Amnesty urges Cowen to take Guantanamo detainees


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has urged Taoiseach Brian Cowen to deliver on his commitment to accept exonerated Guantánamo detainees for resettlement in Ireland. Amnesty made the call at the weekend following the arrival of Algerian detainee Lakhdar Boumediene in France.

The French government agreed to take Boumediene, held at Guantánamo for seven years, in a gesture to US president Barack Obama, who has promised to close Guantánamo within a year.

One of the challenges Mr Obama faces is what to do with the 60 or so detainees who have been cleared for release but fear they will be mistreated if returned to their home countries.

“The French government is taking a step to help consign detention facility at Guantánamo to history,” said Amnesty International Ireland programmes director Noeleen Hartigan. “Other governments, including Ireland, should follow France’s commendable lead. They should offer protection to those men at Guantánamo who will not be charged but have nowhere to go.”

Amnesty International has been lobbying the Government to accept one exonerated detainee in particular, Uzbek national Oybek Jamoldinivich Jabbarov, who was living as a refugee in Afghanistan when he was captured in 2001.

“In March, while in the US for St Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach said Ireland would accept some of these detainees who have been cleared for release,” said Ms Hartigan. “He has since confirmed this commitment in the Dáil. We welcomed this as an act of moral leadership and have already been working with civil servants to see how best this promise can be delivered.”

Amnesty also repeated calls for the US government to offer Guantánamo detainees who have not been charged the opportunity to be released into mainland US.

Ms Hartigan said it was regrettable that the Obama administration has so far failed to do this, adding that it risks eroding the goodwill of other governments that may take in such detainees.

“Guantánamo is chiefly the responsibility of the US,” she said. “But Guantánamo…was made possible by other countries. 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. We have a responsibility to help clean up the mess.”