Finland Considers Accepting Guantánamo Detainees

“To reiterate the words of Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb last week, I can say Finland is open to the possibility. However at this stage, the matter is only under consideration,” said Marja Lehto, the Director of the Unit for Public International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in a debate on Finnish radio. Ms.Lehto added that the matter of closing Guantanamo was genuinely complicated and “two years for closing Guantanamo sounds like a realistic time line”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of Human Rights while countering terrorism was also present at the debate. In his opinion European countries should cooperate with the closure of Guantanamo Bay, but this doesn’t diminsh the need for the US to present a credible and comprehensive solution on the issue of preventive detention of terrorist suspects. The Special Rapporteur stressed in the interview that  neither a continuation of the military commissions nor a new regime of indefinite administrative detention of terrorist suspects can be part of such a solution.

Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur stressed that Finland could and should offer asylum to some of the Guantánamo prisoners,” adding however that refugee status should not be the only ground for acceptance. Some detainees are likely to be seen as purely humanitarian cases. For these people the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights could have a recommending role. 

Background

Until now Ireland, Portugal and Germany have publickly indicated a willingness to take released Guantanamo detainees, while Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Spain have indicated they would refuse any request to accept former detainees.

Poland indicated that it would be quite a challenge” for the Polish prison system due to language and other difficulties. The head of Poland’s Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, Krzysztof Lisek, expressed similar concerns earlier last week, noting the “cramped conditions in the jails and a notorious lack of places.”

The European Union has not adopted a unified policy on whether to accept released detainees despite calls of France, Germany and the UK to do so. A common European position would be helpful to diminish domestic outcries as to why a country should take the “security risk” of accepting ex-detainees.The issue is expected to be raised at the upcoming meeting of the EU’s general affairs and external relations council.

Both Australia and the UK have declined recent US  requests to take Guantanamo inmates, but have indicated that they will consider transfers on a case-by-case basis.

Acting Australian prime minister Julia Gillar had said: “Assessing those [previous] requests from a case-by-case basis, they had not met our stringent national security and immigration criteria and have been rejected”.  Gillard stressed, however, that Australia would remain open to future US requests to resettle detainees and would assess each request on its merits.

The purpose of these transfers however cannot be to limit the liberty of these people even longer, such as Australian National University Professor Donald Rothwell proposes. Rothwell says Australia could accept detainees as prisoners of war, and attempt to continue to keep them in detention.

“Effectively there would be the need to create a completely distinctive legal regime to deal with foreigners who’ve been detained by a foreign government, in this case the United States, to enable their continued detention in Australia given that they had yet to be convicted of any criminal offences. Presumably given their status and given their past history, the Government might seek to have control orders placed upon them to constrain their movement and constrain their activities within Australia in much the same way that they did with David Hicks once he was released into the Australian community just over 12 months ago.”

Earlier Martin Scheinin has stated that the ex post facto introduction of new legislation on preventive detention, for persons that already for years have been in detention, would unavoidably amount to arbitrary detention in the meaning of article 9, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Background here and here.
Interesting interview with Bernard Docke, the German defence lawyer for Murnat Kurnaz, on the issue here.

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