A U.S. federal appeals court has struck down the U.S. military's
classification of a Guantanamo Bay detainee as an enemy combatant.
VOA's Michael Bowman reports, this is the first time the U.S. court
system has overruled the Bush administration's designation of a
detainee since the Guantanamo facility began operations in early 2002.
court ruled in favor of a Chinese Muslim, Huzaifa Parhat, who has spent
the last six years in detention and is one of more than 100 detainees
to challenge their enemy combatant status in the U.S. judicial system.
The court directed the U.S. military to release Parhat, transfer him
out of Guantanamo, or hold a new proceeding to once again determine his
The court announced its decision without providing any
details, saying the ruling contains classified information. The
Department of Defense did not immediately comment on the matter.
rights groups say the appeals court ruling is a landmark decision for
Guantanamo detainees, yet one with little practical benefit for Parhat.
Stacy Sullivan is a counter-terrorism advisor for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
[Parhat] will probably not be released," she said. "He is a Chinese
Uighur, and there are a number of Chinese Uighurs being held at
Guantanamo who are already declared no longer enemy combatants. But
they cannot leave Guantanamo because they have nowhere to go. They
cannot be sent back to China because they have a well-founded fear of
torture [in China], and the United States to its credit will not send
them back there. So the Uighurs are pretty much stuck in Guantanamo."
2006, the United States released five Uighurs from Guantanamo and
resettled them in Albania. China, which regards the Uighurs as
terrorists and separatists, demanded Albania to return them to China.
Albania did not comply.
U.S. authorities believe some Uighurs
have links to al-Qaeda. But they admit the Uighurs held at Guantanamo
never fought against the United States, nor did they take part in the
9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Watch's Stacy Sullivan says the plight of the Guantanamo Uighurs points
to a real dilemma facing the United States if at some point it decides
to close Guantanamo, an action favored by both presumptive Republican
and Democratic presidential nominees.
"There are about 50
detainees there who have said they do not want to go home because they
fear being tortured: Uzbeks, Libyans, Uighurs, a few other
nationalities," she said. "What is to be done with them? It is simple
enough to transfer those for whom we have evidence of terrorism and try
them in our federal court system. But the 50 detainees who cannot go
home, it is unclear what is going to happen to them, and that is going
to make closing Guantanamo really difficult."
appeals court ruling follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this
month affirming the right of Guantanamo suspects to challenge their
detention in U.S. civilian courts.