Council of Europe commissioner urges members to accept Guantanamo suspects

20th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Foreign ministers from the European Union, which is divided over the question, are due to discuss the problem at talks in Brussels later this month.

Strasbourg -- The Council of Europe's member states should welcome in detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay jail, the Council's Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg said Monday.

In an opinion piece published on the council's website, Hammarberg urged the group's 47 members countries to open their doors to some of the remaining detainees "cleared for release and currently stuck in limbo".

"While the US has created the Guantanamo problem and has the primary responsibility for correcting the injustices, there are cogent arguments for European assistance in closing the centre," he wrote.

US president-elect Barack Obama said closing the controversial "war on terror" detention camp was one of his first priorities, according to media reports.

However it could take several months to close down the site at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and some of the remaining 248 prisoners will have to be transferred to other countries.

Foreign ministers from the European Union, which is divided over the question, are due to discuss the problem at talks in Brussels on January 26-27.

France, Germany and Portugal have signalled that they may accept newly freed inmates while Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden appear more reluctant.

Established in early 2002 following the US-led offensive in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay was designed to hold suspected terrorists who the Bush administration claimed were not covered by the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war because they were "enemy combatants" fighting for a non-state organisation.

Over the years, some 800 detainees have gone through Guantanamo, including 520 transferred to other countries to be held or released.

About 60 prisoners deemed no longer a threat have been cleared for transfer or release, but their home countries have been reluctant to take them.

The Council of Europe brings together 47 nations, with a parliamentary assembly -- made up of legislators from the member states -- that meets four times a year to discuss topical issues and set out recommendations.

AFP/Expatica

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