(CN) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the appeal of 13 Chinese Uighurs who have been held without charges at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. The justices will decide whether judges can order Guantanamo prisoners released in the United States, something the Obama administration has opposed.
In February, the D.C. Circuit overturned a federal judge’s order to release 17 Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, in the United States instead of China, where they allegedly face torture.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina had determined that the prisoners were not “enemy combatants,” and that the government could no longer justify their detention at the U.S. prison in Cuba.
After staying the order in October, the federal appeals court ruled that the political branches – not the judiciary – have the exclusive power “to decide which aliens may, and which aliens may not, enter the United States, and on what terms.”
The Obama administration might try to avoid a separation-of-powers showdown in the high court by resettling the detainees over the next few months. Four Uighur detainees have already been released and resettled in Bermuda.
The justices will likely hear arguments early next year.