Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Banished to limbo

The Catholic church may abolish limbo, but the US government is determined to keep people in it forever anyway. Captured by bounty hunters, incarcerated in Guantanamo since 2002, ruled innocent by military and civilian courts, but never to be released. From today's Washington Post:
Lawyers for a group of Chinese nationals held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with no hope of release are taking the rare step of asking the Supreme Court to intervene immediately, saying only the high court can resolve the constitutional crisis their case presents.

Attorneys for the detained Uighurs, Muslim natives of western China who oppose their country's Communist rule, are scheduled to petition the court as early as today. They seek a break in the impasse created when U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled last month that the Bush administration's "Kafka-esque" detention of the Uighurs was illegal but he simultaneously determined that the court lacked the power to overrule the president and free them.

"That ruling doesn't simply hit innocent men now in their fifth year of imprisonment," said Sabin Willett, one of the Uighurs' attorneys. "It goes to whether we have a judicial branch at all. This is that rare question so vital that the Supreme Court should immediately intervene to answer."

The government acknowledges that the Uighurs were imprisoned by mistake in 2002. Military officials determined in 2004 that they were not enemy combatants and should be released.

Robertson wrote in his Dec. 22 opinion that the Uighurs would probably be persecuted if they were returned to China. They are seeking refuge in the United States, where other Uighurs have been granted asylum, the judge said, but only the president has the authority to grant that and his administration has strenuously opposed the idea.


Lawyers working on behalf of the Uighurs argue that Robertson's decision effectively "proclaims an Executive with unchecked power . . . to seize and perpetually imprison persons from around the globe."


'The administration has argued in court that the president can continue to detain the Uighurs under the executive's "necessary power to wind up wartime detentions in an orderly fashion."

Keeping things tidy. That's the justification for leaving these people in eternal limbo?

What is so appalling about this case, beyond the ongoing horror experienced by these detainees, is the casual way the regime refuses even to consider taking responsibility for the harm it does to others, let alone finding a means of restitution. But to take responsibility would be to acknowledge fallibility, and that is something god just doesn't do.


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