Guantanamo: New call on European governments to take detainees

Five leading human rights groups this morning called on European governments to provide humanitarian protection to Guantánamo detainees who will not be charged with any crime but cannot be returned to their countries of origin for fear of torture or other serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and the International Federation for Human Rights are urging governments to work with the incoming US administration to take this step to help facilitate the closure of the detention facility at Guantánamo.

It is the USA’s primary responsibility to find solutions for all those held at Guantánamo but, said Amnesty, if the USA is not planning to charge and try them in ordinary US courts, and cannot release them to their own countries safely, it should immediately offer them an opportunity to be released into the USA .

Approximately 50 of the detainees currently held in Guantánamo cannot lawfully be sent back to their countries of origin because they would face a real risk of human rights violations such as torture or other ill-treatment. They come from countries including China, Libya, Russia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.

Amnesty International Counter Terror with Justice Campaign Manager Daniel Gorevan said:

“Everyone appears to rightly agree that Guantánamo must be closed, and President-elect Obama has said that he will close it. Other governments can help make this happen by offering protection to individuals who cannot be released to their own countries. This would have a double effect: helping to end the ordeal of an individual unlawfully held in violation of his human rights, and helping end the international human rights scandal that is Guantánamo."

Human Rights Watch Terrorism and Counterterrorism Director Joanne Mariner said:

"President-elect Obama has committed to closing Guantánamo, but he is going to need Europe's help. European governments could provide much-needed assistance by agreeing to take in some of the detainees who cannot be sent back home."

Reprieve Staff Attorney Cori Crider said:

"One of Reprieve's clients was sent back to Tunisia, drugged, hit, and threatened with the rape of his wife and daughter. Another is fighting, even now, to stay in Guantánamo because Tunisia threatened him with 'water torture in the barrel'. The US still asserts total authority to send him back. Europe can send a powerful message by reaching out to Obama and providing a safe alternative for these few people."

Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Emi MacLean said:

"We must find a solution to the 50 men imprisoned at Guantánamo simply because they have nowhere to go. The US government has twice previously tried to send our client, Abdul Ra’ouf Al Qassim to Libya even though it is undisputed that he would likely be tortured, or ‘disappeared’ into Libyan jails, if returned. His survival depends on the simple humanitarian gesture of another country opening their doors to him."

International Federation for Human Rights President Souhayr Belhassen said:

"FIDH and CCR mobilised 77 members of the European Parliament who issued a joint call to EU member states to offer relocation for Guantánamo detainees. As an important strategic partner of the US, the EU should help the Administration relocate these men.”

The human rights groups made their call after a two-day strategic workshop in Berlin, convened by the NGOs with others active on the issue of humanitarian protection.

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