March 22, 2010 / 3:05 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. top court rejects Guantanamo Uighurs case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that federal judges cannot require that the U.S. government give 30-days advance notice before sending the Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay to another country.

Lawyers for the members of the Uighur ethnic group who have been held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba sought the notice so they could oppose a transfer to a country where the Uighurs may be tortured or detained.

The government has said it cannot return the Uighurs to China because they would face persecution there. Of the seven Uighurs still at Guantanamo, Switzerland has said it would take two of them, and the Pacific nation of Palau and another unidentified nation have offered to take the others.

A federal judge in Washington required a month’s notice of a proposed transfer of the Uighurs to another country.

But an appeals court ruled judges cannot bar transfers of Guantanamo detainees because the prisoner is likely to be tortured or subject to prosecution or detention.

“The government has declared its policy not to transfer a detainee to a country that likely will torture him, and the district court may not second-guess the government’s assessment of that likelihood,” the appeals court said in its opinion.

Lawyers for several Uighurs appealed to the Supreme Court and said the case involved the important question of whether judges can require advance notice so they still have an opportunity to decide any claims relating to the transfer.

The justices rejected the appeal without comment.

There are 188 detainees at Guantanamo, but President Barack Obama’s efforts to close the military prison have been delayed by political and legal problems, and difficulty in finding countries willing to accept some of the prisoners.

On March 1, the Supreme Court got rid of a separate appeal by the Uighurs on whether judges can order Guantanamo prisoners into the United States when no other country will take them.

The court said the facts of that case had changed because the Uighurs now have received at least one offer to go to another country.

Editing by Will Dunham

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