Europe wants to help US President Barack Obama close the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp, but conservative parliamentarians warn that hasty prisoner transfers could entail security risks for European citizens.
REUTERS - Conservative lawmakers warned European Union governments on Tuesday that resettling detainees from the Guantanamo prison in the bloc could entail security risks for its citizens.
Deputies from the conservative EPP-ED group, the largest in the European Parliament, said security concerns should prevail when considering whether to help new U.S. President Barack Obama close the jail for terrorism suspects.
"Many past and present detainees were trained in terror camps in Afghanistan ... these people are potential terrorists and we have a duty to protect Europe's citizens," EPP-ED vice-chairman Hartmut Nassauer said.
"Security considerations have to be given primacy over any others as we consider this issue," he said in a debate which underlined splits within the 27-nation EU on how to treat an expected request by Obama to resettle detainees.
Obama ordered the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba within a one-year deadline. The prison, known for aggressive interrogation methods, is widely seen as a stain on the United States' human rights record.
EU states are considering whether to take in inmates from a group of about 60 who cannot go back to their home country and who the United States does not want to accept either. EU foreign ministers sought this month to set a common line on the issue, but agreed only that each country should decide for itself.
The United States considers the 60 cleared for release not to be dangerous.
"Even those cleared of charges and deemed to be no risk at all still in my opinion do pose a risk," said the EPP's Urszula Gacek of a statement by the Pentagon last month that 61 former Guantanamo detainees appeared to have returned to terrorism.
Lawmakers from other parliamentary groups disagreed, saying that the bloc had an obligation to take in some inmates.
"Europe cannot stand back and shrug its shoulders and say these things are for America alone to handle," Liberals' leader Graham Watson said.
"Are we going to say, 'No, you deal with your own mess.... we cannot (help) for security reasons'" said socialist group leader Martin Schulz. "That's the worst message we could give."
EU lawmakers have no legal power over the issue but in past debates -- notably over the controversy about CIA "rendition" flights of terror suspects -- have been able to force such issues onto the agenda of EU policymakers.
Date created : 2009-02-03