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EU council agrees on policies for accepting Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] The Council of the European Union [official website] agreed [press release] Thursday on parameters for the acceptance of released Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees by European Union (EU) [official website] member states. The council concluded that those member states that are willing to receive released detainees should only accept those who are cleared for release, do not face prosecution in the US, and have compelling reasons to not return to their home countries. After the meeting in Luxembourg, an EU official stated that member states are likely to take in several dozen [AP report] former detainees. Taking note of a US request for assistance in finding residences for released prisoners, the council found that acceptance of these people by member states or Schengen associated countries [European Navigator backgrounder] will be relevant for other countries "in regard to internal security." Noting this concern, the council stated the importance of consultation and information sharing amongst the member states before and after making decisions regarding receiving former detainees. The council called upon member states to:

take into account the public order and security concerns including those of other Member States so as to avoid former detainees compromising the public order or internal security of the Member States and Schengen associated countries and also call upon the receiving Member States, without prejudice to possible support from United States, to promote integration of the persons concerned through appropriate measures , while fully respecting their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Although the council welcomed US President Barack Obama's decision to close the detention facility [JURIST news archive], they reaffirmed that the primary responsibility for finding residence for former detainees lies with the US. Additionally, the council made it clear that their conclusions should not be interpreted as a request for unwilling countries to receive former detainees.

In May, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith confirmed [JURIST report] that Australia is considering an Obama administration request to accept six of the Uighur Guantanamo detainees. Tunisia recently stated that they are prepared to accept [JURIST report] the return of 10 Tunisians currently detained at Guantanamo. Also in May, the US released [JURIST report] Algerian detainee Lakhar Boumediene to France after the French government expressed their interest in accepting one prisoner as part of a symbolic measure [JURIST report] to assist in the closing of the facility. In March, US officials met with leaders from the EU to discuss plans [JURIST report] to transfer detainees to European countries. Individual member states have also indicated their openness to accepting detainees, including Lithuania, Ireland, and Portugal [JURIST reports]. Other states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain, while Italy [JURIST reports] and the Netherlands [AFP report] have said they will not accept detainees.

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