Uyghur American Association welcomes Attorney General Holder’s remarks on the possibility of releasing Guantanamo Uyghurs into the United States
For immediate release
March 19, 2009, 5:00 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) welcomes Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks regarding the possibility of freeing the 17 Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo into the United States. UAA urges the Obama administration to prioritize the resettlement of the 17 men, and stands ready to provide assistance to the men to help them integrate into American society.
Attorney General Holder’s comments to reporters on March 18 were the first public statements on the part of an Obama administration official regarding the possibility of releasing the 17 Uyghurs onto American soil. Recent statements on the part of German and Portuguese government officials have also indicated interest in resettling the Uyghurs in their respective countries. UAA hopes that any among the 17 men who are not brought to the United States will be released to another Western democracy.
“I thank the Obama administration for this very encouraging statement,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “The administration’s refusal to send the Guantanamo Uyghurs to China shows its faith in the Uyghur-American community and its recognition of the dire consequences these men would face at the hands of the Chinese government.”
None of the 22 Uyghurs originally detained in Guantanamo were picked up on a battlefield, and most were captured by Pakistani bounty hunters and sold to American forces for $5,000 each. Since their detention, the U.S. government has determined that all of the Uyghurs are non-enemy combatants. Five Uyghurs were released into Albania in 2006, but no third country has expressed willingness to accept the 17 men remaining in Guantanamo, reportedly due at least in part to Chinese pressure. As early as 2003, most of the Uyghurs in Guantanamo were cleared for release. U.S. congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle have called for the release of the remaining 17 Uyghurs to the United States.
Chinese government officials have engaged in intensive lobbying to seek the return of the Uyghurs to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). UAA believes the 17 men would face a high risk of torture and execution if they were returned to the PRC. The execution of Uyghur political prisoners is common, and Uyghurs in Chinese government custody often suffer from physical abuse and other maltreatment.