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Breaking News: Supreme Court sends Uighurs’ case back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

SCOTUSblog reports:

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the D.C. Circuit Court to take a new look at the case testing federal judges’ powers to order Guantanamo Bay detainees released from custody — a case the Justices had granted and were to hear later this month.  In a brief order, without noted dissent, the Court said the Circuit Court was to decide “what further proceedings in that court or in the District Court are necessary and appropriate for the full and final disposition of the case in light of…new developments.”  The case is Kiyemba, et al., v. Obama, et al. (08-1234).  The “new developments” are offers to resettle the seven Chinese Muslim Uighurs remaining at Guantanamo.

The Justices’ action has two immediate effects: first, it wipes out the Circuit Court’s earlier ruling that federal judges have no power to order release into the U.S., even temporarily, because that is an immigration matter exclusively for the President and Congress, and, second, it means that the Justices will not have any final ruling this Term on detainee matters, putting the Court on the sidelines while the two other branches of government work out where to go next on policy involving capture and detention of individuals during the government’s “war on terror.”  President Obama wants to close Guantanamo, but there are efforts in Congress to keep it open in order to assure that no detainee reaches the U.S. shores, even for further detention.  There are also efforts on Capitol Hill to block any criminal trial in the U.S. of a Guantanamo prisoner, including those who have been charged with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A third effect of Monday’s order very likely will be that the Court may not act this Term on a second Kiyemba case (same title, docket 09-581) that offered another opportunity to explore the courts’ authority to deal with Guantanamo captives’ fate.  That case involves some of the same individuals who appealed in the case the Court agreed to hear in October.  (The granted case is now informally known as “Kiyemba I.”  The case in 09-581 is known as “Kiyemba II.”)

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.