23rd May 2019

EU urges US to end 'anomaly' of Guantanamo

The EU has appealed to Washington to close it Guantanamo prison for terror suspects, with the Austrian presidency referring to it as an "anomaly" which should be stopped "as soon as possible."

"Guantanamo is an anomaly. Therefore, from our point of view, the US must take measures to close the camp as soon as possible," said Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in a statement delivered before the European Parliament on Wednesday (31 May).

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Mrs Plassnik spoke on behalf of all EU member states, following several attempts by EU ministers the past few months to agree on such a declaration.

The Austrian foreign minister spoke out against the legal vacuum created by the detention of suspects at the Cuban naval base, stressing "human rights must be respected in this fight against terror."

The statement was welcomed by most political groups in the parliament, with several deputies urging Vienna to raise the issue at the EU-US summit in June - set to be attended by US president George W Bush.

MEPs suggested Washington should either release prisoners where there is no evidence against them or try them under international law.

Around 500 prisoners are currently kept at the Guantanamo prison, four years after the first suspects of links with Al Qaida or the Taleban, were brought in.

"How many more reports do we have to read about gross violations of human rights? The latest one from the Committee Against Torture makes the point again: that torture techniques, which should be abhorrent to any decent person, are still being used," said a British Liberal MEP Elizabeth Lynne.

But the German conservative chair of the parliament's foreign committee Elmar Brok, who visited the camp with an MEPs' delegation earlier this month, said the US has made some genuine effort to improve living conditions at the prison.

His Irish fellow member of the centre-right EPP-ED group Simon Coveney said the findings of the MEPs Guantanamo mission should be reflected in a planned European Parliament resolution and announced he would ask for a delay of the vote until June.

The current text of the resolution, backed by most political groups apart from the biggest EPP-ED faction, calls on the US to implement the UN recommendations immediately and stop all 'special interrogation techniques', including methods involving sexual humiliation, 'water boarding', 'short shackling' and using dogs to induce fear.

The parliament will decide whether to vote on the resolution or postpone it on Thursday (1 June).


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