Full text 
Document stages in plenary
Select a document :

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 16/02/2006 - 14.3
CRE 16/02/2006 - 14.3

Votes :

PV 16/02/2006 - 15.2
CRE 16/02/2006 - 15.2

Texts adopted :

Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 16 February 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14.3. Guantánamo

  President. The next item is the debate on five motions for resolutions on Guantánamo.


  Martine Roure (PSE), author. (FR) Mr President, the detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been held in a legal vacuum, without charge, for four years now. We are alarmed by the continuing allegations of mistreatment: for example, hunger strikers whose self-imposed starvation is the only way they can protest against their total lack of the right to justice are apparently being strapped to chairs for hours so that they can be force-fed until they vomit blood.

I would remind you that the UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, has stated that, if this was true, it would be classed as inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment. We call for the UN and the NGOs to be given access to the Guantanamo detention centre and to the detainees. Guantanamo must also be closed without delay, and the detainees should be brought before an independent tribunal.

Finally, the United States must at least allow there to be an independent enquiry regarding the allegations of torture.


  Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL), author. (DE) Mr President, the history of the US military base at Guantanamo is a history of injustice, for the Americans are there at all simply because they concluded what they call a treaty with a former Cuban government, a treaty which, as they see it, is invalidated only if it is cancelled by both parties, something that is quite utterly perverse.

Is it not time that we spelled it out that this military base must be closed down, and Guantanamo Bay handed back to Cuba? The reports that reach us from the American prisoner of war camp there are horrific. Over 500 prisoners are still being held there without trial and without due process, and they are on the receiving end of gross mistreatment and torture. Guantanamo is a lawless place. The torture that goes on there must be brought to an end, with those responsible for it and those who carry it out ending up in the dock of a court of law. Let us be quite clear about the fact that the closure of Guantanamo is being called for by a wide range of people, one of them being the German Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel. At the same time, though, her Minister of the Interior can say that ‘If I am rightly informed, one person has been interviewed in Guantanamo by the German authorities.’ It is evident that Germany or other EU Member States are benefiting from what goes on there. Now really is the time for the European Union to abandon its double standards.


  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE), author. (DE) Mr President, one could not put it in plainer language than did Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, who said, ‘Guantanamo does not meet even the minimum standards of international law.’ That is a devastating judgment, and we, in the European Union, must make it appropriately clear to our American partners that we can no longer regard these unjust acts in Guantanamo as acceptable, and that we never have done so.

I am very grateful to Mrs Merkel for addressing that issue very forthrightly when she met President Bush. The simple fact is that the war on terror, which is vital and which we support, can be waged only on the basis of law. If certain parties were to get the message across to the world that, ultimately, the strongest get their way, the effect would be catastrophic, for everyone would aspire only to be the strongest, and the law of the jungle would again hold sway.

It is for that reason that war, even against the greatest of evils, can be waged only on the basis of law, on the basis of human rights and of international law, with all the determination and single-mindedness that it demands, and these are dependent on strict adherence to the common values and shared convictions of the Western alliance and of the European Union, of which there is certainly no evidence in Guantanamo. All I can do, then, is to urge President Bush to close Guantanamo down as quickly as possible and hand the prisoners over to a proper legal authority.


  Graham Watson (ALDE), author. Mr President, ‘when exactly will this nightmare end?’ Those are the words of Moazzam Begg, a British citizen released without charge from Guantánamo in January of last year. But they could equally be the words of all right-thinking citizens.

Guantánamo Bay has become a byword for all that is wrong with the US response to terrorism today. Four years after the first prisoners arrived, not one has received a proper trial and 500 remain in confinement, the vast majority without charge or due legal process. Just today, the United Nations has published a report which suggests that the treatment of detainees meets the definition of torture under the UN Convention against Torture. The authors conclude that the US Government should either expeditiously bring the detainees to trial, or release them without delay.

We would go further. We agree with the Amnesty International Director in the UK that there is no middle ground regarding Guantánamo: it must be closed. That is why my group will support this resolution to call on the US authorities to close Guantánamo Bay and to release the prisoners or try them in accordance with international law.


  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), author. (ES) Mr President, in these urgent sittings during which we normally deal with breaches of human rights in the world, it is a long time since we have discussed the responsibility of the United States.

Although the list of issues to be discussed would be extremely long, I am at least pleased to have the opportunity to analyse one of the most shameful blights on humanity and, in particular, on our times: Guantánamo.

After four years, the approximately five hundred people currently detained in Guantánamo do not enjoy the minimum legal guarantees required in a democracy that respects the rule of law and the international rules on human rights.

The European Union cannot continue to be an accomplice, through its silence, in the maintenance of what in reality is quite simply a torture centre, and one in which the death penalty is applied in an arbitrary manner.

The existence of Guantánamo represents an enormous stain on the history not just of the United States but of all those on the outside who keep quiet and tolerate the base. And it increases even further the image of an imperialist and war-mongering nation that has absolutely no respect for the very rights and freedoms that the current US Administration claims to defend throughout the world.

There is absolutely no justification for Guantánamo’s existence, therefore, and less still on the grounds of the fight against terrorism. I am therefore delighted that this Parliament has finally had the courage to call for the closure of Guantánamo in such a unanimous fashion.

It now only remains for me to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we must take a further step, that our work must be complete and that we must call soon for a thorough investigation of what is happening in relation to the occupation of Iraq. In particular, we must condemn the events in Abu Ghraib.


  Michael Gahler, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, it appears to me that, on this issue, the House is very largely of one mind. If the European Union is to demand of states that they adhere to human rights, then it must do so globally and credibly. Neither human rights nor international humanitarian law are negotiable, and that is something we have to spell out to our American allies, with whom, after all, we share democratic values. I really do find it disturbing that this has to become a cause of dispute with the United States, for it is our ally, but that is the difference between them and the other parts of the world in which we call for respect for human rights. It is fortunate, and encouraging, that the USA is a democratic and open society, and that the same debate is going on there. I think that the majority of Americans would agree with us that one cannot, in these matters, simply suspend the rule of law. It is vitally important that we hold on to the moral high ground if we are to be credible in combating terrorism in other parts of the world and take up the cause of democracy. It is not acceptable that we should turn and look in the other direction, especially in our dealings with this great ally of ours, alongside which, in other parts of the world – in Afghanistan, for example – we are promoting democracy and human rights. It is worth considering the political and moral predicament in which we would find ourselves if we were to keep silent about Guantanamo, when we would no longer be able to maintain any credibility in our dealings with those states where we are trying to promote human rights.

That is why it is right to call for this camp to be closed down and for those who are held there to be brought before a regular court. We may well not have put it in such explicit terms, but the conclusion must be drawn that, in the absence of proof against them, these people must be set at liberty, dangerous though that may be in individual cases. Here, too, the rule applies that the accused is given the benefit of the doubt.


  Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Mr President, in its report published yesterday, the United Nations very emphatically calls on the USA to close Guantanamo down without further delay, and our resolution today is, of course, intended to do the same thing. To date, charges have been brought against only 10 of the 500 persons interned at Guantanamo, and even then, before specially-established military tribunals rather than independent courts. Arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment are gross breaches of the Geneva Conventions. It surely must, at long last, dawn on the Bush administration just how cynical and wrong this behaviour in the fight against terrorism actually is. The effective combating of terrorism demands that one works to persuade the world at large and stresses the importance of international law, by which the arbitrary killing of civilians is prohibited. It is that law that the Bush administration is disregarding, not only in Guantanamo, but also elsewhere.


  Elizabeth Lynne, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, what more evidence do the Americans need to close down this hellhole? The latest UN report, which was released yesterday, provides yet more proof that what the US is doing in Guantánamo Bay is illegal and a direct violation of human rights.

Four years on from the inception of this prison, we are still hearing of torture techniques that are banned under the UN Convention against Torture. My constituent, Moazzam Begg, who was released last year after three years’ illegal detention, said he witnessed other inmates being beaten so badly it may have caused their deaths. Now we hear in the report about people being violently force-fed to end their hunger strikes, not out of a desire to keep them alive, but in order to stop embarrassing the American Government.

In the name of humanity, this prison must be closed and the detainees either given a fair trial or, if there is no evidence against them, released forthwith.


  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) Mr President, this is a brief resolution that can be summarised in two words: close Guantánamo. Any form of human rights in Guantánamo is conspicuous by its absence, and the whole set-up is, from beginning to end, redolent not of human rights, but of human errors.

In the course of a single Presidency, the United States has gone from being a country that most people want to visit, trade with and otherwise engage with to being a country that many avoid. Guantánamo may be situated on a military base in Cuba, but it is a cowardly attempt by the United States to avoid its own laws. We desire nothing more than that the United States observe its own Constitution and that the UN conventions be complied with. In both respects, Guantánamo is an absurdity. The Bush regime is acting like a bunch of old-fashioned, high-handed colonial masters when it comes to the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, Abu Graib, the war against the Iraqi people and a list of conventions concerning everything from the fight against tobacco to the right to food.

These departures from international cooperation and international law damage the American people and the world in general. The Guantánamo prisoners are not alone in suffering oppression by the Bush regime, even if they are the ones who are suffering the most. We also have sympathy for the majority of Americans who have never supported the Bush regime and who are victims of its arbitrary procedures. These ordinary people are badly affected by the hatred and threats emanating from the world around them. The Bush regime could make a start on doing penance by closing Guantánamo.


  Jaromír Kohlíček, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I feel it is entirely right that a resolution on Guantánamo is being discussed in this Chamber. It should be acknowledged that a similar resolution is required to commemorate 27th January. You are surely aware that this is the International Day for Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity. Naturally, we shall agree that a country which tortures prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo on the say-so of its President has no right to ask for cooperation from the EU on military actions launched unilaterally. The time has come to announce sanctions against the United States for its failure to respect human rights. This is a position that we broadly accepted this week when we adopted the report on the human rights and democracy clause in European agreements. Perhaps you do not remember this, or perhaps the argument of the military power in question is too strong. This is of course a matter of double standards.

I believe that once the Resolution, which has my full backing, has been adopted, it should be followed up by a proposal to indict those who, in Guantanámo and Abú Ghrajb, have taken part in acts that contravene the laws of the United States, and are in breach of human rights and international agreements. I should therefore like to suggest that the Commission set up an international criminal court to try these criminals. I also feel it important to recommend that the country holding the Presidency should call on the UN Security Council to table a resolution demanding sanctions against the United States. And incidentally, we are all certainly aware that the US base at Guantánamo Bay has for a number of years been occupied against the wishes of the legitimate government of the Republic of Cuba.


  Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, our debate today is confirmed absolutely, I believe, by the recent publication in the Los Angeles Times of the report by five experts from the UN Commission on Human Rights.

We must no longer remain impassive observers of this modern barbarity. We must no longer remain silent in the face of the continuing violations of international humanitarian law and international conventions and of the torturing and human degradation in which the United States authorities continue to engage at Guantanamo. The European Union and the Member States must, I believe, take an immediate initiative to bring the matter before the international organisations and the UN and must call for the immediate closure by the United States of the Guantanamo prisons, for a fair trial by an independent international court and for the immediate release of the detainees.

I believe that, if we continue to remain silent, this will mean concealment. In the name of the fight against international terrorism, the Bush administration cannot take mankind into a new Middle Ages. Now it is the Guantanamo detainees, tomorrow it may be the detainees in another area, if we do not defend collective humanitarian values and our democratic principles.


  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE).(PT) Hundreds of prisoners remain in a legal vacuum and suffer from torture. I am not talking about the notorious prisons of Saddam, the Taliban, Syria or other dictatorships, but about Guantanamo, which is controlled by the United States of America. Let us not forget that the USA is a country that played a central role in the construction of international human rights law and that under the Bush Administration is violating those rights in ignominious fashion, including the minimum standards of the Geneva Convention.

Europe must make its voice heard as regards Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and wherever the Bush Administration is exporting torture via extraordinary rendition. It must add its voice to the increasingly audible voices in the United States, such as that of the American Civil Liberties Union, condemning the immorality and uselessness of torture in the fight against terrorism and the lack of accountability of those in charge of such abuses.

The EU must demand that Guantanamo be closed down and that US politicians and military personnel at the highest level be brought to justice for crimes committed in the name of the war on terror. Because to remain silent plays into the hands of the terrorists and sacrifices the fundamental values of human dignity and the rule of law, the same values that the terrorist fanatics sought to destroy by means of 9/11 and attacks such as those in Madrid and London.


  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, I agree with the case made in the resolution that global terrorism represents a threat, especially terrorism directed against democratic societies, but that we cannot fight terrorism using terrorist tactics. Such actions will not be tolerated and we have a right to state this fact.

We have this right because Europe is the cradle of humanitarian rights, because the first conventions on the protection of the rights of prisoners, the civilian population, and war victims were drawn up here in Europe at the start of the 20th century. After the Second World War, we developed these humanitarian principles. In Europe, we have a European, Strasbourg system for protecting human rights and finally we, in the European Union, have a Charter of Fundamental Rights which will be, and indeed already is, part of the European Constitution. All of these documents state clearly and unequivocally that human dignity must be respected, that no human being should be humiliated, threatened or persecuted, that no one should be held without trial, and that everyone has the right to defence.

I would like to ask: was all this forgotten in Guantanamo? Does no one want to remember it? Both our Amnesty International report and the UN report mention it clearly. We cannot accept such a situation and I therefore wholly support the theory put forward in the resolution. The latter states that the war on terrorism cannot involve any infringement of human rights.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, again I would like to thank the honourable Members for their very clear remarks. The global fight against terrorism on an unprecedented scale has created new challenges for the protection of human rights. The Commission constantly underlines that the fight against terrorism must be conditional on maintaining respect for human rights.

With regard to the situation of some 500 individuals who are being detained in Guantanámo Bay, although the Commission does not have competence to intervene on behalf of these detainees, we are following all developments closely. The Member States have also voiced concern bilaterally to the US regarding the treatment of their nationals.

The Commission continues to emphasise that all anti-terrorist measures must be consistent with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. It is our firm belief that the Geneva Conventions apply to all persons captured on the field of battle. So far as continued detention in Guantanámo Bay is concerned, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, there are absolute rights which are to be respected in all circumstances, such as the right not to be tortured or to be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In this connection, we welcome the recent amendment to the Defence Appropriations Bill introduced by Senator McCain, which puts beyond doubt the fact that the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment applies to persons held in US custody worldwide. Moreover, in our view, every person who has been detained must have some status under international law and is entitled not to be detained arbitrarily and to receive due process and a fair trial.

The European Union has also made clear its support for the request by United Nations Special Rapporteurs to visit Guantanámo Bay and to be able to interview detainees in private. The European Union has raised this issue repeatedly with the United States and will continue to do so.

In response to some of the interventions, the Commission has repeatedly made clear to the United States that the European Union is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. I would also like to say that the report by the UN Special Rapporteurs which was published yesterday is being studied by the Commission with a view to taking this issue up again with the United States.

It is vital that the international community seeks to reassert full adherence to international law, including human rights and humanitarian standards, in relation to the alleged Taliban and al-Qa’ida members in Guantanámo and elsewhere. It is only by ensuring respect for those values by all parties that real progress will be achieved.


  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, if I may return – and briefly – to what Mr Pflüger had to say about Sri Lanka, the fact is that he has got it absolutely right. We are dealing here with a dangerous precedent, namely that resolutions can be tabled, and then subsequently withdrawn by the negotiating parties. We have accepted it on this occasion, but I would like to say – and on behalf of my group – that we will not accept it a second time and that this must not be allowed to become a precedent.


  Robert Evans (PSE). – Mr President, I would like to inform Mr Posselt that it was his group that asked to have the vote withdrawn, so to say that they are not going to accept it is a bit peculiar.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place straight away.

Legal notice - Privacy policy