EU ministers have been finding human rights credentials put to a test. They have been deliberating over whether to provide foster homes for victims of the former Bush administration’s “war on terror”.
The European Union’s member states are very divided over how to respond to President Obama’s call that they accept some detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay. European Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot said explicitly after discussions in Luxembourg: “The responsibility to take in or not to take in an ex-detainee from Guantanamo clearly depends on each member state, free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” Obama made a campaign pledge to close the centre by January next year. He said on Sunday: “That’s why it is so urgent that the European Council issue a common position supporting the right of your member states to accept detainees if they so choose.” Rights advocates say there are moral obligations. Susi Dennison, Amnesty International: “We need to be clear that the group of people we are talking about here in Guantanamo are 60 people who have never been charged with any crime and who have never faced trial for what they are supposed to have done, many of whom have been told many years ago by the US government that they shold have been released. There is a moral obligation, if you like, on EU states to do what they can to bring an end to that and to find a new way for these people to start their lives again.” Governments are still studying the security and legal risks. Some of the detainees in question face possible arrest in their own homelands. EU states are wary that potentially dangerous personae non grata might cross borders inside the 25-state passport-check-free Schengen area.