4th Dec 2023

France keen on EU mission to Guantanamo

  • Guantanamo Bay is to be closed down within a year, but the fate of its inmates is yet uncertain (Photo: Wikipedia)

France is pushing for an EU fact-finding mission to Guantanamo Bay and for the bloc to take in 60 inmates after the camp closes, with EU foreign ministers to discuss the issue on Monday (26 January).

EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot and anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerckhove are to lead the fact-finding trip to the Cuban prison which is to be shut down within a year following the decision by new US President Barack Obama, diplomats told Financial Times Deutschland.

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The proposal is just one of many floated by France, which chaired the rotating EU presidency until 1 January before the Czech Republic took over. France is also pushing for a centralised, EU-level check on the prisoners' background.

The 60 inmates in question will not face criminal charges in the US, but cannot be returned to their home countries in the Middle East and China because they risk torture and ill treatment.

The Czech EU presidency is suggesting a more limited response, under which every EU country is to decide on its own if it wants to take prisoners. Some EU co-ordination would still be required, as most EU countries are part of the Schengen border-free travel area.

Portugal, France, and Switzerland have already said they might take inmates on a case-by-case basis, while Italy is open to the idea but wants a common EU position.

A total of eight EU member states have thus far offered to take Guantanamo prisoners: Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Austria is against taking any prisoners. The conservatives in Germany's ruling coalition are also opposed. Finland has said it is open to taking people, but its parliament is split on the issue.

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