News & Politics

Gitmo Lawyers Sue Obama Administration, Call for Sanctions Against Defense Secretary Gates

One lawsuit challenges Obama's position on indefinite detention, calling it merely a "partial retreat" from Bush-era policies.

Two weeks after the Obama administration announced that it was no longer labeling terror suspects "enemy combatants" , while still asserting the right to imprison them indefinitely, lawyers representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have brought forth multiple lawsuits -- including a motion of contempt against Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- accusing it of violating the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of detainees.
The AFP broke the story on Monday, reporting that it had obtained one court motion, filed Friday on behalf of Huzaifat Parhat, a Chinese Uighur who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2001. Parhat, along with some 17 Uighurs at the prison camp, remains there despite the U.S. government's long acknowledgment that he is not a terrorist and despite a court order last year that they be released -- the first time that a U.S. court has ordered the direct release of a prisoner at Guantánamo.
The story of how the Uighurs came to Guantanamo in the first place is almost incredible; UK-based writer Andy Worthington has covered it extensively. As he recently wrote, "It was clear from the very start of their detention that the Uighurs had nothing to do with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban." Consequently, their plight has attracted international outrage, particularly following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last winter, which in theory restored the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Guantanamo, but which did not appear to apply to them. As the New York Times reported at the time (without a hint of irony), the Bush administration said it would not return the Uighur detainees to China "because of concerns about their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government, which views them as terrorists."

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.
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