Ireland willing to resettle Guantánamo detainees


IRELAND WOULD be prepared to resettle Guantánamo Bay detainees if there was a common European Union approach on the issue, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern indicated yesterday.

Up to now, the Minister has been opposed to taking in detainees, but he said yesterday that President Barack Obama’s initiative in suspending military trials at Guantánamo had created “a new context”.

“I believe that there should be a united and positive response at EU level to any request made by the new US administration for help in bringing about the closure of Guantánamo.

“Ireland will participate fully in discussions at European level on this matter,” the Minister said.

“While all countries will have to have regard to difficult security issues which arise, Ireland would, of course, be prepared to play its full part in any common action being taken by the EU in responding to a US request for assistance in achieving the objective of closing down Guantánamo,” the Minister for Justice added.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin had previously suggested that Ireland should follow the example of Portugal and other European countries which indicated their willingness to resettle inmates.

“My view is that it would be the logical sequential consequence of our arguing for the closure of Guantánamo,” Mr Martin told The Irish Times.

“From our perspective, no one is talking about terrorists or anything like that coming to EU countries. We’re talking about non-combatants, people who clearly have no history of any terrorist activity.”

Mr Ahern said in the Dáil at the time that the resettlement of exonerated detainees was not being considered.

But speaking yesterday, the Minister for Justice  said: “The priority which President Obama is giving to closing Guantánamo is very welcome and creates a new context in which this matter can be addressed.”

Amnesty International Ireland has welcomed Mr Ahern’s comments on Guantánamo. Executive director Colm O’Gorman said: “Approximately 50 prisoners have been cleared for release from Guantánamo Bay Detention Centre but cannot be returned to their home countries because they are at risk of torture or death.

“For months Amnesty International Ireland has been lobbying the Irish Government to assist in closing down Guantánamo by accepting some of these prisoners, one of whom, Oybek Jabbarov, is an Uzbek national who has been held for over seven years.”