Yesterday, the European parliament passed a cross-party resolution by overwhelming majority calling for European Union member states to accept those prisoners at Guantanamo who are in need of humanitarian protection. The vote came after debate Tuesday on the question of whether to offer humanitarian protection for the approximately 60 prisoners who remain in Guantánamo because they cannot be safely repatriated to their home countries for fear of torture or persecution.
The resolution reads, in part, “ calls on the Member States, should the United States administration so request, to cooperate in finding solutions, to be prepared to accept Guantánamo inmates in the EU, in order to help reinforce international law, and to provide, as a priority, fair and humane treatment for all.”
Said Irena Sabic, barrister with the Center for Constitutional Rights who is currently in Strasburg. “The overwhelming vote of the EU parliament calling for acceptance of prisoners in need of protection is a significant step towards the closure of Guantanamo in a matter of months. Member states must now translate this resolution into reality, with individual countries coming forward to offer help.” Said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith, “Many members of parliament are confident that an EU action plan for resettlement can be in place by the time president Obama pays a visit in April. Today’s resolution goes a long way to achieve this goal in his first 100 days in office.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve represent some of the men at Guantánamo who fear they will be tortured if returned to their home countries.
Said CCR attorney Emi MacLean, “The continued imprisonment of these men without charge is an embarrassment to the United States and the international community. They remain at Guantánamo only because no country has yet agreed to accept them. This positive statement from the European Parliament must be a prelude to action.”
Following the recent commitment of the Obama Administration to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, all eyes turned to Europe to see if it would help. On December 11, 2008 Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said that Portugal is willing to accept Guantanamo prisoners and urged other EU countries to follow suit. Subsequently, other countries have announced their renewed consideration of the possibility. These countries include Switzerland, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Ireland.
Said FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen, “The European Parliament has been mobilising since 2007 on the issue of the return of the Guantanamo detainees. It is high time for European executives to respond positively to the request formulated by their democratic representatives.”
(Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) is an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies).