Guantánamo: 'Premier has a great deal of explaining to do'

15 July 2009

Guantánamo: 'Premier has a great deal of explaining to do'

SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel believes that Dutch Premier Jan Peter Balkenende has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to the government's about turn regarding their willingness to receive former prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. “Until not very long ago taking prisoners from Guantánamo was out of the question," says Van Bommel, "but following a conversation between President Obama and Premier Balkenende there is suddenly space for this. It seems that every time the Netherlands drops in on an American President we have to take along a gift."

Harry van BommelWith support from the SP, the Dutch government has always argued that Guantánamo Bay is an illegal prison and should be closed. People suspected of terrorist offences are locked up there for years on end, in violation of international law. They are allowed no legal support, are badly treated and, in many cases, have been denied a trial. The US government has defended this policy by stating that these prisoners are 'illegal fighters' and are therefore not covered by the Geneva Convention. All of this means that these suspects have been completely without rights. The US has taken no notice of criticisms which have come from every corner of the world, even opening a comparable prison in Afghanistan, nicknamed Guantánamo 2.

Van Bommel is firmly against the receipt of former Guantánamo prisoners. "First and foremost because the US itself created this problem and should therefore solve it itself. If the prisoners cannot return to their countries of origin, then the US should be offering them accommodation. We aren't some sort of disposal facility for the Americans.” There is, he says, a second reason not to accept prisoners, and one which may prove still more important. "If the US continues imprisoning people in a way which does not conform to international law, then by taking these detainees we are indirectly going along with this. Freeing innocent people is the final part of this policy, and our criticisms must not only be directed at Guantánamo Bay, but at the policies behind it. Those policies are unchanged.”

The SP intends to ask the Premier to clarify his position in relation to these matters. "A parliamentary majority has repeatedly stated its opposition to taking these prisoners from the US," says Van Bommel. "There are no new arguments which should convince us, all of a sudden, that we should do so."

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