European Parliament invites EU to help US on Guantanamo inmates
The European Parliament on Wednesday called on EU governments to help the new US administration close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and to consider hosting some of the released inmates who would face torture if sent back home, dpa reported.
The parliament "calls on the member states ... to cooperate in finding solutions, to be prepared to accept Guantanamo inmates in the EU, in order to help reinforce international law, and to provide, as a priority, fair and humane treatment for all," read a resolution adopted by the parliament in Strasbourg.
The compromise text, which received 542 votes in favour, 55 against and 51 abstentions, was backed by its main political groups after a debate which highlighted divisions over how much the EU should help.
"There is now a US president who wants to go back to the best values of his country," said Martin Schulz of the Socialist group. "Are we to refuse to help in these circumstances?"
But according to Hartmut Nassauer of the conservative EPP-ED group, "many past and present detainees were trained in terror camps in Afghanistan after the 9-11 (terrorist attacks against the United States)."
"They did not go there to admire the scenery. They are potential terrorists, and we have a duty to protect our citizens," he added.
"Torture, regrettably, happens around the world, but we have never said all those who have been tortured have a right to come to Europe. We must ensure potential terrorists do not step onto European territory," Nassauer said.
European lawmakers said detainees held in the prison in Cuba and against whom the US had sufficient evidence should be properly tried without delay and, if convicted, imprisoned in the US.
Those who are not to be charged and cannot be repatriated because of the real risk of torture or persecution in their country of origin should be sent to the US or, if requested by Washington, to Europe.
Parliament figures suggest there are 242 prisoners left in Guantanamo, of whom about 60 need to be resettled.
Of these, the biggest group is formed by Chinese Muslims from the Uighur ethnic minority. Others include Algerians, Tunisians, Syrians, Libyans, Palestinians, an Afghan and one Russian.
EU foreign ministers held a first round of discussions on whether to take in some Guantanamo inmates on January 26.
On that occasion, they said that while the EU was willing to do its bit, it would likely need "months" to sort out the legal complications involved in hosting them.
While there has not yet been a formal request from US President Barack Obama, EU justice and interior ministers are to hold further discussions on whether to hold any released inmates on February 26.