Ready to be Freed, But Nowhere to Go ; U.S. Running Out of Options For Detainees
Rocky Mountain News
October 19, 2006
As if Guantanamo Bay hasn't been enough of a problem for the United States, it now turns out that some of our allies who have been the shrillest in demanding that the United States close the prison are refusing to accept its prisoners.
There are, according to U.S. authorities, about 435 detainees from 40 countries at the base in Cuba, one fourth of them not considered security risks and eligible for release - if someone will take them. Almost no country, it seems, will.
The United Kingdom, especially, both its government and human- rights groups, have demanded Guantanamo's closure. "Behind the scenes, however, the British government has repeatedly blocked efforts to let some prisoners leave Guantanamo and return home," reports The Washington Post based on documents released in London.
The United States wanted to send back 10 former British residents, but London balked, citing the cost of keeping them under surveillance once they returned. The detainees reportedly have agreed to accept restrictions on their liberty if they are freed, but a lawyer for two of them told the Post that the British "do not want these guys back."
Germany , too, refused for four years to accept the return of a Turk, first on grounds that his German residency permit had expired while he was incarcerated in Guantanamo and later citing the cost of keeping him under surveillance.
China was willing to accept the return of five Uighur Muslim separatists, but only to try them on terrorism charges. The United States tried 100 other countries before Albania agreed to take them. There are another 17 Uighurs still at Guantanamo.
Congress has authorized military commissions to try those prisoners who may be guilty of war crimes or crimes against the U.S. But what of those the government finds no further reason to hold? And what about those who are found not guilty - and, further, have no place to go because no one wants them?
Keeping them jailed forever because of indecision and inaction on the part of other countries is not an option for a nation that professes reverence for the rule of law. Like it or not, they may have to be released, under some form of supervision, in the United States itself.