Setting the Bar Impossibly High Berlin Imposes Tough Conditions for Guantanamo Inmates

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wants Germany to take in former Guantanamo inmates who cannot be sent home. The country's Interior Ministry, however, is setting an impossibly high bar for accepting detainees that could exclude most of the prisoners expected to be released.

United States President Barack Obama plans to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention camp  and America's European allies have offered to help by taking inmates who cannot be sent back to their home countries because they could face prosecution, torture or worse. But the German government plans to set such tough conditions for taking in detainees that it will be almost impossible for a prisoner to fulfill them, SPIEGEL has learned.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who have previously crossed swords  over accepting detainees, have agreed that each case must be individually examined to determine whether the prisoner poses a danger to German society. However the Interior Ministry is insisting that only people who have a connection to Germany be taken -- which would rule out almost all the inmates expected to be released from the camp.

In addition, the Interior Ministry wants the US administration to explain why a detainee poses no danger in Germany, even though he can neither return to his homeland nor be kept in the US. The bar would be raised so high on the conditions that it would hardly be possible for an inmate to fulfill them.

Schäuble is opposed to taking detainees from Guantanamo and has received the backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats. Steinmeier, on the other hand, is in favor of taking prisoners. Both agree, however, that the German government should not take the initiative on its own and should instead wait for the Americans provide a concrete list of names.

Around 245 inmates are still being held at Guantanamo, including approximately 60 who have been cleared for release. On his second full day in office, Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of the camp within a year.

However the question of what to do with freed inmates poses a large problem for the US administration. Many of the 60 "cleared" prisoners have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in their home nations, which include Algeria, China, Libya and Uzbekistan. The Bush administration was unwilling to let them move to the United States and asked European allies to absorb them.

But European Union member states are divided over whether to accept inmates. Some European countries, like Portugal and France, have said they are willing to help, while others such as Austria have ruled out taking in detainees, citing security concerns and arguing the camp is the US's problem.

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