Amnesty International has called on Northern Ireland to help the United States in their stated aim of closing Guantanámo Bay by accepting prisoners who have been cleared for release. This would be following the lead of the Republic of Ireland, where the Taoiseach has told CNN in the United States that Ireland would take, 'a proportionate amount, a small number' of freed prisoners.
Some 60 men are known to be at risk of torture or persecution if returned to their home countries, and while the US may permit some of the men to be admitted to the US mainland the remaining detainees are likely to need 'humanitarian protection' in other countries upon release.
"We call on the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to follow the lead of the Taoiseach, in making clear to Downing Street and the White House that Northern Ireland stands ready to be part of the humanitarian solution to closing Guantánamo Bay," said Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director.
"Northern Ireland is accustomed to asking the United States for assistance with our political problems. The First and Deputy First Minister should now assist President Obama in his moves to close the camp by offering 'humanitarian protection' to vulnerable prisoners who need a place to go."
"Several EU states, including Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, have already indicated a willingness to take some detainees released from Guantánamo. We very much welcome the commitment made by the Taoiseach and we now ask that the commitment be echoed in Northern Ireland where we have some experience of prisoner release and reintegration. Amnesty International is willing to assist in making this a reality in any way that we can.
"We need to be very clear about the prisoners we are talking about. They are not suspects of any kind. These men, approximately sixty in number, have been cleared for release. The US government and military has accepted that these men are not a threat, and never were.
"But they remain in captivity. Those from countries like China and Uzbekistan cannot be sent home because the human rights record of those countries means sending them there exposes them to further torture, imprisonment and even death."