11 Jan 2009

Call for Govt to accept Guantanamo detainees

7:49 am on 11 January 2009

Amnesty International says the New Zealand Government should remain open to accepting detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre as refugees.

About 250 people are being held at the United States centre in Cuba, which US president-elect Barack Obama has said he will close during his first term in office.

An Amnesty New Zealand spokesperson, Rebecca Emery, says if the US does not accommodate the detainees, other countries have an obligation to provide a safe environment for any refugees who face danger returning to their home countries.

She says New Zealand has a strong refugee and asylum screening process.

Ms Emery says providing all charges are cleared against detainees, they pose no more risk than any other refugees.

Meanwhile, more than 200 New Zealanders have joined Amnesty International's call for Mr Obama to announce a fixed closing date for the detention centre.

They have written messages on orange jumpsuits like those worn by Guantanamo detainees, which will be sent to the White House in time for the presidential inauguration on 20 January.

Ms Emery says Mr Obama campaigned on a promise to close the detention centre during in his first two years in office. However, she says it should be closed within his first 100 days as president.

Ms Emery says the detention of people without a fair trial and use of illegal torture methods at Guantanamo needs to be stopped.