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UN torture investigator calls on Europe to accept Guantanamo asylum applicants

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website; JURIST news archive] said Thursday that European countries should grant asylum to Guantanamo detainees [AP report] who are eligible for release, but who risk persecution if returned to their home countries. Nowak called on the countries to accept the estimated 50-60 detainees to allow the incoming Barack Obama administration to close the facility [JURIST report] as planned. Both Obama and current President George W. Bush have said that the potential refoulement [CW backgrounder] of uncharged detainees is a problem that must be solved [JURIST report] before the prison can be closed. In a joint statement [text] earlier this month, advocacy groups Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve, and the International Federation for Human Rights [advocacy websites] made the same appeal to European countries and quoted an earlier statement by Nowak:

We are at a critical juncture. It is now possible to anticipate the closing of Guantanamo, the end to the US practice of executive detention, and the re-affirmation of fundamental human rights principles, including the prohibition of torture in all circumstances. But European engagement and support will be essential to get there. One step that European governments should take is to accept into their borders the small number of men at Guantanamo who cannot be repatriated safely. Guantanamo cannot be closed until these men have a country which will accept them, and where their lives and liberty are not in jeopardy.
European countries have so far been reluctant to accept the detainees. Earlier this month, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller rejected calls [EWN report] for the country to accept two Uzbekistani and one Lebanese national held at Guantanamo. Also this month, Switzerland rejected the asylum applications [SwissInfo report] of Libyan, Algerian and Chinese detainees. In June, Sweden also rejected an application [AP report] from a Chinese Muslim held at the base.

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