On October 8, US District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that 17 ethnic Uighurs detainees at the Guantanamo Bay camp should be released immediately since they were not regarded as enemy combatants by the administration, and there was no evidence against them. We were not just holding them indefinitely without having brought any charges yet; it was the cheerfully admitted position of the Bush administration that there was no basis whatsoever for bringing any charges. In short, they weren’t considered to be guilty of anything at all.
The Bush administration immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block Judge Urbina’s order while they appealed it. Although the White House advanced a truly idiotic rationale, the appeals court duly blocked the order.
Now the appeals court has duly upheld the appeal:
By a two to one vote, a three-judge panel of a US appeals court ruled Wednesday that a federal judge does not have authority to decide who can legally enter the United States, a power they said resides only with the president or Congress.
The court struck down an October 8 ruling by US District Judge Ricardo Urbina who ordered the federal government to free the 17 men in the Washington area where there is a large Uighur community.
“We are certain that no habeas corpus court since the time of Edward I ever ordered such an extraordinary remedy,” wrote senior Circuit Court Judge Raymond Randolph.
Perhaps the no-doubt-honorable Raymond Randolph should also have considered whether any court since the time of Edward I has ever been asked to rule on such an extraordinary situation, where all principles of natural justice have been abandoned, where all pretense of following the principles of natural justice has been abandoned?
Let’s play a little Q-and-A game.
Why are these 17 Uighurs in prison?
They are in prison today simply because we made the mistake of putting them in Guantanamo yesterday (even though they are not enemy combatants, even though they are not guilty of anything).
We put them in prison for no fault of their own, and for no good reason. We continue to hold them for no fault of their own, and for no good reason.
We are punishing them, literally, for nothing. Surely, that’s cruel and unusual punishment? We are imprisoning them indefinitely for having committed no crime. Surely, that’s a gross violation of their human rights?
Under what conditions are we holding these 17 Uighurs, given that they are deemed to be innocent of any and all crimes?
As of last October, this was the best answer anyone could give:
In Camp 6, the Uighurs are alone in metal cells throughout the day, are prohibited for the most part from conversing with others, and take all their meals through a metal slot in the door, lawyer P. Sabin Willett said in his affidavit, which was based on what he was told during his visit Jan. 15-18. They have little or no access to sunlight or fresh air, have had nothing new to read in their native language for the past several years, and are sometimes told to undertake solitary recreation at night, he said.
Perhaps they were no longer subject to enhanced interrogation techniques, but in every other way we seem to be treating them the same way we treat the other Guantanamo detainees, the ones we consider to be the worst of the worst. Are these not unconscionable conditions in which to hold men we consider to be innocent? Surely, this adds a whole new layer of cruelty to what already constitutes cruel and unusual punishment? To hold bona fide prisoners of war under these conditions would be a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions. Perhaps the no-doubt-honorable Raymond Randolph should have considered what it violates to hold innocent human beings under these conditions?
But, hey, in the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the principle that only the President or Congress can make decisions about immigration trumps everything else. It trumps the injunction against cruel and unusual punishment. It trumps violations of basic human rights. If the only way to set them free and end their cruel and unusual punishment, the only way to stop depriving them of their basic human rights is to order the executive branch to bring them to the U.S., then it is better to go on depriving them of human rights, to continue their cruel and unusual punishment.
Because the principle that only the President or Congress can make decisions about immigration is self-evidently sacrosanct.
(The White House, incidentally, has declined to comment on the ruling.)