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CCR Applauds Portuguese Leadership in Offering to Accept Guantánamo Detainees Who Fear Torture or Persecution

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CCR Calls on the United States and Other Countries to Follow

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

December 11, 2008, New York Today, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said that Portugal is willing to accept Guantanamo detainees who cannot return to their home countries, and urged other European Union countries to follow suit.  Portugal is the first country to offer to accept at-risk Guantánamo detainees since Albania accepted eight men from Guantánamo as refugees in 2006.  

“CCR welcomes the leadership of the Portuguese government in offering to accept some of the stranded Guantánamo detainees,” said Emi MacLean, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  “This step is an important one to usher us into a new era – allowing the closure of Guantanamo and the end to the arbitrary detention without charge of too many men.”  

The United States has thus far resisted an October 2008 judicial order that the U.S. government accept the seventeen Uighurs still imprisoned as non-enemy combatants in Guantánamo. “It is now up to the United States and other governments to do their part.  Guantanamo must be closed and we must embrace the opportunity provided by new leadership to end the egregious abuses of the Bush administration,” said MacLean.

Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and the International Federation for Human Rights have urged 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 Guantánamo.

Approximately 50 of the detainees currently held in Guantánamo cannot lawfully be sent back to their countries of origin because they face a risk of persecution or torture. They come from countries including Algeria, China, Libya, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan.  Others are stateless and have no country to which they can return. Some of those who fear return include CCR clients Djmael Ameziane, an Algerian detainee with a sponsored refugee resettlement petition in Canada, and Abdul Ra'ouf al Qassim, a Libyan detainee who has applied for asylum in Switzerland.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court and is actively working to resettle Guantánamo’s refugees.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.