(CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition from Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, who want to be released from Guantanamo Bay into the United States now that the U.S. government has agreed their detention is unlawful.
Justice Stephen Breyer authored a two-page explanation of the court’s order, and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined in the opinion.
It is the second time the high court has weighed in on these detainees’ plight. After granting them certiorari in 2009, the court received new details on their situation. Although the U.S. government has said that the five Uighurs can be released, it is unclear where to send them. If sent to China, they will likely be tortured for their avowed dissidence. More than 100 other countries have declined to take them, but the Uighurs have also “received and rejected at least two offers of resettlement,” Breyer wrote.
In an unsigned 2010 decision, the justices directed the D.C. Circuit to “determine, in the first instance, what further proceedings in that court or in the District Court are necessary and appropriate for the full and prompt disposition of the case in light of the new developments.”
The detainees sought Supreme Court review again when the D.C. Circuit, which has taken a firm line that favors the government in detainees’ appeals, answered that further proceedings were not necessary.
“In my view, these offers, the lack of any meaningful challenge as to their appropriateness, and the Government’s uncontested commitment to continue to work to resettle petitioners transform petitioners’ claim,” Breyer wrote. “Under present circumstances, I see no Government-imposed obstacle to petitioners’ timely release and appropriate resettlement. Accordingly, I join in the Court’s denial of certiorari. Should circumstances materially change, however, petitioners may of course raise their original issue (or related issues) again in the lower courts and in this Court.”
In addition to denying the current peition, the justices granted the detainees’ motion to file a supplemental brief under seal.
Earlier this month the Supreme Court rejected petitions from three other detainees – a volley of orders that indicate the court will defer to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit. The justices have not decided a detainee case in nearly three years with the June 2008 opinions in Boumediene v. Bush, concerning a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and Munaf v. Geren, which is related to an inmate of the military operations zone in Iraq. Boumedine afforded detainees the basic right to seek habeas relief.
As with the Al-Bihani case that was rejected on April 4, Justice Elena Kagan recused herself without explanation. Some have speculated that the court is reluctant to review Guantanamo cases without the former U.S. solicitor general because a deadlocked eight-justice panel would not be able to set a precedent. Kagan appeared, however, to have participated in the court’s consideration of two of the three detainee cases rejected on April 4.