Spain leads way in effort to resettle Guantanamo detainees

Ken Gude [Director, International Rights and Responsibility Program, Center for American Progress] "Spain is leading the way among US allies in assisting the Obama administration in the critical counterterrorism mission to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. With domestic efforts stalled due to political opposition and opportunism, the Obama administration is forced to turn to allies like Spain to bring down the population at the prison. Spain's leadership is crucial to persuading other countries, and hopefully the United States Congress, to join in this effort to close Guantanamo and prevent our terrorist enemies from using that symbol to recruit new members into their ranks.

Regardless of the improvements that have been made to conditions at Guantanamo or to the military commission trials once again underway, closing the prison remains a national security imperative. Guantanamo is a symbol of American lawlessness and hypocrisy that has played into the hands of our enemies. President Obama accurately described the net negative impact of the prison for US national security when he said last May that it "created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained." Any plan to close Guantanamo must include dozens of transfers to third countries because international law restricts sending detainees to countries where they face the
prospect of torture.

Spain has accepted this responsibility and has consistently stepped up to the plate to help remove this terrorist recruiting tool. It originally pledged to resettle two detainees - the second of which arrived Tuesday - but recently upped their pledge to five as it became clear that more help would be needed to find homes for detainees released from Guantanamo. Spain's increased assistance is commendable because it comes in the face of outright refusal on the part of the US Congress to accept any detainees for resettlement into the United States.

Spain's leadership is also essential to bring other countries, particularly major European countries like Germany, into the effort to close Guantanamo. Germany had previously refused to accept Guantanamo detainees but reports out last month indicate that they are close to agreeing to resettle some detainees. Such a move from Germany could induce France to add to its one detainee and others could follow suit, moving the Obama administration closer to its objective to close the prison.

The Obama administration has never wavered in its commitment to close Guantanamo, even in the face of political opposition in the United States. It now relies more than ever on its allies to keep making progress toward that goal and Spain has consistently been willing to do its part and more. Spain and many other countries realize the danger that flows from increased terrorist recruitment and incitement is not only directed at the United States, it threatens us all. Let's hope that the US Congress can learn from that enlightened approach and finally put this tragic episode in US history behind us."

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