January 15, 2009, New York – This morning, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that France is willing to consider, on a case-by-case basis, accepting Guantanamo detainees who are stateless or who cannot return to their home countries for fear of torture or other abuse.
France now joins Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, and Sweden as countries where government ministers in recent weeks have publicly recognized the need for European assistance to close Guantanamo and accept some men who cannot be returned to their home countries safely.
“CCR welcomes the leadership of the French government in offering to consider accepting some of the stranded Guantánamo detainees,” said Shayana Kadidal, Managing Attorney of the Guantanamo Project at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “A multilateral effort to find homes for these men is essential to fulfilling the demands of the international community to close down Guantanamo, and France’s announcement today will help President-Elect Obama carry out his promise to do so.”
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. The Bush Administration has thus far resisted an October 2008 judicial order that the United States accept the seventeen Uighurs still imprisoned as non-enemy combatants in 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 Guantanamo, 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 on December 5, 2007.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.