Lisbon, June 29, 2009 – Guantanamo detainee lawyers visiting Portugal this week urged government ministries to meet with them regarding the requests of their clients for resettlement in Portugal. In March 2008, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) made a request to the Portuguese government to accept eight men wrongfully detained in Guantanamo who cannot return to their home countries because of the risk they will be tortured. The names were chosen by the prisoners’ attorneys after a thorough analysis.
Last week, the men’s lawyers came to Lisbon to meet with the government to discuss its consideration of their clients’ resettlement. They were not able to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and were refused outright by the Minister of Internal Affairs.
“We are still hoping to meet with the Ministers, whether now or in the future, keeping in mind that time is of the essence,” said Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights, lawyer for Muhammed and Abdul Nasser Khan Tumani, a father and son from Syria who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge since 2002.
“We simply want to share information about our clients and assist the government’s consideration in any way that would be useful. We have met with these men countless times, investigated their cases thoroughly, and know their stories intimately,” said Ms. Kebriaei.
The lawyers were also concerned at the recent announcement that Portugal might only resettle “two or three” former prisoners, instead of the eight proposed by the coalition of NGOs.
“We need European countries to take leadership on the issue of resettlement. Portugal has already taken a leadership role as the first European country to express willingness to accept Guantanamo prisoners who cannot return to their country of origin because they might face persecution. We are hoping they will turn their words into substantive action by accepting the eight men who want most to come to Portugal,” said Ahmed Ghappour of Reprieve, lawyer for Syrian national Jihad Dhiab, whose wife is currently being held by the Syrian authorities for contacting his attorneys.
“Action is needed urgently if Guantanamo is to close by the Obama Administration’s January deadline,” said Mr. Ghappour.
Ms. Kebriaei of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and Mr. Ghappour of the London-based Reprieve held a joint press conference with Amnesty International, Portugal today to discuss Parliament’s response to this issue. Having recently visited Guantánamo, they will also discuss their clients’ status and prison conditions. The two lawyers collectively represent more than 40 of the 231 remaining Guantanamo prisoners.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for over six years and has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men detained there. CCR also works with men who were formerly detained and their families to seek justice and accountability for the abuses suffered during their imprisonment.