In 2005, with colleagues at my law firm, I began representing Uighur prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. They were neither terrorists nor enemies, but Muslim refugees from China taken by mistake in the fog of war following the Afghanistan invasion in 2001. They were held for years because they could not be returned to China, and no other country would take them.
The legal story is long and complex. Many briefs were written in the federal district and appellate court in Washington. Parhat v. Gates and Kiyemba v. Bush (latterly, Kiyemba v. Obama) were the main cases.
All but three of the clients were ultimately freed, and four, pictured with me and our Uighur translator, Rushan Abbas soon after their arrival in 2009, [link to self with Bermuda Uighurs and translator] now live in Bermuda. One of our former clients lives in Albania, (pictured left) and another, Adel (pictured right with Fatima), in Sweden. Adel’s arrival in Stockholm during Advent, 2007, was a moving time for me. I wrote Fatima (fatima poem pdf) about that magical night.
The legal cases ended, for the most part, in loss. The court of appeals stripped the trial courts of remedial power, which emptied habeas corpus review of much meaning. When the Supreme Court rejected our last effort, in 2011, I wrote this: (Sabin Willett Kiyemba on the Cert Denial). I have continued to speak and write (Sabin Willett on Latif) about the subject.
As of New Year’s Day, 2013, three of our former clients remained at Guantánamo, now in their second decade. They had turned down an offer to be resettled in Palau in 2009, and the courts said, effectively, that that ended their right of review.