Ireland to accept Guantánamo detainees


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has said Ireland will accept a number of Guantánamo inmates for resettlement, despite growing reservations in several EU countries about taking in the detainees.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during his visit to the US this week, Mr Cowen, while acknowledging the view in Brussels that there should be a common EU approach on the issue, said Ireland would accept a number of detainees.

“It is incumbent on us, those who called for [Guantánamo’s] closure, to assist the United States now in ensuring that certain prisoners be relocated elsewhere,” he said, telling the broadcaster that Ireland was one of the first countries to demand the closure of the US detention facility.

Asked how many inmates Ireland would take in, Mr Cowen answered: “We will take a proportionate amount, a small number.”

Blitzer then asked what Ireland would do with the detainees. Mr Cowen said: “Obviously we will keep an eye on them very closely.”

The CNN presenter pressed the Taoiseach on whether the inmates would be tried in Ireland, asking if they would “have access to justice”, implying that perhaps the State would consider accepting detainees other than those who have been cleared for release.

Up to now Cabinet members, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern,have talked only of the possibility of taking in those detainees who have been exonerated.

“These are matters we have to hear from the American administration about, so let’s wait and see but in principle, we will co-operate as a friend of America in helping them resolve this problem,” Mr Cowen said.

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

He has been cleared for release but remains at Guantánamo because he cannot return to Uzbekistan for fear of torture and persecution.

In recent weeks European countries that previously offered to help the Obama administration close Guantánamo have started raising questions about the logistical requirements and possible security risks involved in resettling detainees.

Without “total transparency” of information about the inmates, the EU “can’t assume that responsibility” of accepting them for resettlement, Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the European Commission said on Monday, following talks with US officials.