EU Officials to Discuss Taking in Guantanamo Detainees
By Lisa Bryant
16 March 2009
Senior European Union officials head to Washington on Monday for a two-day trip to gain more information about Guantanamo inmates it may be asked to take in after the United States closes the detention camp in Cuba.
During their Washington visit, E.U. officials will seek to learn more about dozens of Guantanamo detainees they may be asked to take in as part of President Barack Obama's plans to close the detention center in a year.
Among other things, the European Union wants to know about security risks ex-inmates may pose, the reasons they were held, and why they cannot return to their home countries. If the ex-detainees are found to be innocent, Europe also wants to know why the United States cannot keep them on its territory.
Europe strongly lobbied for Washington to close the Guantanamo detention center. Now that Mr. Obama says he will, several European countries, including Portugal, France and Spain, have said they may be willing to take in ex-detainees. Last month, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly for the European Union to accept detainees.
At a recent press conference, E.U. lawmaker Sarah Ludford from Britain said now is the time for Europe to act.
"Europe needs to step up to the plate," Ludford said. "There are a lot of fancy pronouncements - one of which is to call for the closure in Guantanamo. Well, we have a saying in English that you need to put your money where your mouth is."
In February, an Ethiopian-born British resident, Binyam Mohamed, returned to Britain after being released from Guantanamo. Britain wants Washington to send back one other British-connected detainee.
But other European countries have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, with some politicians arguing Guantanamo is America's problem to fix. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named a special envoy to work with countries to accept Guantanamo detainees so the prison can be closed.
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