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Lithuania weighs taking Guantanamo prisoners

[JURIST] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Vygaudas Usackas [official profile] said Wednesday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] will begin talks with the US about the possibility of accepting prisoners from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene expects to discuss the matter with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profiles] during her first diplomatic visit [press release] to the US since the new administration took office. In a speech [text] Thursday to the German Society for Foreign Policy, Usackas expressed the need for Europeans to "extend[] a helping hand to the Americans on the closure of Guantanamo." The US Embassy in Lithuania welcomed Usackas's statements, saying they looked forward to working with the Lithuanian government on plans for closing the prison.

Last week, the European Parliament [official website] voted 542-55, with 51 abstentions, to adopt a resolution [materials; JURIST report] calling for member states to accept low-risk prisoners who cannot be returned to their countries of origin for fear of persecution. Details regarding which prisoners may be transferred to which countries are as yet undetermined. Last month, Council of the European Union Secretary-General Javier Solana [official website] indicated that several EU member states would likely be willing to accept [press release, PDF; JURIST report] some former prisoners, though acceptance may be conditioned on the US providing careful background checks to prove that the detainees pose no danger to the host country. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner [official profile] has noted that legal obstacles facing the transfer of the detainees would be different for each host country, and that their acceptance would be determined on a case-by case basis.

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