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Making Justice Moot

The Bush administration releases Guantanamo detainees -- just in time to keep their case from the Supreme Court.
 
 
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Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdul Al-Hakim have been held in Guantanamo since 2002. Natives of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Region, it wasn’t until March of 2005 that it was acknowledged that they were not "enemy combatants." Because they face persecution in China, it was determined that the men should not be returned to their home country.

For over a year, Qassim and Al-Hakim were kept in Guantanamo while U.S. authorities looked for a third country to send them to. But they didn't seem to be in much of a hurry. Both men were still in Cuba this past December when a federal judge ruled that it was unlawful to continue their indefinite imprisonment.

Qassim and Al-Hakim’s have been kept in Guantanamo until just this Friday when they were released to Albania. Why the sudden action? Oral arguments for Qassim and Al-Hakim’s legal challenge to their detainment were scheduled in the Supreme Court for this Monday.

True to their manipulative relationship with the courts, the DoJ just this Friday filed an "Emergency Motion to Dismiss as Moot" the appeal. The six page document is worth reading in full [PDF]. Again, as with most legal requests to keep something from the courts, the DoJ tone is one of pompous self-righteousness. Rather than focusing on why they believe the case to be moot, the DoJ seeks a pat on the back for getting around to releasing the men:

…the Executive Branch has engaged in extensive diplomatic efforts to transfer petitioners to an appropriate country where they will be released for resettlement and treated humanely. These efforts have faced strong diplomatic opposition. The strenuous diplomatic efforts of the United States have persisted, nonetheless, and have now come to fruition…

The Albanian Government has assured the United States that petitioners will be treated humanely, and that they will not be subjected to involuntary transfer to their native country. In Albania, petitioners are being provided food, clothing, financial assistance and telephone access. As applicants for refugee status, they will be free to travel around Albania.

Well. There you have it. What more could you want after being plucked from your country, illegally detained and subject to abuse for four years?

The DoJ’s Motion states,

Given petitioners’ release, this case is now moot. The relief petitioners’ sought -- release from custody -- has now been effectuated. Thus, there is no more live case or controversy and the matter should be dismissed as moot. Because of the timing of this motion (which could not be filed until petitioners’ release had been effected)… we are filing this as an emergency motion…

Regardless of the release of the detainees, this flagrant manipulation to scuttle the case makes it both live and highly controversial. The Supreme Court recently dealt with a similar situation in the case of Jose Padilla. Though the DoJ won out, some of the justices expressed concern over the government's disrespect for the courts. Let’s hope this time, the Court chooses to push back. Hard.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.