Human Rights Groups Call on European Governments to Offer Humanitarian Protection to Guantanamo Detainees

For Immediate Release

Human Rights Groups
Contact: 

Laura Spann: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, lspann@aiusa.org

Human Rights Groups Call on European Governments to Offer Humanitarian Protection to Guantanamo Detainees

BERLIN - Five leading human rights groups
today call on European governments to provide humanitarian protection to
Guantanamo 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. European governments should agree to accept them
into their countries and ensure they are provided with adequate support.

Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional
Rights (CCR), Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and the International Federation
for Human Rights (FIDH) urge governments to work with the new U.S. administration
to take this important step in order to facilitate the closure of the detention
facility at Guantanamo.

"Everyone appears to rightly agree that
Guantanamo must be closed, and President-elect Obama has said that he will
close it," said Daniel Gorevan, Counter Terror with Justice campaign manager
at Amnesty International. "Clearly, 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 Guantanamo."

 
"We must find a solution to the 50 men imprisoned at Guantanamo simply
because they have nowhere to go," said Emi MacLean, Staff Attorney at
the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The U.S. 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."

"This is a key opportunity for both sides
of the Atlantic to move beyond the misguided acts of the war on terror:
rendition, secret detention, and torture," said Cori Crider, staff attorney
at Reprieve.  "President-elect Obama says he will close Guantanamo
-- the question is when and how. 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 Guantanamo because
Tunisia threatened him with ‘water torture in the barrel.' The United
States 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."

"President-elect Obama has committed to
closing Guantanamo, but he is going to need Europe's help," said Joanne
Mariner, Terrorism and Counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch.
"European governments could provide much-needed assistance by agreeing
to take in some of the detainees who cannot be sent back home."

"FIDH and CCR mobilized 77 members of the
European Parliament who issued a joint call to E.U. Member States to offer
relocation for Guantanamo detainees. As an important strategic partner
of the United States, the European Union should help the administration
relocate these men," said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.

Background

It is the primary responsibility of the United
States to find solutions for all those held at Guantanamo, as it was the
United States that brought them to the detention facility and is holding
them there unlawfully. If the United States is not planning to charge and
try them in ordinary U.S. courts, and cannot release them to their own
countries safely, it should immediately offer them an opportunity to be
released into the United States.

It is also clear, however, that governments
in Europe and elsewhere can and should play a vital role in providing such
individuals with humanitarian protection in the form of a safe place to
get on with their lives after years of suffering. The involvement of European
governments will be instrumental in reaching a solution to this problem
-- a solution that is critical to the international aim of closing Guantanamo.

Around 50 of the detainees currently held
in Guantanamo 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.

The human rights groups made their call after
a two-day closed strategic workshop in Berlin, convened by the nongovernmental
organizations with other international actors active on the issue of humanitarian
protection.

Statements of Support from International
Actors

"We are at a critical juncture. It is now
possible to anticipate the closing of Guantanamo, the end to the U.S. practice
of executive detention, and the re-affirmation of fundamental human rights
principles, including the prohibition of torture in all circumstances.
But European engagement and support will be essential to get there. One
step that European governments should take is to accept into their borders
the small number of men at Guantanamo who cannot be repatriated safely.
Guantanamo cannot be closed until these men have a country which will accept
them, and where their lives and liberty are not in jeopardy."

Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on
Torture

"I urge European governments to open their
doors to a small number of men who fear persecution or torture if transferred
to their home countries. Such assistance is both the right thing to do,
and of critical importance in our attempts to push for the immediate closure
of Guantanamo Bay."

Thomas Hammerberg, Human Rights Commissioner
of the Council of Europe

"The efforts must be renewed now with European
governments and the U.S. government working to close Guantanamo and offer
protection to those unable to be returned safely to their own countries.
 The efforts of human rights NGOs are coming at the best moment, in
order to use the next months in the most positive way."

Anne-Marie Lizin, Special Representative
on Guantanamo for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Vice-President of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the OSCE

 

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