European Parliament votes by a stunning majority to offer homes to prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay.

January 29, 2009

Reprieve is delighted by the European Parliament’s decision to help President Obama resettle prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay.

By an overwhelming majority of 542 to 55 (with 51 abstentions), MEPs voted to accept any future requests by President Obama to offer homes to ex-prisoners.

Although all Guantánamo cases are still under review, it is expected that the Obama administration will seek international support in finding third-country homes for prisoners who cannot return to their own for fear of torture.

“Taking just stands on challenging issues is a sign of true leadership,” said Zachary Katznelson, Legal Director of Reprieve. “European Parliament showed that today. Each European nation’s government should follow suit.”

Reprieve challenges the UK to match Europe’s resolve on this crucial issue, and to reverse Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s recent statement that Britain has already done “enough” to help President Obama close Guantánamo Bay.“If every country took the UK’s current stance, President Obama will simply not be able to close Guantánamo Bay,” said Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve. “The UK must lead Europe in providing refuge for wronged prisoners who are no danger to anyone.”

The ‘special relationship’ brings a special reponsibility

“It must be remembered that no one has clean hands here,” added Zachary Katznelson. “In Guantánamo’s darkest days, European nations sent interrogator after interrogator to take advantage of abusive, coercive conditions.. The best way to make up for past wrongs is to help President Obama end Guantánamo Bay: give refugees from Guantánamo a safe home.”

Reprieve client Ayman al-Shurafa has been cleared for release, but as a Palestinian is currently stateless. Welcoming Ayman would demonstrate leadership in Europe and a ‘special’ level of support for President Obama.

Far from causing any trouble, the 13 ex-prisoners who resettled in Britain have lived quietly and peacefully in the community. The only exception is Moazzam Begg who travels the country tirelessly campaigning for peace and reconciliation.

“With a special relationship comes special responsibility,” said Clive Stafford Smith Director of Reprieve. “Britain led Europe in prosecuting the war on terror; now we must lead the way by honouring the European Parliament’s courageous decision.”

Reprieve currently represents 30 prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, and is investigating secret military prisons across the world, with the aim of holding the US government and military to account.

-ENDS-

For more information or to support our work, please contact Katherine O’Shea
katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk; 0207 427 1099.

Reprieve is a legal action charity, founded by Clive Stafford Smith in 1999. Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. We investigate, litigate and educate. Working on the frontline, we provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves, promoting the rule of law around the world, and securing each person’s right to a fair trial. In doing so, we save lives.

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