Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Refuse/Refuge

This dispatch from Le Monde will sober anyone hoping that the news of France's willingness to take in a Guantánamo detainee opened the way for global resettlement of inmates who cannot go home again:
According to the Paris paper's special correspondent in Luxembourg, French President Nicolas Sarkozy "did announce that 'France was ready to accept an ex-detainee from Guantánamo,'" but with the intention of "'putting him in prison.'" That kind of "acceptance" would mirror the fate of the 6 ex-detainees who stood trial in France after their release from Guantánamo in 2004 and 2005.
Still more sobering is the reporter's observation that only 4 other countries besides France -- Britain, Italy, Portugal, and Spain -- have shown any such inclination. "For the most part," he wrote, "the ministers of interior and justice from the 27 European Union countries meeting in Luxembourg showed reticence to accept ex-detainees."
No doubt complicating diplomatic efforts at resettlement is the United States' unwillingness so far to take in any detainees itself. Last October, as we posted, the U.S. District Court ordered the release into the United States of 17 Uighur detainees, Chinese Muslims whom the government admits are not enemy combatants but who are likely to be persecuted if returned to China. But the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that decision in February, and so yesterday the matter found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition for certiorari in Kiyemba v. Obama raises the critical issue, as SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston's superb analysis points out, of whether it is "unconstitutional to continue to hold in some form of custody an individual who has been found not to be dangerous and who has not been charged with any crime." The answer to that question would affect not only the Uighurs, but potentially many more of the 241 persons remaining at Gitmo. (Indeed, if last week's opinion extending Boumediene to 3 Bagram detainees survives appellate review, its scope could be even greater.)
One hopes that the new administration will not wait for the Court to act, but rather will decide on its own to accept the Uighurs, as Attorney General Eric Holder hinted the United States might do. As a policy matter, this could make other detainees more welcome in more other countries, as IntLawGrrl Beth Van Schaack posted. As a legal matter, it would comport with our traditions, as I've written in a New York Times Room for Debate exchange:

These men cannot expect safety back home in China. No other country has welcomed them. It is time for the United States to do just that – to grant the Uighurs asylum within U.S. borders. We should learn that this result is a foreseeable consequence of denying such persons their rights under the law.

No comments: