Hinshaw Attorney Matthew O'Hara Instrumental in Release and Resettlement of Guantánamo Bay Prisoner

July 13, 2016

On July 11, 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. Department of Defense announced the transfer of two detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Serbia. Hinshaw partner Matthew J. O'Hara has since 2007 been lead counsel for one of the detainees, Muhammadi Davliatov.

As reported in a July 11, 2016 article in the Miami Herald titled "U.S. Delivers 2 Guantánamo Captives to Serbia; Prison Now Has 76," Mr. Davliatov, a native of Tajikistan, "had been cleared for release by both Bush and Obama administration review panels but resisted repatriation. In 2009 he announced through [Mr. O'Hara] that he was so fearful of return [to Tajikistan because of the country's reputation for poor human rights and threats he had received from Tajik agents while detained in Guantánamo] that he'd rather spend the rest of his life on this remote base in southeast Cuba." Said Mr. O'Hara in the article "Two Guantanamo Prisoners Moved to Serbia" published in The Wall Street Journal on July 11, "I'm delighted for him. It took way too long but it's an enormous victory that he would get out of Guantánamo and he wouldn't go to Tajikistan." "[Mr. Davliatov] is delighted to be going to Serbia and is going there happily and hopes to restart his life."

Mr. O'Hara first began representing three Guantanamo prisoners in 2006. Two were resettled in Europe in 2010: a Palestinian man from Gaza was resettled in Spain, and a Syrian man was resettled in Bulgaria. Mr. O'Hara made 12 visits to his clients at Guantánamo Bay over the years, spending more than two months in all at the naval base in Cuba. He has been lead counsel for his Guantánamo clients in habeas corpus cases in federal district court in Washington and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He also co-authored an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Davliatov and similarly situated detainees on a petition for writ of certiorari to the D.C. Circuit in Kiyemba v. Obama (Kiyemba II), concerning the power of the courts to vindicate the rights of individuals whose return to their native countries would violate the Convention Against Torture (CAT), a treaty to which the United States is a party.

Muhammadi Davliatov is one of the few Guantánamo detainees, if not the only one, to have successfully avoided involuntary repatriation by the United States government to his native country over his objection because of concerns that his return would violate CAT. In late 2008, Mr. O'Hara and other attorneys on his team obtained a preliminary injunction that prevented Mr. Davliatov's repatriation to Tajikistan. In 2014, the U.S. State Department began its efforts to resettle Mr. Davliatov in a safe third country rather than return him to Tajikistan. 

In Serbia, Mr. Davliatov will be able to live safely as a free man. He will apply for asylum, return to school to further his education, and hopes to work as professional translator and interpreter.

News of Mr. Davliatov's release and Mr. O'Hara's legal advocacy in the case has been reported extensively worldwide. A sampling of the stories follows.

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP is a national law firm with approximately 500 attorneys providing coordinated legal services across the United States and in London. Hinshaw lawyers partner with businesses, governmental entities and individuals to help them effectively address legal challenges and seize opportunities. Founded in 1934, the firm represents clients in complex litigation and in regulatory and transactional matters.