Gitmo Critic Urges World: Take Captives
Thursday, July 26, 2007; 7:43 PM
VIENNA, Austria -- One of Europe's most vocal critics of the U.S. terror detention facility at Guantanamo Bay turned the tables on fellow opponents Thursday, urging the world's nations to speed its shutdown by agreeing to incarcerate detainees.
Belgian senator Anne-Marie Lizin, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's special envoy for Guantanamo, told the 56-nation group that few countries are willing to imprison 80 detainees who are ready for transfer.
Lizin said only Albania, a staunchly pro-U.S. nation, has expressed willingness to host Guantanamo prisoners of any kind. Albania already has taken in eight former Guantanamo inmates.
She said her native Belgium has taken in two prisoners, and that Denmark, Lithuania and Germany have expressed conditional interest.
Her message to Guantanamo critics: "Criticizing the U.S. is easy _ but they also have to look at reality and maybe take some responsibility."
"It has to be closed, because it's a negative symbol for the United States," she said. "We would like to continue this pressure until the prison is closed."
Lizin, who made her second visit to Guantanamo Bay last month, told the OSCE that conditions at the facility in Cuba have noticeably improved since her first visit in March 2006.
At the time, she called for the complex to be phased out by the end of this year.
Lizin said she no longer thinks that is an option. But she urged countries to accept inmates deemed less dangerous so Guantanamo ends up being used only for the most hard-core terror suspects _ "high-value" detainees in CIA parlance.
About 360 men are still held at Guantanamo on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
"The situation has changed inside the jail. They have a very clear procedure for interrogation," Lizin said. Officials who question detainees "realize that today, they are observed by the entire international community ... they can no longer make the slightest error," she added.
"Clearly a great effort has been made," she said, crediting U.S. authorities for "very good cooperation and a very good flow of information."
Lizin visited Guantanamo at the invitation of the U.S. government, although she was not allowed access to detainees, which is reserved only for representatives of the International Red Cross.
She continued to insist that all detainees have access to a lawyer and a means of redress.
Ideally, Lizin said, Middle East and North African nations such as Libya and Qatar should consider taking some of Guantanamo's detainees.
Lizin conceded that some Guantanamo prisoners who were returned to their countries of origin, such as Yemen, subsequently were found to engage themselves again in attacks on U.S. interests _ and that nations might be reluctant to take detainees as a result.
"Some (prisoners) are considered extremely dangerous, and a number, no doubt, are exceedingly dangerous," she said. "There's no question of considering them in terms of pure and simple innocence."