Reprieve delighted that Portugal taking lead in return for Guantánamo refugees

December 11, 2008

Reprieve is delighted that Portugal has become the first European state to offer a home for prisoners currently stranded at Guantánamo Bay who cannot be sent back to their home countries for risk of persecution.

In a letter sent to his European Union counterparts, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado said Portugal was willing to grant refugee status to detainees who could not return to their home countries. President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to close the Cuban prison, currently holding 250 men. With this pledge, Portugal has thus taken the lead in European efforts to assist the new Obama administration in closing the Cuban prison.

Portugal is the first EU Member State to offer such direct assistance, but expects other European countries to follow suit.

  • Clive Stafford Smith, Legal Director of Reprieve said: “At least 200 prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay have no case to answer and should have been released long ago but for the simple reason that they cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of torture. Portugal is the first European state to step up to the plate and assume some responsibility for those homeless prisoners, and we urge other European states to urgently follow suit.”
  • Ana Gomes, Portuguese MEP said: “I hope other European states will appreciate the importance of this move by Portugal and I urge those governments to take similar steps in order to close this shameful chapter of transatlantic relations and to start assuming European responsibilities for the cooperation provided to the outgoing Administration in the framework of the so-called ‘extraordinary renditions programme’”
  • Sarah Ludford, British MEP and member of the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Illegal Detentions, said: “We welcome this move by Portugal to take responsibility and offer a home for prisoners stuck in Guantánamo Bay, and urge the British government to follow suit.”


For further information please contact:

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Notes for editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’


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