Slovakia offers home to three Guantanamo prisoners

Three prisoners from the controversial US prison at Guantanamo Bay will be resettled in Slovakia this year following an agreement between the Slovak and US governments.

Three prisoners from the controversial US prison at Guantanamo Bay will be resettled in Slovakia this year following an agreement between the Slovak and US governments.

At a press conference in Bratislava on January 19, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčiak said that none of the three were suspected terrorists, nor had any ever been charged with a crime. Igor Slobodník, the ministry’s political affairs director, called them “non-combatant militants”, such as cooks or drivers within suspected terrorist organizations.

The three prisoners that Slovakia agreed to accept will be housed in special camps under the control of the Interior Ministry. Following an 18-month process of acclimatization to Slovakia, including language instruction and a search for employment, the prisoners will be released into the general population. They will be under the supervision of local intelligence services for an undetermined period.

American chargé d’affaires Keith Eddins said that the US had decided to locate the prisoners in allied countries because it had no assurance they would not be mistreated if returned to their home countries. The Slovak side was offered a list of 10 names, from which foreign and interior ministry officials chose three following personal interviews in Guantanamo. The prisoners were also free to refuse resettlement in Slovakia.

Slovakia becomes the tenth country within the European Union to take Guantanamo prisoners. Great Britain has resettled 14, while lesser numbers have been housed in Portugal, France, Italy, Spain and Hungary. Slobodník called the decision “a statement of political support for what the Obama administration is trying to achieve. There are too many people trying to tear Obama down for what he has not done so far.” He also said that “we wanted to help resolve an issue that has caused tension within the euro-Atlantic community.”

The Guantanamo Bay prison was founded by former US President George W. Bush following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Most of the jail’s current population of some 250 prisoners are suspected of ties to Al-Kaida or the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, others were taken prisoner in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Current US President Barack Obama promised on taking office to shut the facility by January 2010, but that target proved too ambitious and the legal and security issues more complex than Obama anticipated.

Some 110 prisoners – those considered too dangerous to release – will remain in prisons in the US or will be tried in court. Asked if the decision to release the prisoners amounted to an admission from the White House that they never should have been in custody in the first place, Eddins said “more or less”.

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