German Ministers Split on Taking in Ex-Guantanamo Prisoners | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.01.2009
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German Ministers Split on Taking in Ex-Guantanamo Prisoners

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has rejected Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's position on accepting inmates from the Guantanamo Bay jail when the facility is closed by Barack Obama.

The American flag flies behind razor-wire and fences at the Guantanmo Bay jail

Schaeuble: The US, not Germany, needs to deal with Guantanamo prisoners

"The United States carries the responsibility for the people who have been in Guantanamo for years now," Schaeuble said on Thursday, Jan. 15, at a meeting of EU interior ministers meeting in Prague.

According to reports, President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, has vowed to immediately shut down the controversial prison built to hold suspects in the US war on terror, many of whom were never tried.

Obama pondering Guantanamo

Obama wants to close Guantanamo, but what to do about its inmates?

Closing the facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba means that a portion of the remaining 248 prisoners will have to be transferred to other countries.

Schaeuble also pointed out that, as far as he is aware, none of the remaining Guantanamo inmates are Germans nor are any of them citizens who grew up in Germany.

The number of inmates left "is not a number that is unbelievably high, and the US is not a small country," he added.

The question of what to do with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners has caused controversy outside of Germany as well, as several EU countries are at odds over the matter.

Guantanamo source of EU conflict

Austria and France voiced their stance against receiving inmates at the EU interior ministers meeting.

Members of human rights group Amnesty International wearing Guantanamo-style orange inmate outfits stage a protest in Budapest on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, on the fifth anniversary of the jail's opening

Many inmates have never been tried, a fact that has sparked human rights debates

"America created Guantanamo. It has to come up with the solution," Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter told reporters on the sidelines of the Prague meeting.

The French Foreign Ministry, however, said it was "open" to receiving Guantanamo inmates who face persecution in their home countries. According to a spokesperson for the ministry, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner wants to "review the matter favorably."

Kouchner's stance clearly illustrates the widespread conflict between EU Interior Ministers and their foreign ministry counterparts.

The Netherlands has ruled out accepting any newly freed inmates, while Portugal has said it might do so. Sweden has said Guantanamo Bay is Washington's responsibility and, according to media reports, Denmark will refuse any US request to take in prisoners. Poland has expressed doubts whether it can deal with the type of prisoners being held.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the problem at talks in Brussels on Jan. 26 and 27. EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, whose country now holds the EU presidency, travel to Washington in February to discuss plans for the jail with the new US administration.

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