Two Uzbeks freed from the Guantánamo Bay prison arrived Sunday in Ireland, and Amnesty International appealed to other European Union nations to deliver on pledges to give new homes to U.S. terror detainees.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern asked media to give privacy to the two Uzbeks, one of whom has been identified as 31-year-old Oybek Jabbarov. Both men were arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001 and held at the U.S. facility in Cuba since 2002.
``The resettlement of the two individuals is a humanitarian gesture. They should be allowed time and space to rebuild their lives,'' Ahern said.
``Ireland is a welcoming country and we are pleased to play our part with President Obama in assisting in the closing of this center,'' he said in reference to Guantánamo, where about 220 prisoners continue to be held.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Ireland, like many European Union nations, long condemned the U.S. policy of detaining terror suspects for years without trial in the Cuban military enclave. But the Europeans have been slow to follow through on pledges to help close the prison by giving new homes to approximately 60 inmates who would face imprisonment, torture or execution if deported to their homelands.
The U.S. Justice Department says 17 ex-inmates have been resettled overseas since Obama's January announcement pledging to shut the Guantánamo detention center within 12 months. U.S. officials now say that deadline is unlikely to be met.
All but five have gone to countries outside Europe. France in May took a lone ex-inmate from the former French colony of Algeria and Portugal last month took two Syrians.
Four detainees from China's Uighur minority resettled on the Atlantic island of Bermuda in June, and at least six more are expected soon to be resettled on the Pacific island of Palau.
Europe appears poised to begin taking more. Hungary announced earlier this month it will take a Palestinian. Italy has committed in principle to take three unspecified prisoners, while Spain and Switzerland -- not an EU member -- are mulling U.S. requests to take part.
Ireland said the two Uzbeks would be housed in state-provided housing at undisclosed locations, and would receive permanent residency rights rather than be treated as refugees. This legal status will allow them to work in Ireland and travel within the 27-nation EU.
Amnesty International's program director in Ireland, Noeleen Hartigan, lauded ``the government's determination to protect the privacy of these men and we would ask people to respect their needs in this.''
Hartigan said the human rights watchdog hopes ``that other countries, particularly in the EU, will follow our government's courageous example.''
One of the Uzbeks, Jabbarov, has been the focus of concerted campaigning by Irish human rights groups that identified his case as a clear-cut miscarriage of justice.
Jabbarov says he, his pregnant wife and infant son were living as refugees near the Afghan-Uzbek border in October 2001 when he accepted a lift in a car with soldiers of the National Alliance, an Afghan military faction long at war with the Taliban. He says the soldiers kidnapped him, falsely branded him a Taliban fighter, and delivered him to U.S. troops to collect an easy bounty.
He was transferred to Guantánamo in 2002 and cleared for release in February 2007 but kept in custody because U.S. authorities accepted that Uzbek authorities would torture any Guantánamo inmates sent back home. He has never met his youngest son, who was born after his disappearance.
Jabbarov's U.S. lawyer, Michael Mone, has said Jabbarov liked the idea of living in Ireland, in part, because it is a land with many sheep. He was a shepherd in Uzbekistan.
On the Net:
U.S. testimony on Jabbarov, http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/110/mon050608.htm