Media: MEPs criticise limbo of 48 Guantanamo detainees

By Brian Beary, 28.5.2010, A delegation of MEPs visiting Washington has voiced objections to the interminable limbo faced by some terror suspects at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. MEPs were disturbed to learn that the US administration had no plans to either try or release 48 of the roughly 200 detainees still left in Guantanamo. Dutch Liberal Marietje Schaake told Europolitics, on 27 May, after meetings with US administration officials and lawmakers and human rights groups, “we have difficulties getting commitments from the US on detention policies”. The chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee, Heidi Hautala (Greens-EFA, Finland), said “it is not acceptable to have people detained without any prospect of a trial”. Their Romanian EPP colleague, László Tokés, said “in my opinion, terrorism is more scandalous than detention policy” but that “democratic standards and the rule of law” needed to be upheld. The US’ non-participation in the International Criminal Court (ICC) was raised in almost all the meetings the six MEPs had. Hautala said the US administration seemed divided, with the State Department more open to acknowledge the court, while the Defence Department was not. Portuguese Socialist MEP Ana Gomes said “we were given assurances the US will back the prosecutions of people the ICC has already indicted”. Specifically, Schaake pinpointed an “opportunity” for the EU - which strongly supports the ICC - arising from US support for the ICC’s 2009 indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. But Schaake saw little imminent prospect of the US signing onto the ICC’s Rome Statute, saying “that is a bridge too far” for the US. Schaake slammed EU High Representative Catherine Ashton for not adopting a clear stance on the appropriate level of European diplomatic attendance at Bashir’s inauguration, on 27 May. “We do not want a scattered policy in the EU,” she said. Following meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Schaake noted “there is consensus for imposing crippling sanctions” on Iran. A new bill that would ban US firms doing businesses with other firms who do business with Iran is close to being enacted by Congress. Schaake said the bill highlighted the need for “the EU to be more proactive on Iran”. Again, she criticised Ashton for being “absent in leadership” - both on the human rights and nuclear situation in Iran. In a meeting with US lawmakers, the EP delegation discussed Russia, notably cases of suspicious deaths and disappearances in the North Caucasus. MEPs also met with non-governmental US foundations, whose mission is to promote democracy around the world, such as the National Endowment for Democracy. Schaake said “we are interested in exploring how the EU can have such independent organisations to promote democracy”. She stressed that such potential EU organisations would need to complement the work of the US organisations.