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Life After Guantanamo

DW Staff (mrm)December 26, 2008

US President-elect Barack Obama says he'll close the Guantanamo detention facility, leading to questions about what to do with the inmates. France wants a common EU policy on released prisoners, but opinions differ.

A prisoner at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba
The infamous Guantanamo prison is set to shut down, but questions remain about the current inmatesImage: AP

The French Foreign Ministry called for a common European Union policy Friday, Dec. 26, on how to deal with prisoners currently held in the US prison in Guantanamo Bay on Cuba after the camp is closed as planned by President-elect Barack Obama in 2009.

The ministry in Paris said in a statement that the French government welcomed Obama's plan to close the prison, where suspected terrorists are held, but there had to be a common European policy on any prisoners being relocated to Europe.

It was not immediately clear if France was willing to accept any of the former Guantanamo prisoners. A representative of the ministry said Friday that it would not be commenting on the issue at present.

Opinions vary

US President-elect Barack Obama
US President-elect Barack Obama promised to shut down the prison if he won the White HouseImage: AP

The word from other European nations ranges from open to adamantly against the idea. The German government is already preparing to receive Guantanamo detainees, while Spain has also said it is willing to accept some of them.

The Netherlands was the least open to a European-wide plan, ruling out accepting any newly freed inmates.

Speaking to French news agency AFP, a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said that if inmates are not to be tried but cannot return to their own countries, they are first and foremost the responsibility of the country which arrested and imprisoned them, the United States.

Britain has taken charge of nine detainees who are British nationals and four British residents, and said earlier this week it would consider any more US requests on a case-by-case basis.

Can't go home

Prisoner at Guantanamo prison peers out of a window used to pass food trays
Many prisoners cannot return to their home countriesImage: AP

Obama has promised to close the detention facility, which is part of a sovereign US naval base on Cuba, after taking office next month. While that move has been greeted by many, it has also raised the tricky question of what to do with the remaining 250 inmates.

Some of the prisoners, alleged "enemy combatants" captured since 2001 by US and allied forces around the world, are no longer considered a threat by US authorities and will be resettled.

The prisoners come from various countries, mostly in the Middle East, and some may want to go home. Others face renewed arrest in their homelands and could face torture or lengthy incarcerations.

Many of the 250 prisoners in the camp have been held for years without charge, prompting harsh criticism from human rights organizations.