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Guantanamo Detainees Still in Limbo After Being Cleared for Release

Testifying recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked what the Justice Department plans to do with Guantanamo Bay detainees who can’t be sent home, if no other country will take them.

Given that President Obama just signed a law sent to him by Congress that prohibits the release of any detainees into the United States, the answer to that question has just become a lot more urgent.

“We’re going to work with our allies, with our friends, to try to place these people,” said Holder, noting that in recent weeks nine Guantanamo prisoners were placed in other countries. “Those efforts will continue.”

Sen, Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) followed up by asking what should be done about those the United States government cannot place overseas.

Holder skirted that one. “I’m not sure that we won’t be able to … by sharing information about who these people are, we can come up with a way that will assure them they will not pose a danger to our allies or a danger to us,” he said, adding “I think we’ll be successful in assuring them.”

If the Supreme Court decides not to take up the petition of the 13 remaining Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay at issue in the case of Kiyemba v. Obama, which I wrote about previously, then the courts won’t have any authority to release them either. And that’s sure to increasingly frustrate judges like Richard Leon, who earlier this week was clearly disgusted with the government’s argument (see Christy Hardin Smith’s great post on that at Firedoglake) that it could continue to detain Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco (who goes by “Janko”) — a man who’d been brutally tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban, only to be re-incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. The government’s argument for Janko’s continued detention “defies common sense,” wrote Judge Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush, with evident exasperation.

Judge Leon’s is only the latest in a string of habeas cases — 26 out of 31 so far, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jonathan Hafetz — to find that the government’s grounds for indefinite detention of what the Bush administration called “enemy combatants” simply don’t hold up.

In May, Judge Gladys Kessler refused to condone the ongoing imprisonment of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, captured as a teenager, based on what she called “guilt by association.”

Like the Uighurs, these are men (some seized as teenagers) who’ve now been cleared for release, yet after seven years, still remain imprisoned at the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. As the law currently stands, neither the federal courts nor the president himself — given the bill he just signed into law — can remedy the situation, unless some other country offers to take them.

The Supreme Court was expected to decide yesterday whether to hear their case, but so far no word.

Maybe today or next week.

Update: Andy Worthington has more detail on Judge Leon’s decision and the disturbing case of Abdul Rahim Janko at Huffington Post.

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