UNPO Treasurer Calls for Italian Government to Receive Guantanamo Uyghurs

Rome, 16 December 2008-

Senator Marco Perduca, treasurer of the UNPO has tabled a parliamentary question to the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs about the future of Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Seventeen Uyghurs are amongst up to 60 so-called “critical case” prisoners who cannot be repatriated for fear of being subjected to state persecution. China accuses the Uyghurs of partaking in acts of terrorism against the state in an effort to gain independence. Mr Perduca, acting alongside Senator Donatella Poretti inquired into the possibility that Italy will offer asylum to the prisoners and push for a united “European” solution to Guantanamo.

Portugal became the first and only country to offer asylum to Guantanamo Bay inmates last Thursday [11 December 2008] since Albania’s acceptance of 5 Uyghur detainees in 2006. Portugal’s move is significant since it marks a departure from the long held European position of non-assistance with Guantanamo Bay repatriation. Portugal’s new approach has been viewed as a step to ensure that President elect Barack Obama’s promise to close the prison will not be broken. Portugal’s Foreign Minister stated that the European Union should “step forward” and assist the US to resolve the Guantanamo Bay problem. Over 250 inmates are currently being held by US authorities in Guantanamo Bay, around 60 of whom have already been cleared, but have nowhere to go.

In October this year [2008], a federal judge ordered the US government to provide asylum to the 17 Uyghur detainees, an order whose implementation the legal advisor to the US Secretary of State, John Bellinger judged highly difficult due to tight US immigration law. As such Bellinger welcomed the Portuguese move to accommodate released prisoners saying it marked a positive shift away from vocal European criticism without offering alternatives.

It is the hope of Senator Perduca and the UNPO as a whole that Italy will follow the Portuguese example and offer asylum to released Guantanamo detainees, especially the Uyghurs who face almost certain persecution in China if they return unprotected. It is also hoped that if Italy make such a commitment, other European countries will follow suit providing the US with the collaborative assistance that they claim has been lacking.