zondag 27 juni 2010

The EU Should Do More to Help Shut Down Guantanamo

(article by guest author Gregg Dubow)

If EU member states take on more detainees, they will not only solidify the EU’s human rights record, but also reduce security threats, while stepping up pressure on the US government to act. Europe’s stature as a beacon of human rights stands to gain as a result.

President Obama's announcement on 22 January 2009 to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility within a year led many to believe it was going to be a done deal. However, sixteen months on this deal has yet to be clinched. The latest efforts by the Obama administration to resolve this issue recently hit a major roadblock as a proposal to transfer Guantanamo detainees to a maximum security facility in the USA was shelved after the House Armed Services Committee unanimously voted not to fund the Obama proposal. In light of the lack of action undertaken by US authorities, the question arises as to whether the EU should step up pledges to facilitate the closing of Guantanamo.

The EU proclaims human rights as universal and indivisible and has an excellent track record in offering political asylum. Although the EU passed a resolution in 2009 requesting its members to assist US efforts, only a dozen detainees have been transferred to EU countries according to the EU Council. By taking on more detainees, Europe's stature as a beacon of human rights would only increase. In addition, EU acceptance of more detainees could eventually ease up domestic and international pressure on a President Obama that Europe welcomed as a breath of fresh air for international relations. That impetus of constructive cooperation among all nations means little without more action. Bilateral negotiations between the US and individual EU countries on measures to gradually reduce the number of detainees and resettle them in Europe would help restore credibility to the Western notions of the rule of law and justice. Mutual security interests also stand to gain by eliminating what has been a rallying cry for terrorists around the world. Another pressing argument for more EU engagement is the prospect of U.S. prisoner transfers to countries with weak human rights records. If detainees were transferred to such countries, human rights abuses could take place on a greater scale than what is occurring now.

Some critics argue that Europe is not responsible for cleaning up an American made mess. Many EU governments have already pledged military, logistical and financial support to American military operations and cannot justify further assistance to a cranky and skeptical electorate. Coordinating security within the EU is another challenge due to the Schengen agreement allowing people free movement among EU countries once settled there. Another argument put forth is that taking on detainees would strain relations and economic ties with other countries, especially with China on the issue of resettling Uighers.

While the EU could be doing more, US domestic politics is not exactly moving forward to resolve this issue. Republican conservatives are fear mongering on the premise of the security threat that would be imposed should detainees be housed on American soil. Another lurking factor is the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections. The Obama administration, with a Democratic majority in Congress, stands to lose that majority due to domestic issues. As a result, many Democrats are simply hesitant to address the Guantanamo issue for fear of spurring a larger Republican voter turnout at the polls.

The new US national security strategy has stressed building a broader coalition of actors to advance universal values. The EU should rise to the occasion and show more political will in facilitating the closing of Guantanamo. This would not only promote those universal values but also enhance long term collective security on both sides of the Atlantic in the ongoing war on terror. More proactive measures by the EU could also step up pressure on the US to pull its weight on this issue. It is time that substantive cooperative action is taken to fulfill Obama's pledge.

Gregg Dubow holds a BS from West Chester University (UK) with a major in criminal justice. He is a language trainer based in southern Germany, currently studying International Relations as segway into a different career.

7 opmerkingen:

  1. I disagree with Gregg Dubows proposition.
    Continental Europe has already to stock more refugee's from atlantic wars ( Irak & Afghanistan ), thanks to the speculative Operation of Enduring Wars for "Security" started by the USA and GB.
    USA & GB clean up your own mess.

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  2. Hugo, while I sympathize with your view that the US must clean up its own mess, the truth is that inaction in the rest of the world is not going to help people that have been imprisoned under extremely harsh conditions without having been charged and without the basic rights that they would be entitled of in any civilized society. Even a convicted criminal must be treated humanely, has basic rights. So, only by a helpful, understanding attitude, the EU (and other civilized countries) can put some weight on the political debate in the US. If we stay sitting on our hands, nothing will change in this issue. We can make the difference!

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  3. Paul, in human perspective you have a point.
    In politcal perspective I still disagree.
    What is the excuse the USA is not sheltering detainees
    in the USA? I haven't heard a valid reason yet.
    The USA was collecting suspects illegally in their Enduring Wars, transported them around the world in sercret ( even for NATO alies ) and put them in jail without trial. The uSA is fishing in civil bankaccounts in Europe and disrespects privacy in their war against terror. Europa should negotiate harder with the americans. In exchange of sheltering detainees in Europe, demand more power in the war-aid dealingrooms in return.

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  4. Obviously the US was the initiator and should take its responsibility, but we don't live in an ideal world. Internal US politics prevent an early solution for the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Precisely your “human perspective” should prompt us, Europeans, to show our sensitivity for the fate of the prisoners, who have not been charged and denied all basic rights. If the US adopt what some may refer to as a barbaric attitude, then Europe could show compassion and civilization. You are surely aware that (the governments of) many (European and other) countries, incl. good old The Netherlands, have willingly supported the wars in the greater Middle East and facilitated what is euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition” and committed “torture by proxy", so one could argue that there is a common responsibility. If these European countries collaborated “discretely”, i.e. without the knowledge of the public, then in a true democracy it behooves the electorate to hold its government to account, but the detainees should not fall victim for what I would call a harsh legalistic stand. Personally, I would give preference to human rights under the circumstances. In doing so, just as Gregg Dubow argues, this gives our country some right to put up its hand in the international arena.

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  5. In the long run, human perspective should be the main perspective for civilizations.
    Still, I find this a hard legal problem.
    What if the Netherlands descides to help to give shelter to detainees. Will they be set free, kept in prison, what legal rights and convictions to refer to?
    The american war legislation or EU civil legislation?
    Is Europe free ( of ameriacn interferance )to interrogate the suspects?
    Operation Enduring Freedom (Operation Enduring War) will not come to an end soon, new suspects of terror will been taken in. Has the strategy changed to keep prisoners without trial? Are numbers of detainees in control? If detainees are "stored in Europe", I fear the USA shall be more eager in tracking and tracing people's private data in Europe.

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  6. Hugo,
    From a legal point of view, the matter is simple. The Guantanamo detainees have been “interrogated” (read: tortured, waterboarded, …) by the cruelest agents you can imagine. Yet, after all these years, they have neither been charged nor tried. Under the rule of law of any civilized country (and under international law), a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, they should be set free immediately and unconditionally. Full stop. Obviously, they will have been fingerprinted and eye scanned, so after having been set free they can easily be monitored by the intelligence services. As regards the “curiosity” of big brother the USA, please refer to your parliamentary representative.

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  7. Oops I forgot about the waterbaording and the ill treatment of the suspects. Although I think the US abuses Europe to take care of their prisoners of war, I now think it's the only way to solve the problem.
    It's thougtless and powerplay of the US to act the way they did and are still doing.

    I heard or read a comment. If the prisoners of war are becoming a bigger legal problem , the US military may decide not taking in prisoners anymore...... If you know what I mean? Cowboys will be cowboys.

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