Wednesday, October 18, 2006

U.S. Experiencing Difficulties Negotiating Agreements For Transfer Of Guantanamo Detainees

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey confirmed that the United States has "difficulties at times" negotiating agreements with other countries for the transfer of terrorist suspects held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "There are countries that are often reluctant to step forward," Casey said. Referring to a story in the Washington Post, Casey confirmed one case in which virtually every country in Europe refused to grant asylum to several Guantanamo prisoners from China who were not being sent home because of fears they could face political harassment there. Albania agreed to accept five of those detainees last May after more than 100 other countries rebuffed the U.S. request.The United States does not want to be the world's jailer, Casey said, but does want to be able, when appropriate, "to transfer individuals back to their home countries or to their countries of residence. That is not always an easy process for us, and it is one that requires us to make sure we have appropriate assurances both on their treatment, as well as on their current ability to be monitored or detained, if that is appropriate, in their home country". "... Certainly we would welcome additional cooperation from some of the other countries out there," he added. "It is something that we do continue to work on every day". There are about 435 prisoners from about 40 countries at Guantanamo, according to the U.S. Defense Department, and military tribunals have concluded that about one-quarter of them are not a security risk, or are otherwise eligible for release or transfer. John Bellinger, the chief legal adviser at the State Department, said U.S. officials ultimately expect 60 to 80 prisoners to face trial by military commission under new legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush.