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Human Rights Groups Praise EU Resolution to Accept Guantanamo Detainees Who Cannot Return Home for Fear of Persecution, Torture

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Groups Urge European Countries to Act within First 100 Days of US President Obama’s Term in Office

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

February 5, 2009, Strasbourg, New York, Paris, London – Yesterday, the European parliament passed a cross-party resolution by overwhelming majority calling for European Union member states to accept those prisoners at Guantanamo who are in need of humanitarian protection. The vote came after debate Tuesday on the question of whether to offer humanitarian protection for the approximately 60 prisoners who remain in Guantánamo because they cannot be safely repatriated to their home countries for fear of torture or persecution.

The resolution reads, in part, “[The European parliament] calls on the Member States, should the United States administration so request, to cooperate in finding solutions, to be prepared to accept Guantánamo inmates in the EU, in order to help reinforce international law, and to provide, as a priority, fair and humane treatment for all.”

Three human rights organizations - the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Reprieve - praised the passage of the resolution.

Said Irena Sabic, barrister with the Center for Constitutional Rights who is currently in Strasburg. “The overwhelming vote of the EU parliament calling for acceptance of prisoners in need of protection is a significant step towards the closure of Guantanamo in a matter of months. Member states must now translate this resolution into reality, with individual countries coming forward to offer help.”

Said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith, “Many members of parliament are confident that an EU action plan for resettlement can be in place by the time president Obama pays a visit in April. Today's resolution goes a long way to achieve this goal in his first 100 days in office.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve represent some of the men at Guantánamo who fear they will be tortured if returned to their home countries.

Said CCR attorney Emi MacLean, “The continued imprisonment of these men without charge is an embarrassment to the United States and the international community.  They remain at Guantánamo only because no country has yet agreed to accept them.  This positive statement from the European Parliament must be a prelude to action.”

Following the recent commitment of the Obama Administration to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, all eyes turned to Europe to see if it would help. On December 11, 2008 Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said that Portugal is willing to accept Guantanamo prisoners and urged other EU countries to follow suit. Subsequently, other countries have announced their renewed consideration of the possibility. These countries include Switzerland, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Ireland.

Said FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen, "The European Parliament has been mobilising since 2007 on the issue of the return of the Guantanamo detainees. It is high time for European executives to respond positively to the request formulated by their democratic representatives."

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo 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 in 2007, which resulted in the landmark decision declaring habeas corpus a victory for the prisoners there.

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.