View Full Version : The Uighur Dilemma Comes to an End

03-02-10, 15:45

With news that the remaining seven Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay have now been offered a resettlement option in either Palau or Switzerland, the dilemma of the Gitmo Uighurs appears to be coming to a close, Obama administration officials said today.

In 2001, 22 Uighurs – members of a Turkic Muslim minority from the Xinjiang province of far-west China -- were living in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan.

They were in a camp run by the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a Uighur independence group the State Department designated as terrorist three years after their capture. Evidence indicates that some of the Uighurs intended to fight the Chinese government and received firearms training at the camp.

The Uighurs fled to Pakistan after U.S. aerial strikes destroyed their camp after September 11, 2001 and were turned over to the U.S. military and detained as “enemy combatants" though they had no apparent animus towards the U.S.

Because of fears they would be executed if the returned to their native China, the Uighurs did not want to be returned there, and the US government complied.

Five Uighurs were resettled to Albania in 2006, under the administration of President George W. Bush.

But it has been difficult to find a home for them, particularly after Congress last year passed a law saying no funds could be used to transfer, release, or incarcerate any individual who is detained as of
May 19, 2009, at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States.” That same month the Obama administration argued that the Uighurs had no right to come to America despite a district judge's orders last Fall that they immediately be brought to the U.S. and released.

Four were resettled to Bermuda in June 2009. Six were resettled to the obscure Pacific island nation of Palau in November 2009.

Seven remain at Guantanamo, but earlier today, Switzerland’s Federal Council decided to admit for humanitarian reasons two Uighurs, following yesterday’s announcement by the Jura Government that it would provide residence permits for them. Palau has offered to take the rest.