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Australia officially rejects US request to accept Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] Australian acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard [official profile] on Saturday officially announced Australia's rejection of a US request to accept foreign Guantanamo detainees. This was the second request by the Bush administration regarding Australia's acceptance of prisoners of the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] prison camp, and came in response President-elect Barack Obama's vow to close the prison. The first request was rejected in early 2008. The formal rejection [AP report] followed Gillard's statement [press release, JURIST report] on Friday that it was unlikely Australia could accept the detainees due to the country's stringent immigration and national security regulations but that they would consider the request. Gillard stressed, however, that Australia would remain open [AFP report] to future US requests to resettle detainees and would assess each request on its merits.

Some 255 detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay, at least 60 of whom are no longer considered a threat. Many European countries, including Britain, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal [JURIST reports] have already said they would consider accepting released detainees although other countries have been notably reticent. On December 18, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the Pentagon to draft a proposal for shutting down [press release; JURIST report] the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for a possible order from President-elect Barack Obama. The US government has reportedly been in contact with some 100 foreign governments asking them to consider taking in detainees who it says cannot be returned to their home states.

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