About Kathy Taylor

Kathy Taylor is a member of AIUSA Group 15 in Concord, Massachusetts. She is the group liaison to the Counter Terror With Justice Campaign, and she coordinates Group 15's advocacy work on behalf of the Uyghurs at Guantanamo Bay. Kathy works as a software technical writer.
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Relief funds help Guantanamo Uighur move forward

Corrected 2/4/10

An attorney with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel contacted me two months ago to ask for my assistance on behalf of one of her firm’s Uighur clients who had recently been released from Guantanamo to Palau.

Ahmad Abdulahad in Palau after almost eight years in Guantanamo. (Photo courtesy of Kramer Levin).

Ahmad Abdulahad in Palau after almost eight years in Guantanamo. (Photo courtesy of Kramer Levin)

Kramer Levin’s client, a 38-year-old Uighur named Ahmad Abdulahad, was captured in Afghanistan soon after the American invasion in October 2001. His left leg was severely injured during an air strike at Qalai Janghi Prison near Mazar-E-Sharif, where he was being held prior to his transfer to Guantanamo.

Ahmad’s leg was amputated soon after his arrival in Guantanamo, and a prosthetic device was supplied by the U.S. military. The prosthesis was never fitted properly. As a result, Ahmad’s mobility has been very limited and he experiences chronic pain. Whether he is walking, sitting, or standing, the prosthesis rubs against his residual limb. This causes blistering, which is aggravated in the hot, humid climate of Palau.

Ahmad’s story

Ahmad was born in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, a western province of the People’s Republic of China.  As an ethnic Uighur (a Turkic Muslim minority), he suffered severe repression under China’s rule. Ahmad is an educated man with a wife and three children. He left his home to escape persecution in 2000. He traveled to Kyrgyzstan and later to Pakistan. Like many Uighur refugees, he finally settled in Afghanistan, the only Central Asian country where he was unlikely to face extradition to China.

Ahmad was living in Kabul at the time of the U.S. invasion. When the fighting moved closer to the city, he joined the crowds of civilians fleeing north. Although unarmed and unaffiliated with any of the warring factions, he was captured by the forces of the notorious warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and turned over to the Americans for a bounty of $5,000.

Now, eight years later, Ahmad is finally a free man. Despite the terrible adversities that he has faced, he is extraordinarily motivated to begin a new life, to find employment, and to become self-sufficient. But he needs extensive medical care.


Imminent Execution

Kenneth Mosley is scheduled for execution on September 24. He has been on death row for the past twelve years. Mr. Mosley was convicted of killing a police officer while attempting to rob a bank in Garland, Texas on February 15, 1997.

Kenneth Mosley

Kenneth Mosley

If and when he is executed, Mr. Mosley will be among the 200+ victims of the death penalty under a single Texas governor.

Mr. Mosley has committed a terrible crime, and things look grim for him. He overcame many adversities in his life, but finally a combination of addiction and difficult circumstances led to this tragedy. Still he says:

I’m staying positive and have hope that something good will happen …

Kenneth Mosley grew up in an abusive home. His family was very poor, and racial tensions ran high in the community.  In spite of it all, Kenneth managed to finish high school and a year of college. Unfortunately, he did not have the financial means to continue his education. He left college to work in a Coca Cola Bottling Company. Soon afterwards, he met and married his wife Carol.  They had a baby girl named Amber.

Life was going well for the Mosely family, but things started to fall apart when Ken became addicted to crack cocaine. He and his wife sought treatment from many different clinics, but after losing his job, he lost his health insurance and, with it, any hope of affording treatment for his addiction. His life went into a downward spiral.

One day, with a gun in his pocket, Ken walked into a bank. A police officer, who later paid with his own life, spotted him and attempted to stop him from robbing the bank. They struggled and crashed through a window. During the struggle,  the officer was shot and killed.

During Ken’s trial, the quality of the representation he received was so poor that he may as well have been deprived of his constitutional right to effective counsel.  The lawyers failed to present evidence of several mitigating factors that may have influenced the jury’s decision to impose the death penalty.  For example, despite the fact that Ken suffered a brain injury resulting in permanent damage, his attorneys did not even examine Ken’s medical records.  Nor did they address his debilitating addiction to crack cocaine.  No evidence of either impairment was presented to the jury.

If you wish to participate in efforts to obtain clemency for Kenneth Mosley, see Amnesty’s Urgent Action for Kenneth Mosley. For additional information, visit http://www.kennethmosley.org/.

What's A Uighur?

Corrected 2/4/10

This question was part of the opening remarks in a talk given several years ago by one of the attorneys representing the Uighurs at Guantanamo. We didn’t know the answer. But since then we’ve learned a lot.

Over the past few years, information about the Guantanamo Uighurs has filtered out into the mainstream media. (After more than seven years, 13 Uighurs are still at Gitmo). While not exactly a household word, “Uighur” became something that people might have “heard something about somewhere.”

Now a frightful window has opened up on the Uighurs’ world in Western China. The ethnic violence that broke out this past weekend did not come out of nowhere. It came from years of brutal oppression. It erupted when Uighurs took to the streets (peacefully) to protest the stalled investigation into the deaths of two Uighur factory workers. The demonstration was violently suppressed, and the Uighurs fought back.

This is a Uighur woman desperate to find out what has happened to her husband and four brothers. The Chinese came into their home while they were eating dinner and took them away.

The Uighurs call their homeland — live in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a vast, resource-rich region of central Asia which they sometimes refer to as East Turkistan.  Since it was annexed by China, it is formally known as the Xinjian Uyghur “Autonomous” Region. There is no “autonomy.” Its ‘autonomy’ is questionable. You can read all about it:

Why Are These People Dancing?

Pakistani lawyers dance outside the home of Chief Justice

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

It is Monday, March 16, 2009. These two lawyers are dancing in celebration outside the home of  Iftikhar Chaudhry , Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court. Why? Because Chaudhry, who had been suspended in March 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf, has finally been reinstated by the government.

Chaudhry had become an embarrassment to Musharraf’s government. Among his inconvenient rulings: he ordered the country’s Intelligence agency to admit that it was holding secret prisoners. Musharraf finally had had enough. He dismissed the Supreme Court and placed the judges under house arrest.

Luckily our president can’t dismiss the Supreme Court. The powers claimed by President Bush in the war on terror didn’t go that far, but they went far out in that direction. In Pakistan, the firing of the judges led to the unprecedented Lawyers’ Movement. In the U.S., President Bush’s claim that he could hold people indefinitely outside of any system of justice — be it U.S. military or civilian law or international law governing the treatment of prisoners of war — led to a lawyers’ movement here in the U.S. By claiming the right to act outside of the law, the Bush Administration unleashed a storm of litigation.

It took a couple of years, but American lawyers, using the painstaking processes available under U.S. law, finally gained access to Guantanamo. Three times, their cases have reached the Supreme Court.

1. Rasul v. Bush (2004) — The Court ruled that American courts have jurisdiction to consider legal appeals filed on behalf of foreign citizens held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo.

2. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) — The Court ruled that the tribunals being used to try prisoners at Guantanamo were unconstitutional, and that the Geneva Conventions and Uniform Code of Military Justice could be enforced by the Supreme Court.

3. Boumediene v. Bush (2008) — The Court ruled that prisoners at Guantanamo had the right to habeas corpus under the U.S. Constitution, and that the military commissions established by Congress in 2006 (following Hamdan) were an unconstitutional suspension of that right.

Each time, the Court has ruled against the Administration. But the gains have been slow and incremental. Congress has pushed back with legislation that President Bush signed into law. And each ruling has opened up new avenues of litigation.

This summer the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear yet another Guantanamo case. This time the case is brought by the Chinese Uyghurs, who have been detained for over seven years despite long ago being found to harbor no enmity whatsoever towards the U.S, having been found to be “not enemy combatants” by a federal court, and, last fall, having been ordered released into the U.S. by a federal judge.

Guantanamo is Obama’s problem now. He has pledged to close Guantanamo by January 2010. But how he will do that, and what will happen to the detainees, is still an open question. Of special concern is the fate of the detainees who, like the Uyghurs, are cleared for release but have nowhere to go. If this Supreme Court case goes forward, it could force the government’s hand. According to Lyle Denniston, founder of the Scotus blog which follows and discusses Supreme Court cases:

“What is at stake, ultimately, could be the fate of many if not most of the more than 240 prisoners still at Guantanamo, who might have to remain confined there or somewhere else even if the government decides that they are not dangerous enemies.”

The lawyers representing the Uyghurs have worked long and hard for these innocent men who need a home. And they just don’t stop fighting. If they win this one, if the Guantanamo Uyghurs finally come to live in the U.S. under the care of the Uyghur American families who are waiting to take them in, you will see dancing in the streets.

The Torture Memos Won't Go Away

In the Afterword to her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, Jane Mayer states:

“The number of patriotic critics inside the administration and out who threw themselves into trying to head off what they saw as a terrible departure from America’s ideals, often at an enormous price to their own careers, is both humbling and reassuring.”

One such person is Jack Goldsmith, a Bush appointee who became chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2003. That position had previously been held by Jay Bybee, who had worked with White House lawyer John Yoo to produce the infamous “torture memos”. The memos redefined the meaning of the word “torture” to exclude techniques that cause pain and suffering short of organ failure or death, and they asserted that the President has the authority to order torture in the name of national security. Goldsmith condemned these memos as deeply flawed and sloppily reasoned. Acting very much against precedent within the Office of Legal Counsel and against strong opposition from the White House, Goldsmith revoked the torture memos before resigning in 2004.

Following the resignation of Goldsmith, the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics and oversight group within the Justice Department, undertook an investigation into the revoked torture memos and other legal documents pertaining to interrogation in the war on terror. The purpose was to investigate whether the quality of the legal arguments expressed in the memos was up to the standards expected of Justice Department attorneys. A draft of the report, which was sharply critical of the memos, was completed in the final weeks of the Bush Administration.

The report was not welcomed by the Bush Administration. Bush officials refused to turn it over to the incoming administration during the presidential transition. Attorney General Eric Holder still has not seen the report. The Office of Professional Responsibility wants to include the responses of people named in the report before releasing it to Holder. However, those responses have proved difficult to obtain.

If endorsed by Holder, the report could be forwarded to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action.

Members of Congress are beginning to suspect that release of the report may have stalled under pressure from former Justice Department officials. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of of Illinois and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island are demanding an update from the Justice Department.

The torture memos won’t go away. We already know a lot about them. And we know that an investigation has already taken place. It’s time to get this out in the open. This report should not only be released to Congress and the Attorney General. It should be released, insofar as is reasonably possible, to the public. We need to fully appreciate the extent to which our country lost its way before we can get back on the right path.

Obama to Close Gitmo

Barack Obama has announced that he will close Guantanamo. Throughout the world, this announcement will be understood as an introduction to a new kind of American leadership, a repudiation of the unilateralism of the Bush administration, and a return to diplomacy and the rule of law.

Guantanamo prison cell © US DoD

Guantanamo prison cell © US DoD

Closing Guantanamo will be a complicated process, which must be accomplished in phases. But the first step clearly is the settlement of the 50 or 60 detainees who have been cleared for release but have nowhere to go. These men have been called the “Guantanamo refugees.” Some of these men are stateless, but most of them simply can’t be returned to their home countries because their lives would be in danger there.

A number of European countries have recently indicated a willingness to take in some of the Guantanamo refugees. But the U.S. must also take some of them.

A group of 17 ethnic Uyghurs from western China have been at Guantanamo almost since its opening. From very early on, they were known to be innocent. In September 2008, a federal court officially cleared them of “enemy combatant” status. In October, Federal Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered them released into the U.S, where Uyghur-American families were waiting to take them in. Justice Department lawyers obtained a stay pending appeal to the Court of Appeals. The appeal was briefed and argued in late November. The Government argued that only the President has the power to order the transfer of detainees and their release into the U.S. The appeal has not yet been decided by the Court. As President, Obama should either dismiss the appeal and comply with Judge Urbina’s order or exercise his power as President to bring the Uyghurs to the U.S.