Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kiyema v. Obama

Deborah Pearlstein

Cross-posted at Opinio Juris

In something of a surprise move, the Supreme Court decided today to grant cert in Kiyemba v. Obama – an enormously important case about whether or not the federal courts have the power to order Guantanamo detainees (whose writs of habeas corpus have been granted) released into the United States. The NYTimes story is here. The Justice Department’s statement on the grant is here.

From The Times story:

The case concerns 17 men from the largely Muslim Uighur region of western China
who continue to be held although the government has determined that they pose no
threat to the United States.

Last October, a federal judge here ordered the men released. But a federal appeals court reversed that ruling in February, saying that judges do not have the power to override immigration laws and force the executive branch to release foreigners into the United States.

An appeal from the Uighurs has been pending in the Supreme Court since April, and it is not clear why the justices acted on it now. The Obama administration has sent some of the prisoners to Bermuda, and Palau has said it will accept most of the rest. But one prisoner apparently has nowhere to go.

The prisoners have said they fear they will be tortured or executed if they are returned to China, where they are viewed as terrorists.

The case presents the next logical legal question in the series of detainee cases to reach the court. Last year, in Boumediene v. Bush, the court ruled that federal judges have jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus claims from prisoners held at Guantánamo.

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