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Global petition for Gitmo detainees to resettle in SA

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A human rights organisation has launched a global petition to support their request to the South African government to resettle cleared Guantanamo Bay detainees. CAGE Africa, a branch of an organisation based in the UK, wants to resettle between 1 and 11 Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release. The application has been received by the Office of the State President, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, and the Department of Home Affairs and is now under consideration by the Presidency.

Of the 116 persons currently remaining at Guantanamo Bay, 52 are cleared for release. Although these men are completely innocent, they are unable to return to their home countries, since the United States has refused to transfer them due to the ‘security environment’ in their countries, or due to the very real possibility that they may be persecuted and imprisoned again, due to government abuse of counter-terrorism legislation.

The detainees come from a variety of countries, including Afghanistan and the Yemen. These prisoners have been detained-without-charge and, according to the Senate Report on Torture, subject to torture. Although they have been cleared of any wrongdoing or alleged “terrorist” links, they exist in a limbo, effectively detainees without recourse to justice.

CAGE Africa will appoint a lead co-ordinator to ensure that the resettlement needs of the detainees are met. The human rights group said it is also certain of sufficient funds to resettle at least five detainees. All that was required is for the South African government to take the necessary steps to secure their release.

“Countries far less developed and committed to human rights obligations than South Africa have accepted Guantanamo prisoners for resettlement. They include Albania (which has accepted over 10), El Salvador, Uruguay, Kazakistan, Georgia, Palau, Slovakia and Bulgaria to name but a few. The overwhelming public response has been positive,” said CAGE outreach director and ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg.

“The experience of the resettled detainees in stable countries has been an exemplary one in which former British prisoners and U.S. Guantanamo guards have engaged in joint educational tours that have approached the subject in a conciliatory manner, taking much inspiration from South Africa’s own “truth and reconciliation” process and attracting much local and international acclaim. This has been facilitated by CAGE.”

“In accepting Gitmo prisoners SA could once again be seen as a stakeholder in facilitating dialogue, understanding and relief to people suffering discriminatory human rights violations.”

Karen Jayes, spokesperson for CAGE Africa, said they were urging the global public to lend their voice to the call for as many cleared Guantanamo detainees as possible, to be released and resettled in South Africa, a country that is well known for its record in “freeing so-called ‘terrorists’ who were detained under dubious laws.

“The time to act is now. Thirteen years without charge or trial and under torture is enough time to wait. South Africa can and must step up and play a role in ending one of the greatest blights on humanity’s human rights record: the Guantanamo Bay nightmare.”

“Your signature makes a difference. Sign up and play your part in securing freedom for these men.” VOC


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