30th Mar 2023

EU welcomes Obama's Guantanamo move

US President Barack Obama has requested the suspension of all military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay - a first step to closing the detainee camp - within hours of being sworn is as the country's leader, with European countries expected to take inmates who will not stand trial through normal processes in the US.

At the request of the US president, the Department of Defence asked late Tuesday evening (20 January) to a suspend for 120 days all trials pending in the Guantanamo military courts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Guantanamo inmates could be released soon, if the Europeans step in (Photo: Wikipedia)

Barack Obama had promised during his campaign to close down the camp for alleged terrorism suspects, which was set up seven years ago by the previous Bush administration at a US military base in Cuba.

Of the 245 inmates still held there, only 21 men were facing criminal charges (including the five alleged plotters of the 11 September 2001 attacks).

The military tribunals lack sufficient legal protection for defendants, Eric Holder, the president's nominee for attorney general, has said.

President Obama's team is to evaluate the legal possibilities to transfer the cases from the suspended military tribunals to regular US courts.

EU countries have been calling on the US for a long time to close down Guantanamo, but most seem reluctant to take inmates who risk torture or other serious violations of their human rights if they return to their home countries.

"We didn't catch these people. We didn't put them into prison," Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, representing the rotating EU presidency, told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday (20 January).

"First we should ask the USA how many [detainees] they will keep," he said, adding that only afterward could there be discussions regarding the number of inmates the EU could take in.

The previous day, the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, had called on EU countries to help Mr Obama close down Guantanamo by taking inmates, echoing similar requests from Europe's human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

Also speaking before Mr Obama's inauguration, EU commissioner for justice, Jacques Barrot, said on Euronews that closing down Guantanamo was "a chance for a new partnership between Europe and the US."

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the issue officially for the first time at a meeting in Brussels on 26 January.

Portugal and Great Britain are among the few European countries offering asylum to the Guantanamo detainees, while France has also pledged to do the same, but on a case-by-case basis.

Germany is divided, with Social Democrat foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in favour of the idea, but conservative interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble opposed.

The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are reluctant to step in, according to news agencies.

Pressure mounts for EU to take Guantanamo prisoners

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering has become the latest high-ranking politician to call on EU states to take in prisoners from the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, once it is closed. EU states remain divided on the issue, however.


What does China really want? Perhaps we could try asking

Perhaps even more surprising to the West was the fact that the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal was not brokered by the United States, or the European Union, but by the People's Republic of China. Since when was China mediating peace agreements?


Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity

From the perspective of international relations, the EU is a rare bird indeed. Theoretically speaking it cannot even exist. The charter of the United Nations, which underlies the current system of global governance, distinguishes between states and organisations of states.

Latest News

  1. The overlooked 'crimes against children' ICC arrest warrant
  2. EU approves 2035 phaseout of polluting cars and vans
  3. New measures to shield the EU against money laundering
  4. What does China really want? Perhaps we could try asking
  5. Dear EU, the science is clear: burning wood for energy is bad
  6. Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity
  7. Finnish elections and Hungary's Nato vote in focus This WEEK
  8. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us