Guantánamo detainees to arrive within months

 

THE TWO Guantánamo Bay detainees the Government has agreed to resettle here are expected to arrive within a couple of months, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said yesterday.

Mr Ahern declined to identify the two men, but The Irish Times understands that both are from Uzbekistan.

Last week an Irish delegation, including officials from the Department of Justice and a Garda representative, visited Guantánamo to interview two Uzbek detainees about resettlement in Ireland.

At a meeting with recently-appointed US ambassador Dan Rooney in Dundalk yesterday, Mr Ahern confirmed he had decided to accept the two detainees after reading the delegation’s findings.

One of the two men is understood to be Oybek Jamoldinivich Jabbarov (31). Amnesty International has lobbied the Government to accept Mr Jabbarov for resettlement here. He has been cleared for release since February 2007 but remains at Guantánamo because he cannot return to Uzbekistan due to fears of torture and persecution.

Mr Jabbarov says he was living with his mother and wife as refugees in northern Afghanistan when he was captured by Northern Alliance fighters in 2001.

The Uzbek had not been involved in fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, his Boston-based lawyer Michael Mone told a US congressional committee hearing in May 2008, and was most likely handed over to the US for a bounty.

“In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the centre at Guantánamo 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,” Mr Ahern said in a statement.

Noting that the two detainees were not formally being admitted to Ireland as refugees, Mr Ahern said the authorities would “adhere to the norms of official procedure in respecting the rights of the two men to their privacy”. There would be no public disclosure of personal information about the two men, their families, their travel to Ireland or living arrangements on arrival, he said.

While a precise timetable has yet to be established, the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months, Mr Ahern added.

He urged people to acknowledge the difficult conditions in which the two men had been detained and “to allow them time and space to adjust to their new circumstances when they arrive”.

Amnesty International was one of several human rights organisations to welcome the move. “The Irish 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,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of Amnesty’s Irish branch.

“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.”