EU urged to press US on Guantanamo

01.10.03 @ 09:15

  1. By Sharon Spiteri

BRUSSELS - Euro-parliamentarians urged EU governments yesterday (30 September) to form a united front and protest against US President George W Bush over detainees' lack of rights in the US base in Guantanamo bay, Cuba.

Hundreds of prisoners are being held in Guantanamo - 22 are EU citizens from Britain, Spain, France, Denmark, Sweden and Germany - and are being accused of having links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan.

MEPs criticised the US for human rights abuses which are leading to dozens of suicide attempts. They are demanding that these detainees have a fair trial or be released.

"Where is the united diplomatic protest by the EU to President Bush? If the EU stopped being wimpish and spoke with one strong voice we could surely have real weight to reverse the third-class justice meted out to foreigners there", UK Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford said.

Baroness Ludford criticised the fact that US citizen John Walker Lindh was dealt with in a civil court with the protection of the US Constitution, whereas the Europeans and hundreds of non-Americans are "caught in the Catch 22 between detention without charge or a military ‘kangaroo court’".

To put pressure on the US over this issue, MEPs urged EU governments to reconsider the entry into force of the extradition agreement between the EU and US until the US solves the situation in Guantanamo.

Baroness Ludford also demanded that EU states refuse to agree to a new UN resolution on Iraq until the US releases or gives fair trials to the detainees.

The Civil Liberties Committee in the European Parliament is planning to draft a recommendation for Council, demanding that EU governments push for a fair trial for the Guantanamo prisoners.

On Tuesday families and lawyers of the detainees in Guantanamo bay gave a public hearing in the European Parliament.

MEPs expressed disappointment that the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana did not respond to the invitation.

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