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A Black Hole in the Rule of Law – Georgia Received Three Inmates of Guantanamo Prison

06.04.2010
Tako Khutsishvili

Public interest in the inmates of Guantanamo prison is still huge. People wonder whether their stay in Georgia is dangerous for the country.

Three inmates of the prison located in American military-air base in Guantanamo were brought to Georgia on March 23. Head of analytic department of the MIA of Georgia Shota Utiashvili said that the former prisoners will not have the right to leave the country; however, they can lead ordinary lives in Georgia.

“Before they were brought to Georgia, we studied their cases; they are not dangerous criminals and did not serve their terms in the strict regime prison of the Guantanamo prison. Thus, we do hope their arrival in Georgia will not cause any problems,” said Shota Utiashvili.

Although their names are kept in secret, it was reported that they are from the Near East.

People, arrested during anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan were placed in Guantanamo prison.

The prison was officially opened in January2002. According to the American documents, it is a special prison for the people who participated or supported terrorist acts.

Initially, 20 people were placed there from Afghanistan and were accused of supporting Muslim extremists.

 From 2002 till 2006 about 750 foreigners were placed in the Guantanamo prison. They were captured in Afghanistan and Iraq by American soldiers. They claim that all detainees fought on the side of Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

250 people have been released from the prison recently, and were distributed to various custodies or to their native states. Among extradited prisoners were 8 Russian citizens. The names of the rest were strictly hidden before 2006 because of security reasons.

Ex-president of the USA George Bush first confessed that they had particularly dangerous criminals in the so-called CAI secret prisons on September 6, 2006. In April 2006, the Pentagon published a list of 558 former and current prisoners. They were citizens of 41 countries.

According to the data of April 2006, 490 inmates remained in the prison. Only ten of them were convicted. Most hostages were residents of Saudi Arabia (132), Afghanistan (125) and Yemen (107). American and European press have been writing about the cruel treatment of the convicted in the Guantanamo prison for 4 years already.

On January 21, 2009 US president Barack Obama signed the resolution on closing the Guantanamo prison in the second day of his presidency. Reportedly, 6 EU countries – Great Britain, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain agreed to receive inmates.

The acceptance of the Guantanamo prisoners in Georgia caused controversial reaction among governmental and non-governmental sectors. The government states, Georgia once more demonstrated that we are a strategic partner of the USA. A part of the opposition thinks it is dangerous for Georgia.

Eka Tkeshelashvili, secretary of the National Security Council: “Tbilisi agreed to accept inmates of Guantanamo prison to assist America and demonstrate itself as a strategic partner of Washington.” 

Davit Darchiashvili, MP: “Strategic partnership between Georgia and the USA is getting stronger and it has never been unilateral. By receiving three inmates of Guantanamo prison, the Georgian side once more proved that we are partner country of the USA. Georgian-American relations are reinforced by the participation of Georgian armed forces in the peacekeeping missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Irakli Alasania, Alliance for Georgia: “Georgia is an active member of the international anti-terrorist coalition. Our country actively cooperates with the USA and other member states. We do not think that the arrival of three inmates of the Guantanamo prison is dangerous for the country. However, the government is obliged to make more clear clarifications about the fact to Georgian citizens and carry out all necessary measures of security.” 

Kakha Dzagania, Labor Party: “Saakashvili has turned the country into a concentration camp; the arrival of the three inmates of Guantanamo prison in Georgia put our country into a serious danger because Muslim states will oppose us. At the expense of the security of Georgian population, Saakashvili tries to restore his destroyed international reputation.”

Non-governmental organizations also paid attention to the arrival of the prisoners from Guantanamo. NGOs request more transparency in the issue.

“Supposedly, their presence in Georgia will not create any threats, but it is still a very vague case. We do not know who they are and whether they are convicted or not. They might be completely innocent people because there were similar cases in the Guantanamo prison,” said the head of the Defense and Justice Irakli Sesiashvili.

Coordinator of the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders, Ana Natsvlishvili, said that the government is obliged to provide the society with complete information about the Guantanamo prison.

Ana Natsvlishvili:  “Lawyers call Guantanamo Prison “a huge black hole in the rule of law.” It is not a traditional prison. It was specially created for the people who were suspected of the participation in terrorist acts or in the cooperation with terrorists. However, many innocent people were placed in the prison. Citizens of Georgia lack information about the prison. Thus, even the simplest information – the arrival of three prisoners – causes serious panic among people. Consequently, the government has to clarify to the society what it really means.”

Representative of the US State Department Philip Crowley thanked the government of Georgia for the acceptance of the three prisoners.
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