, nor even with his whimper. Our government seems determined that it shall not end at all.”

“Sabin Willett
“April, 2011”

What I must realize is that if habeas corpus rights are not respected by US regimes for these prisoners, they are no longer securely in place for anyone.  The United States government has become a lawless one, where the decisions of the executive about the death and imprisonment of persons who have never been tried is commonplace.  If everyone is not protected by law, then none of us is safe from lawlessness.


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