PORTUGAL IS willing to house Guantanamo Bay prisoners should the maximum security unit for terrorists and suspected terrorists on Cuba close next year.
Foreign Minister Luís Amado has sent a letter to European Union Foreign Affairs High Commissioner, Javier Solana, stating Portugal’s availability to house the prisoners, some of them British citizens.
The offer comes as part of efforts by the European Union to help the incoming United States Democrat administration under Barack Obama.
Portugal would, however, only be willing to detain those prisoners suspected but not actually proved to be involved in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and other planned or concrete terrorist activities.
The offer could open up a potential legal can of worms since the detainees are being held, according to some legal and human rights experts, illegally and may have to be released under European Union laws.
The United States Republican administration of George W. Bush has always maintained that they have not been freed from the infamous Cuban detention centre because they are at risk of being persecuted in their own countries.
Portugal is believed to be the first state so far within the European Union to have formally stated its willingness, in writing, to house the detainees.
Although there are no precise numbers available, it is estimated from human rights organisations that 60 of the 250 prisoners held at the camp, where allegations of mental torture and abuse abound, are said to be detainees that have not been charged.
Eighty of the total of 250 would have to be detained or charged and tried within the United States for crimes related to terrorism according to the news agency Reuters.
Since Guantanamo was opened in 2002, 500 of 700 prisoners detained have been released and repatriated without having been formally accused or charged of any crime. Until now only two have been tried.
The practice of torture at the base has been denounced internationally.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Luís Amado has made the offer as part of the Commemorations for the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, and has proposed that the future of the detainees be debated by the European Union in forthcoming sessions.
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