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UN torture investigator calls on countries to accept Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday said more countries around the world should accept [ORF interview, WMP audio, in German] released Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees so the military prison can be closed. In an interview with Austrian radio station ORF [media website], Nowak said that many of the prisoners were detained because they were "in the wrong place at the wrong time," and do not pose a security risk to countries that allow them to emigrate. Nowak said he understood reluctance to accept the detainees given the negative way [JURIST report] in which US officials have represented them, but said the international cooperation was necessary to allow incoming US President Barack Obama [transition website] to close the facility [JURIST report] as promised. Nowak made a similar plea [JURIST report] urging European Union countries to accept detainee applications for asylum in November of last year.

On Saturday, Australian acting prime minister Julia Gillard [official profile] officially announced that country's rejection [JURIST report] of a US request to accept foreign Guantanamo detainees. Other countries, including Britain, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal [JURIST reports] have, however, said they would consider accepting released detainees. 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 Obama once he takes office. 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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