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EU countries cautious on resettling inmates

Latest update : 2008-12-25

France, in the last days of its presidency of the European Union, has called for a concerted EU approach to the issue of resettling released Guantanamo terror suspects. The Netherlands has already ruled out accepting any inmates.

AFP - European capitals reacted with caution Wednesday to the idea of resettling terror suspects released from Guantanamo Bay, with Paris seeking a concerted European approach and others opposed to the idea.
  
The Netherlands went furthest, ruling out accepting any of the inmates despite broad European support for US president elect Barack Obama's promise to shut down the notorious military detention centre.
  
"If they are not to be tried but cannot return to their own countries, it is first and foremost the responsibility of the country which arrested and imprisoned them, the United States," a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said.
  
"The Netherlands will not take in Guantanamo inmates."
  
Portugal and Germany had previously signalled that they might accept some detainees, but France was also cautious, welcoming the imminent closure of the camp, but calling for a common European position.
  
"We think consultation between Europeans should continue because we think it is natural that our response should be discussed and coordinated between Europeans," French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told AFP.
  
Germany had previously made a similar announcement.
  
"In our view Guantanamo must be closed on legal and humanitarian grounds, in terms of international law and human rights, and for moral reasons," German government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters on Monday.
  
"If we begin to review such closure plans and take a stance, then it can only be in a European context based on a discussion with all member states."
  
Obama has promised to close down the detention facility -- part of a sovereign US naval base Cuba -- after he comes to office next month, raising the question of what to do with the remaining 250 inmates.
  
Some of the prisoners, alleged "enemy combattants" captured since 2001 by US and allied forces around the world during the so-called War on Terror, are no longer considered a threat by US authorities and will be resettled.
  
The prisoners come from a variety of countries, mostly in the Middle East, and some may want to go home, but others fear they will be re-arrested in their homelands and could face torture or a lengthy incarceration.
  
On Tuesday, the US State Department welcomed signals from Germany and Portugal that they might be prepared to help out, raising the possibility that other European allies might provide asylum for former detainees.
  
France currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, but is due to hand the torch to the Czech Republic next week, and officials indicated that no joint decision on Guantanamo detainees would be taken beforehand.
  
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that reports Europe might accept inmates were "quite encouraging" and marked "a new attitude" on the part of allies who rejected similar requests by President George W. Bush.
  
He singled out Germany and Portugal, whose foreign minister, Luis Amado, called on his European Union counterparts earlier this month to help the United States close Guantanamo by taking in detainees from third countries.
  
"Portugal and Foreign Minister Luis Amado should be praised for what they have done in, sort of, blazing a trail for a new European attitude in this regard," McCormack said.
  
Nevertheless, aside from Portugal, Europe appears cool on the idea.
  
"At the moment we haven't received any official application from the United States to take any prisoner yet so it's not an issue," Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Miriam Mannbro said.
  
"For Sweden, the United States has the responsibility for their prisoners."
  
Media reports suggest that Denmark will also refuse any US request, and  Poland was also dubious about the idea.
  
"We haven't received any request from the United States, and in any case we haven't the experience to deal with this kind of prisoners," Polish foreign ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski told AFP.
  

Date created : 2008-12-24

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