After years of litigation against the Bush administration, attorneys from two large Manhattan firms have won release of their ethnic Chinese clients from custody at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba, where they had been detained by U.S. military authorities as enemy combatants.
On Oct. 7, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., ordered the release of 17 men from China’s Uigher community, a Muslim and Turkic-speaking enclave in the remote Xinjiang province.
The judge ordered the government to send the 17 men to Washington over the weekend to meet members of the Uigher-American community and U.S.-based humanitarian groups pledged to take them in.
Earlier this year, the government lifted the enemy combatant designation from the Uighers, a minority population fleeing persecution from the Chinese government, but maintained they could continue detaining them if no other country would accept them.
Lawyers from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel who worked on behalf of the detainees included partner Eric A. Tirschwell and associates Seema Saifee, Michael J. Sternhell, Darren LaVerne and Matthew B. Keller.
Lawyers from Bingham McCutchen included partners Susan Baker Manning and Neil McGaraghan. Emi MacLean, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, was also involved.
The pro bono team worked at various stages of the case with the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.
Following Judge Urbina’s ruling, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino announced that the administration would appeal and said further in a written statement, “The district court’s ruling, if allowed to stand, could be used as precedent for other detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, including sworn enemies of the United States suspected of planning the attacks of 9/11, who may also seek release into our country.”
A hearing before Judge Urbina yesterday was to determine the ultimate resident status of the freed Uighers, who were taken into custody in 2001 by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, where they had been living in a camp after fleeing persecution by the Chinese government.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Judge Urbina’s ruling could have widespread effects on other cases before the federal courts, with some 250 detainees still held at Guantánamo, many of whom are challenging their detentions.
The Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic at Columbia Law School filed third-party intervention papers on Oct. 3 with the European Court of Human Rights, urging the court to recognize that state signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights must, under the anti-slavery provision, provide transnational residency to victims of sex trafficking.
Similar to a U.S. amicus brief, the intervention was entered in the European Court matter of M. v. United Kingdom and addressed the status of a young woman trafficked to Britain, but denied asylum by the government.
“Sex trafficking and slavery both involve severe human exploitation,” said Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Columbia Law clinic. “Much of the world, including global and domestic institutions, already recognizes this link. We look forward to the [European Court] recognizing the slavery-trafficking link as well.”
The intervention was drafted by Ms. Goldberg and three of her students, Bradley Mullins, Abram Seaman and Jennifer Ryan.
To help those newly arrived to New York find affordable attorneys, the legal information Web site www.LawHelp.org/NY has expanded its immigration section so clients do not fall prey to common notary public scams causing false hope of obtaining legal status in the United States.
“It is essential that immigrants have access to accurate and understandable information about immigration laws and procedures,” said Walter Ruehle, director of immigration services for the Legal Aid Society of Rochester.
The site also offers direction on matters of domestic violence and right to work statutes.
Potential investors in businesses based in the West African nation of Ghana met on Sept. 8 at Columbia University as guests of Alston & Bird and the Millennium Cities Initiative, part of the university’s Earth Institute, directed by Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor of economics.
The Millennium project was established two years ago to help sub-Saharan African cities create employment, stimulate enterprise development and foster economic growth as a means of eradicating extreme poverty.
Among the guests at Columbia was Patricia Appiagyei, mayor of Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city. Other guests included Ghanian expatriates from the United States and Canada.
“Ghana has committed itself to regulatory reforms that make it easier to do business and has continued to implement incentives to attract investors, such as tax holidays and reductions and export free zones,” said Ashley Hufft, partner at Alston & Bird. “For these reasons, on top of the ample investment opportunities, Alston & Bird is focusing on countries like Ghana as the next great investment destination for our clients.”
As co-sponsor of the event, “we hope our efforts will encourage others to do more to help these nations as they continue to be integrated into the world’s investment community,” said Jamie Hutchinson, partner-in-charge of Alston & Bird’s New York office.
Fourteen new members of Legal Services of New York City were recently named to the organization’s board of directors.
They include Brooklyn attorney Jenny Ortiz-Bowman; Vincent T. Chang, a partner at Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch; Pui Chi Cheng of Cheng & Associates; Frederica-Azania Clare of Nabuur Inc.; Teresita Gaton of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality; John P. Hooper, a partner at Reed Smith; and Victoria Horowitz of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island.
Also, Jack P. Jackson, a partner at Proskauer Rose; Sheila McGinn of the Richmond County Bar Association; Kay Reese of the Citizens Advice Bureau; Sonia Santana of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Crime Victims Treatment Center; Diana Sen, an associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Karen Patton Seymour, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell; and Manhattan attorney Darin Wizenberg.
Public Interest Projects reports on volunteer projects at the law firms, and the lawyers and public interest agencies involved. Please submit items by e-mail to Thomas.Adcock@incisivemedia.com