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In re Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation

August 7, 2008

IN RE: GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEE LITIGATION.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Misc. No. 08-0442 (TFH)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PETITIONERS'MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND DENYING THE PETITIONERS'MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

I. INTRODUCTION

Six of the thirteen petitioners in the above captioned cases -- all Uighur*fn1 detainees at the United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ("Guantanamo") -- request that the court issue a temporary restraining order ("TRO") or a preliminary injunction requiring the respondents to transfer them to less restrictive locations within Guantanamo. On one side of this controversy are the claims of the petitioners who have been detained without a trial now for nearly seven years; and on the other side is the position of their detainer, the United States government, supported in large part by the ambiguity created by the Supreme Court's latest effort to provide guidance on the rights of the Guantanamo detainees. Boumediene v. Bush,128 S.Ct. 2229 (2008). What is clear is that no court has ever ruled that detainees, designated as enemy combatants, have a right to challenge the conditions of their confinement pursuant to the constitutional writ of habeas corpus. Furthermore, courts are reluctant to second-guess day-today operations of domestic prison facilities, especially when doing so intrudes upon the military and national security affairs. This deference combined with the paucity of evidence of irreparable injury and the petitioners' failure to articulate a specific constitutional right and standard from which to analyze the facts of this case presses the court to deny the petitioners' motion for a TRO and a preliminary injunction.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In total, there are seventeen Uighur detainees at Guantanamo -- who despite being designated as enemy combatants*fn2 have nevertheless been cleared for transfer out of the facility. Resp'ts' Opp'n at 2. The six petitioners bringing this motion are in their seventh year of detention at Guantanamo. Pet'rs' Mot. at 1. Guantanamo is divided into multiple camps -- Camp 6 is a high security area and Camp 4 is a minimum security area. Resp'ts' Opp'n, Ex. 1 ("Vargo Decl.") ¶¶ 4-7. Although it is unclear how long the petitioners have been in Camp 6, they have been there for at least several months. Id. at 17 n.9.

In Camp 6, the petitioners are held in six-foot-eight-inch by twelve-foot cells. Pet'rs' Mot. at 2. The walls, ceiling and floor are metal and remain cool to the touch, due to air conditioning that the detainees cannot control. Id. 2-3. The cells have long, narrow windows providing a view of an interior corridor and clock, but there is no window to the outside. Id. at 3. Although the petitioners do not have access to television, radio, magazines or newspapers, they have access to a limited number of books, including the Koran, printed in their language. Id. at 3 & Ex. 1 ("Willett Decl.") ¶ 18.And though the petitioners can communicate with one another between the cells, as they do for group prayer, they contend that it is difficult to hear over the noise of the air conditioning and banging doors. Id. Guards allow the petitioners out of their cells for up to four hours a day. Id. at 3. During this "recreation" time, guards usher the petitioners to a different holding facility, measuring approximately three meters by four meters. Id. The time of day for recreation varies; some days it is in the afternoon and others it is in the middle of the night. Id. at 4. The petitioners insist that these conditions are causing marked mental deterioration, resulting in attempted suicides, hallucinations and depression. Id.

Camp 4, on the other hand, allows the detainees to live and eat communally. Id. at 2 n.3. A bunk house provides shelter, and picnic tables provide a place to congregate during meals. Id. The detainees also have 24-hour access to a small outdoor recreation area and can freely interact with one another. Id.

On July 31, 2008, the Court Security Officer received the petitioners' motion for a TRO and preliminary injunction requesting the court to order the respondents to transfer them from Camp 6 to Camp 4. The court ordered expedited briefing and now turns to the petitioners' requests.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

This court may issue a preliminary injunction only when the movant demonstrates:

(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially injure other interested parties, and (4) that ...


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