Monday, January 18, 2010



London, 18 January 2010

The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has called on US President Barack Obama to release 103 potentially stateless detainees who have been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, but remain in detention solely because it is not possible to resettle them. Research undertaken by the Trust indicates that between them, the 103 detainees may have spent more than 700 years in detention.

In December 2009, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that a total of 116 detainees had been cleared for release from Guantanamo. Only 13 people have been freed since the announcement. Almost all of the remaining 103 – more than half the total Guantanamo population – are stateless, meaning they lack effective nationality either because their country of origin refuses to recognise them or because concerns for their safety or other security considerations make it impossible to repatriate them. Many face potential imprisonment, torture and other abuses if returned to their country of origin as a direct consequence of their association with Guantanamo.

The group includes potentially stateless people from China, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, the West Bank, Kuwait, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The average time per detainee spent in Guantanamo is seven and a half years. Many were cleared for release years ago.

The case against indefinite detention is made in ERT’s report, “From Mariel Cubans to Guantanamo Detainees: Stateless Persons Detained under U.S. Authority”, a comprehensive investigation into the issue of stateless persons in detention in the USA. In the report, ERT calls on President Barack Obama to mark the first anniversary of his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay (22 January) by announcing the immediate release of all detainees cleared for release on US soil. This last recommendation is based on well founded scepticism that resettlement to third countries would be realistically achievable in the near future.

Speaking on the launch of the report, The Equal Rights Trust’s Executive Director, Dimitrina Petrova said:

“As the first anniversary of Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo passes, the practical and political problems created by the decision loom large. It is all too easy to forget the human cost.

“Of the 116 detainees cleared for release by the US Government, only a handful has been freed.

“Over 100 people remain in detention because the US authorities are unable to return them to their country of origin or habitual residence. Between them, they’ve spent over 700 years at Guantanamo.

“These people deserve to be released immediately. Finding countries willing to resettle them is a slow and painstaking process – as evidenced by the small numbers who have so far been resettled. The only practical and humane solution in our view is to release these men on US soil as quickly as possible.”

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