Call for the Resettlement in the European Union of Guantánamo Detainees at Risk of being Transferred to Torture in Human Rights Abusing Countries

After more than five years of detention, the Guantánamo detainees are trapped by government inaction. Many of these men have been cleared for release but continue to languish in Guantánamo simply because they have nowhere to go – their home countries would persecute them if they were returned, and the United States has refused to provide them with safe haven.

Press Conference Held Today at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Today, at a press conference held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, members of the European Parliament, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its New York-based member organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), are calling on the European Union to resettle Guantánamo detainees at risk of being transferred to countries where they are likely to face persecution and torture. After over five years of indefinite and lawless detention, these men - who have never been charged with any crimes - are trapped in Guantanamo due to government inaction. The EU member States’ possible intervention to resettle these men in EU countries is seen as a last resort to solve the Guantánamo refugee crisis.

By the U.S. government’s own assertions, at least 80 detainees have been "cleared for release" and yet they continue to languish in Guantánamo. Approximately 50 detainees at Guantanamo - including some who have been cleared for release months or years ago – are in danger of being transferred to countries which they fled due to threats or abuse. Detainees at risk include those from countries such as Uzbekistan, China, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia.

The threat to their life and safety is very real: without any process to determine whether an individual would be at risk, the United States has already sent over 30 detainees to countries where detainees might have been at risk. The U.S. has sent detainees to Uzbekistan, Russia, Libya and Tunisia, among other countries.

"The United States has twice tried to send our client, Abdul Ra’ouf Al Qassim, to Libya despite verifiable fears of torture or even execution if he were forcibly returned to Libya. The U.S. courts have thus far refused to intervene to prevent his transfer. The international community needs to intervene to ensure that transfers-to-torture do not happen in our name," said Emi MacLean, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Subsequent to the enactment of the Military Commissions Act in the United States last year, U.S. courts have refused to intervene to prevent the refoulement of detainees and the U.S. has not instituted a process to allow a detainee to challenge a transfer for a fear of torture. Indeed, the U.S. government has vehemently resisted any attempt by detainees and their attorneys to halt transfers, even where very specific and verifiable fears of persecution and torture exist. The U.S. has relied on diplomatic assurances - mere promises of humane treatment - to justify the transfers. These promises coming from human rights abusing regimes are ineffective and unenforceable. Former detainees have been tortured and abused upon their return to their country of origin.

"The European Union is bound by the principle of non-refoulment and that should encourage our intervention in the plight of Guantanamo’s refugees. These men will face near-certain torture if EU countries do not intervene to prevent their transfer and provide them safe haven," said Antoine Madelin, FIDH’s EU Permanent Representative.

EU member States have condemned the lawlessness of the Guantánamo detention center on numerous occasions. Yet, to date, Albania - one of the poorest countries in Europe - has been the only country that has accepted a small number of Guantánamo’s refugees who could not safely be returned to their home country. In early August, in a landmark policy change, the British government also called for the release of five non-nationals and their resettlement in the UK. Four of these men had previously applied for or been granted asylum due to fears of persecution in their home countries.

FIDH, CCR and a multiparty coalition of European Members of Parliament called upon all EU member States to intervene and ask the U.S. authorities to resettle in EU countries the small number of Guantánamo detainees who are either trapped at Guantanamo because they have nowhere to go, or who will be returned to torture or persecution in their home countries. FIDH and CCR urge EU Member States to turn their declarations into action.

View online : For more information, see the CCR report, Guantanamo’s Refugees: Trapped by Inaction.
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