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NCC's Edgar Urges U.S. to Accept Responsibility
for Uighur Chinese Refugees at Guantanamo

November 1, 2004, New York City - The United States government should accept responsibility for the Uighur Chinese Muslims it is holding at the Guantanamo Bay naval base - people rounded up in Afghanistan two years ago, subsequently declared by the United States to be innocent of any crime and likely to be tortured or executed if they are repatriated to China.

So declares National Council of Churches General Secretary Robert W. Edgar in his October 29 appeal to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. While the U.S. government has pledged not to repatriate the up to two dozen Uighur Chinese to China, where they are a persecuted minority, some observers worry that frustration at not being able to find a U.S. ally to take them in might lead the U.S. to revoke that pledge.

“This dilemma is a direct outcome of the failed U.S. policy on Guantanamo,” the Rev. Dr. Edgar noted in his letter to Secretary of State Powell. The appeal is the latest in a series of NCC actions to protect the due process and other human rights of Guantanamo prisoners.

“Earlier this year in a case for which the National Council of Churches USA submitted an amicus brief, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the Guantanamo detainees with regard to their right to due process,” Dr. Edgar said. “The release of several detainees without charge further undercut the government’s argument that such detentions were necessary. Now, we have a situation where detainees could be killed as a direct result of U.S. policy.”

The full text of Dr. Edgar’s letter to Secretary of State Powell follows.

* * * *

October 29, 2004

Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. State Department
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

I am writing to you about the grim situation faced by the Uighur Chinese prisoners who are being held by the United States at Guantanamo. As you know, they have been determined innocent of any crime and are of no threat to the U.S. But they are unable to be returned to China after their release for fear of execution, since they are a persecuted minority there. The refusal of many of our allies to accept them only compounds the problem.

This dilemma is a direct outcome of the failed U.S. policy on Guantanamo. Earlier this year in a case for which the National Council of Churches USA submitted an amicus brief, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the Guantanamo detainees with regard to their right to due process. The release of several detainees without charge further undercut the government’s argument that such detentions were necessary. Now, we have a situation where detainees could be killed as a direct result of U.S. policy.

It would appear that the only option left to the United States, despite possible harm to U.S.-China relations, may be to allow the Uighurs to remain in our country. If the U.S. should decide to accept this responsibility, the National Council of Churches USA is pleased to inform you that its partner organization, Church World Service, on behalf of and through our member faith communions, is committed to offer resettlement services to these refugees. As you may already know, Church World Service has a long and solid track record with regard to refugee assistance.

This unfortunate situation, born of a deeply troubling national policy, deserves to be rectified in an honorable manner. I pray that together we can begin this process in the days ahead.

Peace,

Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary

-end-

Media Contact: Carol Fouke, cfouke@ncccusa.org; 212-870-2252


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