Life After Guantánamo: The Suffering of the Uighurs in Palau

The story of Guantánamo’s Uighurs has always been one of monstrous injustice — as well as a monstrous failure of intelligence, and an equally monstrous failure when it comes to the US government taking responsibility for its own mistakes. This is not a unique occurrence in Guantánamo, of course, but it has long been emblematic of the many failures of Guantánamo.

Briefly, the Uighurs are Muslims from Xinjiang province in north-western China, an area subjected to persecution by the Chinese government. The 22 Uighurs who ended up at Guantánamo were, for the most part, refugees who had been thwarted in their attempts to reach Turkey or Europe in search of work, or who, in some instances, nursed futile hopes of rising up against their oppressors. None had any involvement with al-Qaeda, terrorism or militancy against the United States, and they only ended up in Guantánamo because the rundown settlement in which they had been living in the mountains of Afghanistan was bombed by US forces, and, after they fled to Pakistan, they were sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers.

It was clear from the beginning that prisoners whose only enemy was the Chinese government should never have been held at Guantánamo, but they were used as pawns in negotiations with the Chinese government prior to the invasion of Iraq, and although five of the Uighurs were found a new home in Albania in May 2006, it took until 2008 — and a humiliating court defeat — for the Bush administration to give up its claim that the other 17 were “enemy combatants.” As a result, their habeas corpus petitions were granted in October 2008, but although a judge ordered them to be released in the United States, the Bush administration, and then the Obama administration disagreed, and appealed the ruling, securing a favorable response in February 2009 from the right wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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