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Friday, December 26, 2008

France urges unified EU stance on accepting Guantanamo detainees
Caitlin Price at 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The French Foreign Ministry [official website] on Friday urged the European Union (EU) to adopt a unified policy [DW report] on whether to accept detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military prison if US President-elect Barack Obama closes the facility. The French government has said it would welcome the prison's closure, but Foreign Ministry Spokesman Eric Chevallier on Wednesday did not indicate whether France itself would accept any detainees [press conference transcript]. Some of the EU's 27 member states have recently expressed opposing views on the matter. Germany and Portugal [JURIST reports] have said they would consider taking in released Guantanamo detainees, and have encouraged all EU member states to cooperate in formulating a plan for accepting prisoners who cannot be returned to their homelands because of risk of torture. Britain said Wednesday it will consider accepting detainees on a case-by-case basis. Also Wednesday, however, a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman told AFP that the Netherlands would not accept any Guantanamo inmates [AFP report], and Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero said that although Spain might be amendable to requests to accept detainees, the move would raise "serious legal problems" [PL report]. No EU-wide talks are expected before the Czech Republic assumes the EU Presidency [Czech Presidency website] on January 1.

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 Obama. On Tuesday, US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack called the European response to the need to relocate detainees "quite encouraging" [press conference transcript]. Rights groups have urged Obama to close the controversial military prison upon inauguration in January. Last month, the ACLU launched an ad campaign [image, PDF] calling on Obama to close Guantanamo Bay and end the use of military commissions on his first day in office. Obama and his advisers have yet to reach a firm decision [JURIST report] on the closure of the facility.

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