View Full Version : Men Held at Guantánamo Months After Deemed Innocent Part II

News Update
17-08-05, 15:47
The men's attorneys say that even though they have been cleared of any suspicion, the US government continues to treat Al-Hakim and Qassim like criminals. Their supplemental brief notes that the government refers to them as NLECs, meaning "no longer enemy combatants."

"The phrase is pregnant with the suggestion that Petitioners once were 'enemy combatants,' wrote the lawyers. "That suggestion is false… [The] petitioners have never been enemy combatants."

Throughout the August 1 hearing, Judge Robertson expressed surprise and disapproval at the Uighur's condition and the government's failure to report the finding of the change in their status to the court.
Possible Ulterior Motive for Detentions

The Uighur people, who descended from the Dingling nomadic tribe in the Third Century BC, were conquered by Turks in the mid-Ninth Century and intermarried with Turks, Tibetans, Mongols and other tribes over the years. Once they concentrated in the northwest region, their cotton-growing and trading economy flourished and eventually drew repression from the Chinese government. The Uighurs, whose name means "unity" or "alliance," have also been part of a movement for an autonomous Turkestan in the region.

Hussein Ibish, vice chair of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, thinks the men are being used as political footballs in the context of US-China relations. The US has formed an uneasy alliance with China as part of the so-called "war on terror," not to mention increasing trade negotiations between the two countries, so some think the treatment of the Uighurs is meant to avoid offending China.

"We don't really have to guess why they're still in jail," Ibish said. "It's because of the US relationship with China, the quid pro quo made between the US and China as part of the war on terrorism and [China's opposition to] the movement for an Eastern independent Turkestan. There's obviously a desire to keep them incarcerated. Where does that desire come from? I'd say the bilateral agreement with China and China's concern about the Uighur situation."

According to the human rights group Amnesty International, in the past China has demanded that other countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Kazakhstan return Uighurs for prosecution and imprisonment when they apply for asylum.

"China has repackaged its repression of Uighurs as a fight against 'terrorism,'" the group said in a July 2004 report. "Since the September 11 attacks on the USA, the Chinese government has been using 'anti-terrorism' as a pretext to increase its crackdown on all forms of political or religious dissent in the region."

Ibish noted that in the bigger picture, the veil of secrecy around almost all proceedings at Guantánamo allows political machinations like this to play out without outside oversight.

"It's an example of how problematic it is that the government operates prison facilities in which they follow no known set of rules," he said. "There are a number of potential sets of guidelines or recognized structures they could use: the Geneva Convention, US criminal law, or they could have created consistent, clear rules with meaningful opportunities for prisoners to challenge their detention. But the situation with the Uighurs [at Guantánamo] demonstrates that when you allow the government to proceed without clearly defined rules, you're really inviting abuse. It's not defensible."

In court Willett noted that when he spoke to Al-Hakim's sister, a refugee in Sweden, she thought her brother had died. "These people are dead to the outside world," Willett told the court. "They're dead to their children, they're dead to their wives, even their names are a secret…and every single day this continues is another small death."

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