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October 3, 2006
UK Says No Way To Guantanamo Nine

With all of the international cries for the US to release the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it may surprise some that not everyone wants to take back the terrorists we have detained for the past five years. The UK has rejected the return of nine British subjects at Guantanamo, objecting to American demands for ongoing security aimed at keeping the freed detainees from rejoining the jihad:

The United States has offered to return nearly all British residents held at Guantánamo Bay after months of secret talks in Washington, the Guardian has learned.

The British government has refused to accept the men, however, with senior officials saying they have no legal right to return. Documents obtained by the Guardian show US authorities are demanding that the detainees be kept under 24-hour surveillance if set free - restrictions that are dismissed by the British as unnecessary and unworkable.

Although all are accused of terrorist involvement, Britain says there is no intelligence to warrant the measures Washington wants, and it lacks the resources to implement them. "They do not pose a sufficient threat," said the head of counter-terrorism at the Home Office.

The possible security arrangements appear to have caused months of wrangling, but senior UK sources have told the Guardian the government is interested in accepting only one man - Bisher al-Rawi - who is now known to have helped MI5 keep watch on Abu Qatada, the London-based Muslim cleric and al-Qaida suspect who was subsequently arrested.

One of the reasons that we have held this prisoners for so long is to ensure that they do not return to the battlefield. Some of the released detainees have done so. While the Bush administration would dearly love to get rid of this international albatross, they do not want more repeats of Abdullah Mehsud, who the US released only to have him kidnap and kill two Chinese engineers in Pakistan.

In order to process these releases, then, the US wants guarantees of security from their countries of origin. Despite repeated calls for the release of these prisoners, none of the nations involved want to undertake the security steps necessary to keep them away from jihad. That leaves the US in the unenviable position of either continuing to detain them indefinitely, perhaps for life, or to set them completely free. Neither option provides a satisfying resolution, although if other countries continue to balk at cooperation, the detainees might find themselves in front of the military tribunals currently being constituted for the high-value prisoners, such as Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The British also have more problems with the detainees. They argue that since the men do not hold British citizenship -- apparently they were only residents -- they have no legal right to return to the UK. British authorities also worry that once inside the country, the UK will be unable to deport them. Accepting them apparently will establish some sort of de facto right to residency that the UK wants to avoid.

So now we have the situation where returning these detainees to their nations of origin will get blocked by Western nations who want nothing to do with them, while American courts will block the return of the others who would go back to Middle Eastern nations who might face harsh treatment back home. Everyone wants the Guantanamo prisoners released, but no one seems to be volunteering to properly host them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 3, 2006 5:47 AM

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