Guantanamo inmates for Ireland

Wed, Jul 29, 2009, 01:00

Two former detainees of the US’s Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba are to be resettled in the Republic, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has confirmed.

The Government has previously said it was looking at taking in two Uzbek prisoners identified for resettlement to help facilitate President Barack Obama's order that the prison be closed by the end of January.

A definite timetable has yet to be established for the transfer of the two male detainees but both are expected within the next couple of months, Mr Ahern said today at a meeting in Dundalk with the new US Ambassador Dan Rooney.

While the two men were not being admitted as refugees within the terms of the Geneva Convention, Mr Ahern said he intended to adhere to the norms of official procedure in respecting the rights of the two men to their privacy.

“There would not therefore be public disclosure of any personal information, family situations, nor would details of the arrangements for travel to Ireland be made public,” he said.

The Minister said he made the decision to accept the men after receiving a report from a group of Irish officials last weeek on their visit to Washington and Guantanamo.

Mr Ahern said he was conscious of the intention of the Obama administration to close the centre at Guantanamo Bay, “in part by transferring detainees, no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them.”

He said during his tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs he had consistently called for the closure of the detention facility.

European Union member states had agreed arrangements last month concerning monitoring of former detainees accepted by member states for resettlement, and Mr Ahern said that Ireland would be complying with those arrangements.

Mr Ahern called on the public to acknowledge the difficult conditions in which the two men had been detained for a number of years and to allow them time and space to adjust to their new circumstances when they arrive.

Welcoming Mr Ahern’s decision, Amnesty International Ireland said the Government has always been consistent in its opposition to the use of Guantánamo Bay Detention Centre and was one of the first governments to call for its closure.

Director Colm O’Gorman said: “Today we see these calls matched by action. We are delighted that Ireland will play a valuable role in shutting down Guantánamo and in assisting these men in rebuilding their lives.

Mr O’Gorman said: “We especially welcome Minister Ahern’s determination to protect the privacy of these men. After years of imprisonment and possible torture they will need time and support to adjust to life outside of prison.

“While Guantánamo is the responsibility of the US, other countries made it possible. They allowed people to be transferred through their territory, actively participated in illegal detentions and kidnapping or, as in Ireland’s case, they allowed their territory to be used as a staging area for rendition operations,” he said.

“Those countries that played a part in the system should follow Ireland’s example and help shut it down.”

Legal charity Reprieve applauded what is described as the “compassion and foresight” shown by the Government and urged other European governments to follow suit.

The charity’s legal director Zachary Katznelson said: “Ireland today has joined the vanguard of human rights, committing to accept men who have been abused and mistreated for years by the United States, but who do not pose any threat.”

Green Party justice spokesman Ciarán Cuffe said the decision "shows a strong commitment to our international human rights responsibilities and a gives a positive signal to the Obama administration in their efforts to close the Guantánamo facility”.