Amnesty welcomes Cowen's Guantanamo remarks


The Irish section of Amnesty International has welcomed reports that Ireland will resettle a small number of prisoners from Guantánamo detention centre in Cuba.

Amnesty Ireland was responding to remarks made by Taoiseach Brian Cowen on his visit to the US this week that Ireland would take “a proportionate amount, a small number” of cleared prisoners.

“Between 50 and 60 of the remaining 250 prisoners have been cleared for release but cannot be sent home because of fears for their safety,” Amnesty said.

“By making this commitment the Taoiseach is showing a great deal of courage,” said programmes director Noeleen Hartigan.

“This has been a major focus of our campaigning and we have consistently said that agreeing to take cleared prisoners would be a powerful demonstration of moral leadership by the Irish government. We very much welcome the commitment made by the Taoiseach and are willing to assist in making this a reality in any way that we can.”

Ms Hartigan said the prisoners in question were “not suspects of any kind”. They were not Taliban or al-Qaeda members.

“These men, approximately sixty in number, have been cleared for release. The US government and military has accepted that these men are not a threat, and never were.

“But they remain in captivity. Those from countries like China and Uzbekistan cannot be sent home because the human rights record of those countries means sending them there exposes them to further torture, imprisonment and even death.”

Ms Hartigan said that while the detention centre on a US naval base in Cuba was 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, at a minimum they allowed their territory to be used as a staging area for rendition operations.

“Several EU states, including Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, have indicated a willingness to take some detainees released from Guantánamo.”

Northern Ireland was urged to follow suit in resettling some prisoners.

Amnesty called on First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to assist President Barack Obama in his moves to close the camp by offering “humanitarian protection to vulnerable prisoners who need a place to go”.

Amnesty’s Northern director Patrick Corrigan said: “Northern Ireland is accustomed to asking the United States for assistance with our political problems.

“We very much welcome the commitment made by the Taoiseach and we now ask that the commitment be echoed in Northern Ireland where we have some experience of prisoner release and reintegration.

“Amnesty International is willing to assist in making this a reality in any way that we can.”